I am not the only person who doesn’t sleep well. I have friends who tell me as much. It’s an affliction which among my cronies at least is about as common as sore joints. People regularly take pills for it and it is generally a disorder which goes unmentioned either because it is so prevalent or because its causes are considered too petty. By the time we’re out of bed and communicating with one another, the topic has lost its pungency.
I can count on one hand the number of times I have had a good sleep in my entire life. Sometimes I sleep best during an afternoon nap; or in an airport while waiting for a plane; even in the dentist’s chair! But it certainly isn’t predictable that I’ll sleep well in my bed at night. If anything, I might sleep well for the first two hours or so after going to bed; after that, it’s all the usual anxieties, dreams, kerfuffle and restlessness.
Some of us insomniacs have had serious medical surgery. It is my speculation that the assault upon us by the well-intentioned surgeons and loading us up with narcotics left their mark. After one of those curves we’re hardly the newborn babe free of drama. There are lots of other worries which linger and which contribute to disturbed sleep patterns. All very well to say one mustn’t sleep with a pack on one’s back, but sometimes the burdens are incapable of rejection in spite of any amount of irreproachable philosophy.
Recently I watched a program on television about meditation, the conscious attempt to focus on what one is doing and to cease distracting one’s self with all the clutter that normally fills our minds. This at least has the attraction that it might provide temporary relief. There is after all no point in dwelling incessantly upon the bad things that will not disappear overnight. For those who have relatively little about which to complain, this makes incontrovertible sense. But even for those who have enormous problems, it is difficult to rationalize perpetual torment. Getting there is of course another story.
I sometimes think the problem is that I can’t abide doing nothing, that I must always be pursuing some goal or objective, even if it is nothing more than flipping the channels of the television. Getting to the point of putting things aside for the day is clearly a talent I have yet to learn. I suspect religion might help in these circumstances. The idea of being able to capitulate one’s destiny certainly has an appeal. There’s just that little matter of getting over the hump of faith. Oh, what a plague it is to think! Why can we not just believe!
I have tried using blinkers. When I first discovered them they were only available on trans-Atlantic flights, the frequency of which pretty much guaranteed the amortization of the product. I was obliged to write to the airline to ask whether I might purchase a pair. A Vice-President of Air Canada offered to share with me one of the two he had in his possession. They are now for sale in pharmacies. No question, blocking the ambient light can help. But only for a while. Then it’s back to the bright lights in one’s mind. I have yet to try sleeping pills. I’m afraid to add to my battery of addictions although those who use the pills tell me they’re not a threat. Alcohol can of course act as a soporific but there’s a price to pay for that one!
If the problem with sleeping is that we’re engaged in unresolved issues, then the answer would seem to be to settle the issue. That remedy can entail some fairly critical steps, like leaving your partner or quitting your job or confessing to a crime or whatever. These acts are not without repercussion. It may be best just to lose sleep over it rather than risk disrupting one’s entire life.
Exercise is regularly touted as a great way to encourage good sleeping habits. I am not convinced. Recently for example I have been bicycling a minimum of ten miles a day (often as much as 15 – 20 miles) but the insomnia persists. I have resigned myself to the condition of age; namely, that we need less sleep as we grow older. This is likely true but it doesn’t address the problem with the quality of the sleep. If I am to guarantee that I will sleep I must keep myself awake until I drop, then it’s more a matter of passing out than sleeping.