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I am a Writer, Artist, Musician and Philosopher who believes the reason to be alive is to learn, experience, grow, influence and if you're lucky, inspire.

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Thursday, 5 January 2012

2012 MY DIARY - JAN 4 - sleep

Wednesday January 4th 2012

Sleep - I can never get enough of it. It’s something that we all need and can’t function without. It takes up at least a third of our lives. It’s something that renders us unconscious and not in control of ourselves. We sleepwalk, we sleeptalk and we dream. We access a part of our brain where deep emotions, desires and thoughts run freely, and we unconsciously work through all the info we have inputted into our brains while we were awake. Sleep is time for our brains to organize themselves, storing what is necessary into long-term memory, accessing other sensations and visions that we could not possible do in our normal waking state. Sleep is a complex thing that most of us do not even understand fully. But what we do know for sure is that we enjoy it. We love to sleep, we wish we could sleep more. We wish we could sleep better.
Who hasn’t at least once in their lives wished that their alarm in the morning did not have to go off, or that they could go to bed when they are tired and wake when refreshed, without any interruption? That is unfortunately most of the time impossible. Our daily lives are governed by work, habits, family and lifestyle, and this is reflected in our sleep patterns, which also tend to revolve around all those things. We become a slave to being awake. I honestly envy the person who falls asleep as soon as they feel tired, and who can sleep deeply without waking, until their body naturally tells them that it is time to awaken. I think that someone is called a baby.
For me it is an entirely different story. I do get tired, as everyone does, but I force myself to stay awake. Why do I do it, I ask myself sometimes, but the answer is because I have not done everything thing I wanted to or needed to in that day and so I must stay up and finish. No matter how much I do, I still never finish, thus, the feeling of time never being enough overpowers my exhaustion and affects my sleeping habits. I stay up late, enjoying the silence of the night, the lack of distraction, the moments when time seems to slow down a little and I can concentrate and get some work done. Then suddenly I realize that it is very late and I start to panic. Oh no, I think to myself, not again! I feel bad that I have let myself down once again; my new year’s resolution to sleep earlier each night and wake up earlier each morning is unlikely to ever happen now! If only I did not need more than a few hours sleep a night. Why do I have to be the kind of person who needs their 9 hours? Imagine how much more I could achieve and get done if I could function on only 6 hours. Or 4? How do new mothers do it? What about that guy in the States who conducted an experiment on himself and forced himself into the habit of sleeping only for 15 minutes, every 4 hours, and never having a full night’s sleep. He managed to make it work for him – he learnt how to train his body to fall immediately into a deep sleep, and those 15 minutes every few hours were a good enough substitute for a full night’s rest. In fact, in the 2 years that this student did this, he managed to earn himself 2 degrees, and never miss a college party!
If I don’t get my 9 hours I feel shattered. If I wake up with not enough sleep, my body simply does not function. I start dropping things. I move in slow motion. I begin to shut down and get shaky. The next morning, no matter how late I sleep in, if I slept late the night before, I always feel tired. And since I never sleep early at night, I never seem to wake up rested. Maybe I don’t breathe deeply enough and don’t get enough oxygen in my sleep. (I must remember to put that plant in my bedroom during the day so it can emit oxygen). Or maybe the old wives’ tale that sleep before midnight is worth much more than sleep after midnight is actually true (I don’t remember the last time I slept before 12am). Either way, my mornings are usually uncomfortable - I wake up feeling groggy, sore and irritated. Instead of cherishing those moments when I allow myself to sleep in a little – snoozing is a guilty pleasure many will admit to being used to – I dread them, because it means I am only prolonging my suffering. I would prefer to just wake up later, rather than be awoken early and sleep back, knowing that I must go through the whole unpleasant experience of waking up all over again. But I wonder sometimes what it would be like if waking up was not like that. If it was a pleasant thing. I have heard of those people who say they jump up bright and early every morning with anticipation and glee at the wonderful day ahead of them, excited to get it started. Oh, how I wish I could feel like this. I dislike going to sleep and I dislike even more, waking up. That is why I post-pone both (I am not weird – people often put off facing unpleasant things!). Mornings for me are for dealing with annoying phone calls, emails, household chores, errands, shopping etc. Not things I like to do. So perhaps the clever thing would be to make sure I do things I love in the morning, like write and read and paint, so that I look forward to getting up. I love nighttime, because I can switch off, I don’t have to face the world if I don’t want to, or communicate with anyone. I can just sit home and work and relax and do the creative but productive things I enjoy. That is why I want to stay awake at night and not sleep. I have a brilliant idea…maybe I should sleep in the day and wake up at night! Don’t people get paid more for night shifts?
