Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: How do you sleep?

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  • Andre Alessi,

    I've always had trouble falling asleep, but I used to have even worse trouble waking up. I can never sleep in a room with light or noise-even having the bedroom door open can keep me awake.

    I was a very heavy sleeper as a kid, but these days I wake up at the faintest noise, and once I'm awake, that's it, I won't sleep again. (Probably due to a short, sharp training regimen thanks to briefly working in breakfast radio.) I am also incredibly sensitive to caffeine and alcohol-I can't have any after about three pm or I won't sleep. Same with sex, oddly.

    I have a rigid sleep pattern now, which keeps me functioning on my 5-6 hours without too many I'll effects, but it restricts me from considering major lifestyle changes-shift work would be a nightmare for me.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Chopper,

    The world from 4.30 until 7 is a beautiful place

    Yes! I love riding to work at first light because it's such a calm time. Now that I can open the gates at work I can start whenever I like (really. One coworker regularly starts at 5am... but sometimes comes in "early", meaning 4am or so).

    The red light thing seems to help me - luckily you can buy LED downlight replacement lights in a range of colours very easily, so now my bedside light is 9W of red. Very RED! I also have a head torch with a red secondary LED that I use for reading in the middle of the night (because my ebook reader has a light, but it's very bluish white LEDs).

    Meditation is a big win for me going to sleep initially, but if I wake in the middle of the night I read because mediation doesn't seem to help.

    I have also taken to "turn the computer off at 8pm" or earlier if I'm feeling tired. There seems to be a gap of an hour or more between not dealing with the computer and being able to sleep. It's probably not colour, I have a utility that reddens my screen at sunset (it's quite noticeable), but brain activity. Playing games on my phone has the same effect. So, no computing before sleep. And no computing in the middle of the night. I have a paper notebook and occasionally work in that if I'm full of ideas in the night.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1229 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    I get 4am wakeups when I'm a bit stressed (like starting a new job: lovely to turn up with panda eyes, chugging coffee and yawning all through meetings). If I'm lucky I get back to sleep before 5:30ish. If I'm unlucky one of the kids will wake up before I drift back off.

    What works for me is turning off the audio/verbal part of my brain, the bit that subvocalises all my thoughts and reminds me of all the things I need to do the next day, what I should have said yesterday, and what I'd really do first if I won lotto; and turning on the visual part, eyes shut. For some reason, if I can imagine something visual vividly enough, it's enough like a dream that it becomes lucid dreaming then the real thing.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Lilith __,

    I have CFS and have particularly bad troubles with sleep. I’ve been through all the usual “sleep hygiene” stuff and it makes no difference to my sleeplessness at all except to make me more irritable because I’m so bored. :-)

    Conversely, I am able to sleep at virtually any time during the day if fatigued. I can go to sleep at 10am in bright sunlight and sleep soundly until 1 or 2pm.

    You and me both. It's a royal pain. Very occasionally, my wanting-to-go-to-sleepness coincides with what people call bedtime, and I'll drop off quite quickly, but I'll only sleep for a couple of hours at a time then wake for an hour or so and then get another couple of hours, and so on till morning. I've actually just woken up from a "10 minute nap with the cat" that lasted around an hour and a half.

    To be honest, this is marginally better than my teen years to mid twenties, when I just would not sleep for 2-3 days and then crash for 20 hours straight, which does not for a positive worklife make.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2933 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Ana Simkiss,

    Chris Laidlaw sends me straight back to the land of nod for my weekly sleepin on Sundays. Alas, no longer …

    Thank sweet baby Jeebus for this. It's worth the sacrifice of sleep.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2933 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Moz,

    Yes! I love riding to work at first light because it’s such a calm time.

    I've done a couple of early rides recently and I intend to do it more often. As you say, things are calm.

    And apart from anything else, riding into town and seeing people flushed out of nightclubs at 6.30am is just precious.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    I’ve been a piss poor sleeper for as long as I can remember. Add children, chronic neck pain and a world that doesn’t fit my natural rhythms very well and I am, basically, screwed.

