The night is dark

Woke up, after many troubled minutes of trying to get to sleep, with only 90 or so minutes of rest. Again, tried sleeping but couldn’t shut down the brain. It sort of rip-rocketed on overload tonight. There’s a familiar feeling in my stomach, one that harkens back to a night spent on my couch in 2004. Oh, the things you remember.

So, after trying to put myself back to sleep for near an hour, I knew it was impossible. I published my website, started writing, and read a little of Steven Pressfield’s War of Art. This month I finish this book, and check it off my reading list.

Why no sleep? Why is the brain disquieted on this dark night? Because the past is real and it isn’t. Though the Buddha teaches that only the present moment exists, the past has a living representation in our mind. When we recall a feeling, be it hurt or love, it isn’t anything external to our self that is causing that feeling. Only our mind.

And control of the mind is one (of the many) aspects of Buddhism I’ve not mastered.

Thus I decided to take the advice of Jim Collins, who said, “And what I’ve learned is I guess two or three things specifically about the sleep process for me. This is just personal. One, the 20-minute rule. If you wake up in the middle of the night and you check the time — first of all, it’s also by the way fun to see if you can guess what time it is, right? But then check the time. And then if you’re not back to sleep in 20 minutes, get up. Go back to the simple work.”

Circadian living

Been conducting a personal experiment of sorts. First, I’ve taken what Dr. Satchin Panda said in his TED Talk (you can also hear more on the Bulletproof Radio podcast), and have been eating within a ten-twelve hour period during the day, no longer snacking later than that window.

Second, I’m being more mindful of the light that inhabits my senses. I try and wake at sunrise (to an extent), and shut down blue lights at sundown. I’ve been slowly adjusting into this experiment, and am finding a better night’s sleep.

(One exception to my better sleep were the two nights following my viewing of the film Hereditary. Honestly, that last ten-minute sequence – or however long it was – has been playing in my mind every time I shut the lights off. Didn’t care for the movie on the whole, but that sequence was enough to give me pause before crawling into bed.

Sleepy Nights

One dog beneath my feet, another to my right on the couch. The third is loudly drinking water from the container in the kitchen. He had been moving discreetly about, his nails lacking on the linoleum. I’ve just updated my OS with a new app that alters the lighting of the device, the intent to aid in my sleep.

Not that my sleep has been suffering. I’ve just been mindful of my sleep quality since returning from a cruise nearly two weeks ago.

The ship voyage gave me ample time to read, to rest and to recover; to eat good, healthy food; to use the gym on a daily basis, increasing my activity levels. Upon returning from this trip I’ve been intent on maintaining that quality of life.

There have been some challenges. One is in the preparation of my own food. Another has been work, which isn’t consistent in location. Over the past two weeks, I’ve been at no less than three locations, one of which was nearly five hours away. Making that drive twice left me drained and uncomfortable.

Still another has been my rehearsal schedule, very nearly every night. I’ve added another production to the two I already have scheduled, so that I’ll be quite busy now until the middle of May.

Handling the stress of an ever-growing schedule isn’t always the most sustainable activity. However I do believe that it is doable, and that I have been doing it.

Full nights of sleep are the most enjoyable aspect, and finding ways to hack my sleep have become my nighttime ritual. I’ve dimmed or covered as many of the LEDs that I could in my room. The one I haven’t brought myself to put any tape over is on the smoke detector on the ceiling. Though, I am able to turn my head away from it in bed.

Several apps come in handy, providing soundscapes for my sleep. Waking rested in the morning, I am able to write and prepare for work efficiently. No dragging ass to the kitchen for that first, and second cup of coffee.

I’m writing by candlelight, reading some as well. While flipping through the book of Sontag essays, I had the sudden urge to write. Reading good writing makes me want to write.

And sitting in twilit lighting makes me ready to sleep.

Night Terrors

When I’m sleeping, I sometimes suffer from these twitches. I’ve been told that as I sleep I’ll give a full body convulsion. I’d chalked it up to night terrors, primarily because when I recall what I’ve been dreaming, it’s not usually the most pleasant.

Someone I was working a job with told me that before his anxiety attacks kicked in, he was having those twitching fits.

“Great”, I thought. More rough seas ahead. My parents already thought that I had gone through a nervous breakdown last year. I’m not entirely sure that I didn’t.

