Insomnious Insidious

July 13, 2014

picassoCrying into a sleepless dark is usually part-n-parcel of episodic insomnia, at least for me, when about a hundred-trillion self-scurrilous thoughts, mostly-redundant, yet savagely fighting each other for dominance, finally finish their shitty work, and tears flow pitifully onto pillows.
Sad shit, huh?

Not all those wide-awake periods include crying — a lot of times, not all, though. Two o’clock in the morning is really the loneliest number, and as an old guy, there’s a lucid history of lonely shit to ponder, dwell on, dissect and scrutinize —  insomnia is one weird-ass physical phenomenon.

My version of the sleep disorder started five years ago, has come and gone, comes back, stays awhile sometimes.

(Illustration: Pablo Picasso’s ‘Self Portrait Facing Death‘ (June 30, 1972), was originally found here).

According to ye-old WebMD, there’s two forms of insomnia, one is getting to sleep, the second, staying asleep. And two types: Primary insomnia (the main health problem, without other medical conditions), and, Secondary insomnia (where other health shit is way-in-the-mix). My version’s madness is of the second form, and the second type — I can’t stay asleep and there’s all kinds of shit wrong with my aging body.
Nothing real freaky (all fairly freaky, though) in the medical sense, but a prologue of things to come.

And the personal biology of nothing new — in late summer 2009, for reasons that escape for now, many since-childhood health-tics (we all have them — little body ‘problems‘ easily remedied, or just generally ignored for so many years they’d become near-invisible) came upon the land, and there was much unrest. A minor sinus problem became something else — from the head to the feet, including nether regions in between, caused major misery for awhile. And continue to pester, though, nothing like those first few weeks.
One exceptionally-new issue to arrive on that turbulent scene was in sleeping — although my sleep threshold had always been way-low (if it’s bedtime, no-matter what, I’m going to sleep), I’d never had any previous trouble going to sleep, staying asleep, or anything sleep related. Something new under the moon.

And continues — last night was no exception. Actually in bed for nearly 12 hours, I’d gotten in reality about eight hours sleep. There was a giant, three/four-hour time-crater about mid-way, but because this is a Sunday morning, I’d managed to get decent sleep on both ends, and eventually waking to a feeling not half-bad. And I’ve also a good book, which really, really is a most-excellent aid in coping with these weird-ass periods — now it’s David Baldacci’s ‘King and Maxwell,’ another in a series about a couple of ex-Secret Service agents getting involved with dangerous shit. Michelle Maxwell is by-far the neatest-hottest chick in fiction. (And so far, on the page).
In fact, however, good read or not, during the work week this sleep-deprivation bullshit makes for some tiresome afternoons — starting tomorrow morning, and continuing until Friday, I fall forward and my feet catch me.
In a few weeks, I plan to retire (“not think it means what you think it means“) and we’ll have to see how this aspect plays in dreamland.

Being part of an apparent trend-tendency of Americans nowadays don’t really make me feel appreciated or privileged, either. A nefarious, boogie-man scheme: CDC data show that 28 percent of U.S. adults report sleeping six hours or less each night, and that’s just not enough for most people, experts say. It’s no wonder that the CDC calls insufficient sleep “a public health epidemic.”
And that’s on the low-ball — about 70 million of us suffer from all kinds of sleep disorders, like insomnia, and all kinds of bad sleeping shit off all kinds of diseases.

The thought-origin for this particular post on a personal-level subject matter came from a brief essay by Rebecca Solnit at Harper’s magazine from August 2013. A month or so ago, during my weekly visit to my local laundromat, I was skimming through a stack of Harper’s magazines on a table — what’s available depends on what’s been donated, yesterday, the major choice was Vanity Fair, last week, it was The New Yorker. Good taste, anyway.

And across the flipping pages, I spied Solnit’s name, but only after the piece’s title seemed to explode out at me: Insomnia. I immediately knew her work, especially for stuff at tomdispatch; one of a few out there with both humanity and sense. (Elizabeth Kolbert, another, for instance).
Anyway, Solnit’s quick tale of her experience with the disorder gob-smacked me nearly to tears — no shit. Nearly, I said. However, the emotion did seize the moment and forced me to subtly, and unobtrusively, tear-out the page from the magazine.
A move later proved most-fortuitous — the Harper’s link above just allows the first paragraph, the rest of the story is behind a $40 paywall. Bummer, but…
Personally, Solnit’s words captured the essence of that crater in the middle of the dark.
I’d like to reprint the whole thing (it’s short, the essay part of Harper’s Forum series), but here’s a few key snips to illustrate:

Sleep deprivation is torture when it’s inflicted from outside; it’s insomnia when you’re wound up in such a way that you can’t wind down enough at night.
I’ve been that person, intermittently, for decades.
It seems common among writers in particular, as though whatever’s turned on in our minds won’t turn off.