    I find that the right bedtime helps. Anytime before elevenish and, even if I drop off ok, I am done for the night after the first sleep cycle.

    Reading is almost essential. Sex is hit-or-miss as to whether it makes me drowsy or bouncy. An evening snack (yoghurt and banana is good) helps quite a bit.

    If I have a lot of things to do the next day, writing a list before bed helps me not stay awake going over and over everything I need to remember. Conversely, if I do find myself lying awake, planning a detailed, fantasy event (like a swanky party) can still my mind.

    Yesterday, at 5am I was awoken from a dream that my partner was cheating on me by the cat spewing on the bed. I may never recover.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to nzlemming,

    You and me both. It’s a royal pain. Very occasionally, my wanting-to-go-to-sleepness coincides with what people call bedtime

    Large doses of melatonin just before bed will send me to sleep, but then I pop awake in the small hours. Melatonin’s half-life is only 50 mins, so I guess that makes sense.

    If I wake during the night I usually get up and do something. Sometimes I have breakfast at 4.30am and read or write for a couple of hours before going back to bed and sleep.

    My sleep is highly variable day-to-day, both in timing and duration, but I've found that over a week the duration averages out to a fairly consistent number of hours. Fascinating.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I have only recently kicked 20 years of insomnia. It had become so normal I just didn't worry about it any more, and would just do stuff until I nodded off doing it, at whatever time. The main thing was to make sure I rose at the right time, even if I had only had 1 hour of sleep. Then it was usually unlikely that the pattern would continue for several days.

    In only the last week or so I finally decided to try meditating, a practice I find far too boring to ever sustain, normally, despite all the known benefits. It was an instant hit. Asleep rapidly every time. I do this actually in bed, and just keep it up until I'm asleep - I figure that if I don't sleep, then at least I'll get 8 hours meditation, which wouldn't be any less unendurable than 8 hours of clock watching or fretting.

    It's an extremely simple formula, I just stop thinking. There are many tricks to reset this when a thought pops up, as they usually do. Big yawns are a good one. Concentrating on what I can hear or see (which is mostly nothing) pushes thoughts out. Moving the eyes around helps with this. Mantras are OK, my main one is "let it go". Within a few minutes, I'm still awake, but basically in a trance, extremely relaxed. At an unknown amount of time after this, I will often wake slightly, realizing I'd dozed off. At this point, if I was dreaming, I just let it continue. Furthermore, I'm getting better at it every night. Less tricks needed, the letting go is pretty much automatic as soon as I notice a thought.

    It's been such an empowering feeling, that the only trouble I've had is being a little bit excited about going to bed. I've never experienced having the certainty that I can fall asleep at the time of my choosing. I'm not concerned now to go to bed, and lie there thinking a bit, as has been my habit since I was very young, because I can just switch off now. I've spent years berating myself for thinking in bed too much, quite why this idea never occurred to me I don't know. I'm not even changing the time I go to bed - if I'm up late it's usually because I'm too interested in something to put it down. But now it doesn't even cross my mind to wonder "am I tired enough yet? Will be stink to just lie there bumming out again". It's a very strange feeling, like I've been handed the switch to my own brain.

    I do actually like thinking in bed. It's not a bad time to mentally rehearse things, to go over events, etc. I don't want to stop doing that. Now, I've realized I don't have to.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    How do I sleep? Horizontally seems to provide the best zzzs. Any other position gives unsustained somnia.

    As far as sex being useful. Apparently it is a no no to fall asleep on top in the afterglow. Dreamy for the one on top, a nightmare for the one on the bottom.

    Edit: YES Ben:

    It's an extremely simple formula, I just stop thinking.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report Reply

  • RaggedJoe,

    I am pretty lucky and generally sleep well, better at 50 than 30 interestingly. One factor is that I handle stress better now, more stability in life, kids grown out of health issues and better work environment. BUT, if I do wake, it can be a problem, especially when overseas and dealing with time differences. My standard response at home is get up, turn kitchen light on, make a glass of cold milk with milo. Drink that pretty quick and head back to bed, the milk settles the stomach (deals with alcohol instigated acid feeling) and the cold (milk and kitchen floor on bare feet especially) makes the bed snugly and inviting. 80% success rate. However for the 20% failures it is not good! because I know I have fired my only shot and I will be restless for ages, dropping into deep sleep 30 minutes before the alarm goes off!