But I did some research on these twitches, and it turns out it’s much more common than I realized. They’re called hypnagogic (or hypnic) jerks, and also sleep starts, and perhaps up to 70% of people experience them.

It’s possible, then, that I just sleep poorly, and have numerous sleep starts throughout the night. Still, I’m more sure now that it’s not night terrors.

Can’t Sleep vol 3

I muse a lot while laying in bed at the end of the day. I'm having trouble sleeping, and I don't know why. I get up early enough. I'll be doing yoga in the morning. I have a pretty full day tomorrow, actually.

I'm thinking about theatre. It's been nearly a year since I was last on stage, and I've just accepted a role in a production of Annie, Get Your Gun. I'm also thinking about what I've been doing with my life these last eighteen months. Plenty of reading, loads of introspection, not much tangible to show. I'm like one of those fresh-out-of-college kids, full of ideas, but no clue on how to make a life for themselves.

Only, I'm about ten years older than most of them.

Trying to plan out the next stages of life.

Where do you want to be in five years, Michael?

Hell, I don't really know where I want to be tomorrow. But I wouldn't mind being well-rested.

 

Can’t sleep, vol. 2

The light from the screen is blinding my near-darkness-adjsuted eyes. I’m having trouble falling asleep again.

I’m thinking about the On Being interview with physicist Brian Greene. And about the book Do the Work! by Steven Pressfield. (I’m also thinking how much computers, for all their infinite wisdom, can’t tell when something should be capitalized or not, damn autocorrect!)

In the book, Pressfield talks about thoughts. About what Buddhists call “monkey-thoughts”, or all that noise that occurs in the primitive lobes of the brain. And about the other thoughts we regurgitate from sources. 

What has me up tonight is, where do my thoughts, if any are original, come from? I’m laying in bed, and I’m hearing Brian Greene talk about string theory and quantum mechanics. I’m thinking about the origins of the Universe, as I’ve learned from theology, spirituality, Darwin and physics. I’m wondering, what the bleep do I actually know?

Perhaps this is all a bit heavy for midnight contemplation on a Sunday/Monday post-meridian interchange. But I’m just so darned perplexed. My feet won’t stop shaking, and my brain is going a mile a minute. Hence just plopping some thought vomit out on the internets. 

I’m working on a short document, exploring where I believe thoughts to come from. I doubt I’ll get to any firm answer, but at least I can muddle through these thoughts I’m having on thoughts. 

Good night… I hope.

Can’t Sleep vol. 1

Still awake at ten past two. It’s not for one with a weak disposition, I think. I am tired, but almost physically incapable of attaining sleep. It’s as if it purposefully eludes me.

I perhaps ate something that disagreed with me, and now secretive digestive processes conspire to steal my resting hours. Or it’s the chill air, blowing through the open windows in a cross breeze. No, that can’t be it. The cool night air is good for helping me sleep.

There’s little ambient noise now. The perpetual low, moaning hum of the air purifier. With it off, particulates invade my sinus cavities and make sleeping uncomfortable, so I allow the white noise of the purifier to lull me to sleep.

I can’t get comfortable. I’m laying in bed, writing this on my side, but my left arm doesn’t particularly care for the position it’s in. My leg also feels abused.

“Fine,” I say to my my appendages. “I’ll move.”

I move.

But writing like this, from my new position, is more difficult. For one, I can’t see the keyboard as well.

“You don’t need to see the keyboard to type!” I hear a century’s worth of education on typing molest my ears. Well, I’m sorry to tell you, but my finger placement is wonky at best. So yes, I do need to see the keyboard.

From where I’m at though, all these red underlined words are appearing in my document. To be expected, as I can’t see the damn keyboard. Hopefully, when you’re reading this, all spelling errors will have been corrected.

Twenty after two. Still awake.

I’m not writing about anything, really. My inability to sleep I suppose. I do need to relieve my bladder. (With you in mind, I chose the phrase “relieve my bladder”. The first thought was urinate, which sounded too formal. Than pee, which was too childish. Piss also, but sometimes vulgarity doesn’t serve a purpose, and I’d rather have the full lexicon of naughty words available to me when I really need it.)

So, I’ll put this up, and post it later. Perhaps I’ll get to sleep.