Hello everyone! Happy Monday and thank you for politely ignoring the fact that I haven’t posted since 2015. I have realized that in my absence from this blog, I have collected quite a few things to talk about. So everyone, please give a warm “thank you” to Google Chrome for remembering my WordPress login credentials so we can begin.
Today, I want to talk about the thing we all wish we had more time to do: SLEEP. More specifically, I want to talk about when sleep doesn’t happen. At least for me. I can talk about myself right?
I suck at sleeping. I love to actually be asleep, but the prospect of falling asleep is . . . I don’t have a word for it. I’m not scared or anxious or depressed. I think I find the process of falling asleep to be boring. Confusing even. I have felt this way ever since I was a little kid, and I was wearing my poor tired mother down by asking her to tell me bedtime story after bedtime story to put off actually having to go to sleep.
After all these years, I think I have figured out what’s going on. I may be totally crazy, but you see, I’m on a gap year right now (yay for being a USC alum!) This means I have a little bit more time on my hands than I’m accustomed to, which lends itself nicely to overanalyzing why I don’t like to go to sleep.
I take out my hearing aid and cochlear implant before I go to bed, which means those 30 minutes (or hours) before I fall asleep consist of total. darkness. and. silence. Yes, that can be perfect sometimes: when you’re exhausted or you’re feeling sick and you just want to tune everything out. However, on all other nights, it’s a little bewildering. In fact, when I was a baby (before we knew I was hearing impaired) I slept right smack on my mom’s chest. If she even moved an inch, I would wake up screaming and crying. We have since realized that this was because I was scared: I couldn’t see or hear, and if I didn’t have the anchor of the rise and fall of my mom’s chest or the vibration of her heartbeat, I had no idea where I was in time or space.
I’m older now, and I know where I am in time and space when I go to sleep, but that doesn’t mean it feels awesome. I think my brain overcompensates for the lack of sensory input that I am used to during the day. My mind races to fill the silence to sort of root me down so I don’t feel like I’m floating away into the void. You see, this is where the conflict is: falling asleep is kind of like floating away into the void. Void is a scary word. Let’s use the word dreamland instead. If my brain is working overtime to ensure that I don’t feel like I’m drifting away into a dreamland, how can I fall asleep? Observe: actual footage of me trying to get my brain to sleep.
By now you might be wondering how I ever fall asleep. Obviously it happens, right? It does. It usually happens when my brain tires itself out. Some nights that is sooner than others, but occasionally, it takes hours. The better rested I am, the harder it is to fall asleep!
You may be asking, “have you ever tried to just make your brain fall asleep?” Why yes, yes I have. I have subjected my unwieldy brain to mindfulness, hot baths, dim lighting, reading dreadfully boring books before bed, and bedtime rituals. Some things do work better than others. Mindfulness is always a good tactic, and it usually works if I can summon the energy to put it into practice.
The one thing that mindfulness cannot do, though, is get rid of the weird feeling of total silence and darkness. I get it, you guys think I’m crazy and that these are ideal conditions for falling asleep. But if feels weird. It is true that I can still use my other senses to ground myself, but after a while, we stop feeling our sheets and our pillows as our body accommodates to the bed. So at that point, I really feel detached from the physical earth. Any attempt I make to recover sensation keeps me awake. If I move, I’m awake. If my mind is racing, I’m awake. If I open my eyes, I am, undoubtedly, awake.
Has anyone been in those sensory deprivation chambers? That are supposed to be relaxing? Maybe I need to try it. Maybe I’ll figure out how to manage the weird feelings and loss of sensation so it makes me feel sleepy. Until then, who wants to hear how well I can count backwards from 1,000?