When I finally do get to bed at night, if I am not exhausted by the late hour – or rather early hour of the morning – then that is because I have “lost my sleep”. Yes, sleep is something that one can lose, unfortunately. When I was young I used to suffer from insomnia a lot. I would try and fall asleep and fail, then worry about not being able to sleep, or not getting enough sleep because I had to wake up in the morning, and that would make it even harder to sleep. Insomnia was tough – a horrible feeling – and the next day I was usually unable to function. It kept happening to me repeatedly and I never completely figured out why. Then one day it just stopped happening. But the tendency for it is still there, lurking deep down within me. I am scared of not being able to sleep. Or not sleeping well.
Nowadays I suffer from lack of good quality sleep, and because of that I am always tired, no matter how much sleep I get. I always want to sleep more, and usually I wake up because of other factors, like feeling stiff, or from lack of breath, or the most annoying of all, from some sort of external noise – primarily my neighbours. From construction, to dogs barking, to crows crowing outside my window, to garbage trucks roaring their engines, to cats’ mating calls, to the neighbours fighting, to children crying, to the man in his van yelling that he is selling potatoes and watermelons, to the tv of the next door neighbour blaring, or the music from the other neighbour pounding, or the scraping of the other neighbours’ chairs, clanging of kitchen pots, banging of cupboards or tapping of heels on the floor above or beneath me…. I am incessantly plagued my noise, and my sleep is completely disturbed by it, day in, day out. It would help a bit if I slept early like most people do and woke up early, but hey… I’m an artist, a writer, and you know that all artists get inspiration late at night! There are those other kinds of writers who don’t stay up writing into the wee hours, but wake up at the crack of dawn to work on their book – that is the kind of writer I aspire to be. The one I am right now though is the writer who is constantly tired, doesn’t get enough sleep and writes about it.
Tonight is the first time that I feel truly exhausted (perhaps from detoxing), and believe I could actually sleep early for a change. It is not even 9pm yet, but the idea of me falling asleep before midnight is actually so alien to me that it is a little scary. I think that if I dare to sleep so early, if I succeed in doing it, I will surely wake up at 4am and not have any more sleep. What on earth would I do at 4 in the morning, I worry? Well, silly me, the answer is: whatever it is I normally do at 4am, when I am still awake as I have not gone to bed yet!
I once went to a sleep clinic to have my sleep analyzed. They connected me up to a million tubes and wires, all over my head and body (I looked really scary when I saw a photo taken of me afterwards), and then monitored my sleep overnight. Thing is, I was stuck in a clinic, in a strange bed, and forced to sleep early. I mean that is so unrealistic for me, what did they expect? Of course I would not be able to sleep properly! What a waste of time. Perhaps I do have sleep apnea, perhaps I just make it difficult for myself by drinking caffeine late in the day, or too much water before I retire, or maybe I just think too much at night and over-stimulate my brain cells making it hard to relax and fall asleep, but whatever the case, the point is that there actually is an easy and quick solution to my sleep problem. I need to simply go to bed to sleep as soon as I feel tired, without worrying that I have more work to do or that I would miss out on something good, like a night out, or a film on television or reading a book I keep wanting to but never get round to doing. Instead I should just relax my body, meditate and stretch, and fall into a lovely slumber, not allowing myself to stress about the morning and what time I will wake up, and how many hours sleep I will get, and what I will have to do the next day, and what noise will awaken me! I just need to feel the enjoyment of being tucked up cosily in bed, and melt into my mattress and doze off happily and easily. What a guilty pleasure it may be to do that.The feeling would be similar to indulging myeslf in an afternoon nap, when I am sleepy but feel that I shouldn’t really take a break. Yes, I should, because my body is giving me a sign. I must take the sign and treat my body well, and when I show it the respect it deserves, then it will reward me with a deep and restful sleep, from which I will awaken refreshed.
Goodnight and sweet dreams!

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