Sleep

Hopefully not assuming too much, I’m picking that most who read my blog are looking for something to improve their general sense of well-being. It seems the individual idea of what would be good varies vastly, but there is one thing that can be absolutely guaranteed to improve well-being.

Regular sleep synchronised to the local solar day. I am thankful that during my worst times, my sleep was only mildly disrupted. Adding alcohol or heavy sedatives/hypnotics, of course, makes normal sleep an impossibility, although, even if sleep is unachievable, engaging in non-stimulating, low energy pursuits is at least in keeping with the natural rhythm of organic function.

Any other sleep pattern is sub-optimal. We’re designed to work during the hours of daylight and mostly sleep during the hours of darkness. There’s a million ways to combat the natural rhythm and do all sorts of things we shouldn’t be doing in that time slot. Check out traffic and industrial accident statistics. None work over any but a short-term. The more “powerful” the stimulant or sedative, the shorter the period it can safely be used. Shift-work is an aberration spawned of the Industrial Revolution – there is no safe way of sustaining asynchronous wake/sleep cycles. Likewise, jet lag, many ways to mask the symptoms until you get to sleep properly, but no substitute for the sleep that realigns you with the local solar day.

I’m a great believer in having an alarm clock as a failsafe device. Very rarely do I awake to the alarm. Usually the sounds of day have already awoken me and I’m lying quietly preparing for the alarm and the day ahead.

Never having had anything approaching a sleep disorder, I’m totally unqualified to have an opinion on how effective AVS is for “real” sleep problems. For a person who sometimes gets agitated enough to have a couple of unpleasantly disrupted nights, both the insomnia help (SMR) session and the sleep induction (theta/delta) sessions, contribute greatly to the calming and quieting needed for sleep. I know too, that after one good night of sleep, even if nothing else has changed, challenges look much more approachable.

Sleeping during the day and waking for the night is the preserve of teenagers and those who wish to constantly encounter problems dealing with the rest of civilisation. Think about it… you acclimatize yourself to a cycle when you are up when everyone else is down… no wonder you’re going to find yourself confronted by some pretty hostile responses. Depressives be warned – this seems to be a preferred “down” behaviour – sleeping and slouching all day then setting up fights in chatrooms all night. Have you never wondered why teenagers appear to be living in another time-zone – they are! We expect them to go to school and learn during the hours that, for some reason apparently to do with hormone induced contrariness, are “down” in their body rhythm. I believe that traditionally most mating was done just after dark. We’ve pushed darkness so far back that it’s getting hard for the young uns to sneak off “after dark” to do their natural thing.

Our natural alignment to the solar cycle is an evolutionary advantage – being in the optimum state to benefit from the natural illumination. We pay a lot in energy consumption to grab more life out of life than we’re really fit to make proper use. Most of the mischief we get into is during the times when it is instinctive to sleep.

I know. I’ve had my turn. I’ve tried it every other way for every popular reason. The biggest favor I can do for myself is to face each sunrise after a full and satisfying night of sleep.

All I can say is that if you’re having sleep problems, it’s probably in large part because you’ve adopted a behavior that has you most awake when the sun is down. Herein is the seduction of amphetamines and other stimulants – enhanced performance during off-time. Very fine, very effective, but only for the briefest sprints. The more proper solar synchronised sleep is avoided, the more detrimental to body and soul the tools of evasion become.

If there is any problem with the sense of wellbeing, the first thing to do is perform a “Master Reset”. It may require more than one night, but the first morning you wake up early to a new day, properly refreshed, you will appreciate how essential sleep is to “unclogging” the mind. Sadly, there are many prescription and non-prescription substances that take a while to get out of the system before proper sleep is re-established. The transition periods can be truly unpleasant, and the only thing I have found to do more good than harm has been AVS relaxation and introspection.

I have extended a number of sleep induction sessions to two hours. When I’m working on something I’m excited about, I can often stay awake far longer than I should, running on excess feel-good neurotransmitters. When those neurotransmitters run out, there’s going to be a rapid decline in performance. I know when I’m at risk of moving into the often more-harm-than-good time when I naturally should be sleeping, and I start the long sleep induction, with speakers or headphones my last place before sleep, an hour before I should sleep. The stretched sequence down to sleep gradually nudges my racing mind down, allowing it to collect itself along the way, to become gently drowsy and ready to let go of my project for a sleep. And the session plays as I do the final whatevers before bed and lay down for sleep. I rarely hear the computer shut down at the end of the session. I see this as sort-of preventative medicine. Do I have a sleep problem? No, I don’t know, because I do a whole bunch of things to ensure that I operate my body as closely as possible to the energy levels of solar day.

Okay. Enough. Summary – don’t bother trying to do anything else clever to feel better while you are not getting proper solar synchronised sleep. Everything from grumpiness, moodiness, social awkwardness, infections, to suicidality can be frequently linked to a solar-asynchronous lifestyle. A lot of international conflict probably arises from leaders in different time zones having to deal with each other when they’re grumpy. I’m sure there must be statistics to demonstrate this. If there isn’t, then it’s obviously deemed so self-evident that the point doesn’t need to be made. Or, applying the “follow the money” principle to anything that needs explanation, think of all the hours we would not be consuming if we followed the Sun properly. All hail the electric light, it’s welcoming blaze allowing us to spend, spend, spend 24/7. Of course the internet is a marketing wonder! Now we get to sit in front of our computer, paying for our own electric blanket of light and comfort, consuming 24/7, without having to deduct travel time from our consumption or having to pay for flash bricks and mortar.

I gotta say, a lot of the things I’ve lost sleep over have been a helluva lot of fun at the time.

Cheers,
Craig

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