There are two kinds of insomniacs: the ones who have trouble falling asleep in the first place, and those who wake up in the middle of the night.
I’m the latter kind.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was, too: “Those seven precious hours of sleep suddenly break in two. There is, if one is lucky, the ‘first sweet sleep of night’ and the last deep sleep of morning, but between the two appears a sinister, ever widening interval.”
Fitzgerald also told us that “in a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning.”
At three A.M. everything is overwhelming, against you, doomed, arduous.

There I slightly differ — it’s really 2 AM, the freakish hour of a deep night. Shit, by 3 a.m. I’d already gotten the hang.

And Solnit concludes:

Sleep and dreams are the wilderness of the mind.
The rulers of the world are probably eyeing that land as something that can be harnessed for production; the torturers must see it as enemy terrotiity to be napalmed and carpet bombed.
I’m for wilderness protection. Because when I got to sleep, I dream, vividly and elaborately, and the dreams are a great gift — “a second life you’re living,” an envious lover who couldn’t remember his dreams once remarked.
Sleep is another country; I can’t spend enough time there.

I hear that shit. In my sleepless opinion, Solnit’s little essay is one of the best original-creative summaries on that weird, insidious disease of the dark night — touched a personal sense.

Carrying on — although it’d be nice, my sleep problem ain’t caused by the moon, the full moon, and I guess from last night’s “supermoon” — no wonder I was awake all that time.
Yeah, right.
Up here on California’s north coast, however, it was fog, dude. No moon, super or otherwise.
Yet apparently there’s some link between getting shitty sleep and the lunar cycle, at least according to a study last year released in Current Biology:

We found that around full moon, electroencephalogram (EEG) delta activity during NREM, sleep, an indicator of deep sleep, decreased by 30 percent, time to fall asleep increased by 5 min, and EEG-assessed total sleep duration was reduced by 20 min.
These changes were associated with a decrease in subjective sleep quality and diminished endogenous melatonin levels.
This is the first reliable evidence that a lunar rhythm can modulate sleep structure in humans when measured under the highly controlled conditions of a circadian laboratory study protocol without time cues.

And further explained via Scientific American:

“Lunar rhythms are not as evident as circadian rhythms and are thus not easy to document—but they exist,” Cajochen wrote in the Current Biology article.
The impacts of the moon are often masked by influences in our environment like artificial light so most people may not sense them, but exactly how—or if—they are connected with circadian rhythms remains an area to be explored, he says.
The authors also note that the moon’s effects may vary across the population.
So although some individuals could theoretically point to the moon as a potential cause for the dark circles under their eyes, in other individuals sleep may not be lost.

Kind of a key here, the words, “circadian rhythms,” a most-interesting, and, highly-influential function: Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment. They are found in most living things, including animals, plants and many tiny microbes.
And if these rhythms stop rhyming, shit can ensue: Circadian rhythms can influence sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, body temperature and other important bodily functions. They have been linked to various sleep disorders, such as insomnia. Abnormal circadian rhythms have also been associated with obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder.

My problem noted: The circadian crater effect.
And my insomnia is an excuse for my late-afternoon-evening temperament — starting off a day way-early fueled by sleepless rest can result in me being less than amiable.
From the Harvard Business Review, and a piece on new research about the energy of “Morning People,” and sleep — the key nut:

Over the past few years, management and psychology research has uncovered something interesting: both energy and ethics vary over time.
In contrast to the assumption that good people typically do good things, and bad people do bad things, there is mounting evidence that good people can be unethical and bad people can be ethical, depending on the pressures of the moment.
For example, people who didn’t sleep well the previous night can often act unethically, even if they aren’t unethical people.

So, if I act like an asshole at 3 PM, it’s not because I’m an actual asshole, but just appear an asshole due to lack of sleep. And if you bother me about it, I just might start crying.

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