Obstacles are valuable. They offer an opportunity to transcend the difficulty they present, to push yourself beyond your limits, to make fresh discoveries. These are a few of my recent findings.
Sleep Obstacles and Problems
I still have difficulty getting to sleep and remaining asleep through the night. This blog post is being written at 2 a.m. as Dr H has given her guidance and advised that if I am unable to fall asleep, I should immediately get out of bed and do something else until I once more feel sleepy.
I felt sleepy more than two hours ago. I managed to walk over 12 miles today in the course of three different trips and am just shy of 200 miles for the month. I ate a light evening meal based on rice. Rice contains Tryptophan which is known to induce sleep. The weather has been hot but a flash thunderstorm early in the evening cooled the air and the open bedroom window allowed the night breeze to circulate through the room.
Regardless, I was unable to sleep.
Earlier this week, I realized I have difficulty falling asleep because as soon as my head hits the pillow I begin running a movie of the day’s activities. I have been doing this since the fall of 2012 when Dr H first diagnosed me with mTBI. At first, I did not accept the diagnosis. Then, as I began to identify my various forms of constant error, I began the habit of making a late night review of all of the day’s activity. Had I remembered to turn off the kitchen stove? If I was unable to remember making this final pre-bed check I would get up, go downstairs, and inspect the kitchen. Did I put all the foodstuffs away? Did I remove my debit card from the cash machine? Did I collect the cash that was dispensed? When I bought groceries, did I remember to pack all of my purchases? Or did I leave some of them behind?
There were an infinite number of these questions to ask. I believe I developed what Dr. D refers to as a learned behaviour. After four years of the same late night routine, I automatically begin this review of my day. I am not even aware I am performing this review function. The effect of the review is to impose an immediate sense of alertness that defeats the intent of going to sleep. That is the first of the obstacles.
Singing to Overcome Sleep Obstacles
This may sound bizarre. Starting this week, when I begin to fall asleep, I tell myself everything is OK, that I am doing the best that I can. Tonight I realized these are the words to a Beatles song. Not sure of the title, but I believe it includes the line “I think I’m getting better, getting so much better all the time.”
Telling myself I am getting better, and doing the best that I can, appears to relax me in some way and helps induce sleep. I do not yet have sufficient experience to tell if this is a viable long term solution. Tonight it lead to the realization I was humming lots of old Beatles songs and trying to remember the words. This late night silent karaoke woke me up and made it impossible to get back to sleep.
The Second of Infinite Sleep Obstacles
Tonight, I also realized I face a further problem. Since learning of the injury, I have consciously exerted myself to overcome the injury and its effects. I refer to this as the “bulldozer” method. Regardless of the science, regardless of the facts, I have this determination to push relentlessly forward and bulldoze my way to a full recovery. This is one of the reasons I will walk over 200 miles this month.
This conscious full-time effort forms part of each waking moment. I am aware that if I let my guard down then an error will ensue (errors occur regardless of my efforts. But this is a topic for another blog post). When I am entering sleep there is a moment when I appear to be “letting go,” to be surrendering to the sleep, allowing myself to fall into a state of sleep consciousness (or sleep unconsciousness, as you wish). At the moment when I am situated on the very edge of sleep, and am faced with this final letting go, I then re-assert the pervasive conscious monitoring effort performed during the day. This return to conscious monitoring kneecaps the sleep impulse. I end up alert and awake.
And singing “Here comes the sun.”
Blogging as the sun burns itself red in the eastern sky.
Found the song:
The Beatles – Getting Better
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – 1967