    When overseas (no kitchen, milk or milo :-(), I will often give in, open phone/tablet and deal with work, but that can escalate as people start replying. My mental exercise is counting breaths. Concentrate on deep regular breaths and count steadily. I rearely get past 50 or so before either sleeping or getting mentally distracted and having to start again.

    City of Sales • Since Sep 2008 • 72 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to B Jones,

    What works for me is turning off the audio/verbal part of my brain, the bit that subvocalises all my thoughts and reminds me of all the things I need to do the next day, what I should have said yesterday, and what I’d really do first if I won lotto; and turning on the visual part, eyes shut. For some reason, if I can imagine something visual vividly enough, it’s enough like a dream that it becomes lucid dreaming then the real thing.

    Yes, this is what I'm doing. I notice when verbal thoughts happen that there is an accompanying slight feeling of tension, which I isolate by feel and relax it. Hard to describe, mostly it just feels like my scalp relaxing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Mike O'Connell,

    I sleep really well these days. I used to be a really early riser, up at 6.30, pacing about looking for things to do even on weekends. Not sure what to put it down to but am largely content with life I guess. Can even get through to 9am at weekends the odd time. I really enjoy going to sleep now but that extra drink from time to time can mean waking about 3 and lying awake for a couple of hours.

    I contrast that with the beginning of the year. For 3-4 weeks, stress got the better of me. All of a sudden I couldn't sleep, a couple hours a night at most. I had anxiety episodes which also brought on, or appeared to bring on, tinnitus for a while. As a result, I got increasingly more tired and run down. I tried sleeping pills (zopiclone) but they were ghastly - gave me an extra couple of hours at most. But with fluoxetine and therapy, I began 'eating the elephant piece by piece'.

    The tinnitus aspect was weird - a hissy high frequency sound which upon reflection I think was always there but enhanced by anxiety. But now in a good frame of mind, it has gone to the background and I barely notice it. Listening to white noise (crashing waves on a stone beach) on a repeat cycle on my iPod going off to sleep also helped.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 385 posts Report Reply

  • Jos,

    I play Battlefield 4 most nights right until bedtime and then sleep soundly till 5ish, a couple of turn overs and I wake/dream/doze till 7.15 after that. I try to picture a totally empty white room like a screensaver to clear the brain. The less tossing and turning I do helps get back into a pleasant dream I find. :)

    Whakatane • Since Jan 2012 • 877 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones, in reply to BenWilson,

    I notice when verbal thoughts happen that there is an accompanying slight feeling of tension, which I isolate by feel and relax it.

    I guess what I do, when it works, is an informal kind of meditation. Mantras, hah, for some reason "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is visual yet trippy enough to inspire images but not words or logic.

    What I hate is the state of half-sleep where you're dreaming and a bit stressed and you think you're awake/in big trouble/about to sit your exam but can't find the room/can't operate a telephone. One weird night after too much internetting I dreamed in posts. After that I have to get up and be awake for a while so I don't go back to thinking some horrible imaginary problem is bearing down on me.

    And teeth falling out. God, I hate dreaming that. It can be surprisingly realistic, and it's apparently not uncommon.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Nora Leggs,

    Attachment

    Chamomile, calming evening bevvy – so long as it doesn’t wake you to go to the loo later.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2011 • 2700 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Nice to hear that there are other people out there who relate to lying awake at 3 am worrying about not getting enough sleep to cope the next day.

    I haven't slept more than a couple of hours at a time since having little children. Never relearnt the art. What helps me is putting pure lavender oil on my wrists last thing and sometimes having the radio on very very quietly - enough to stop the active brain. A friend says BBC is good. I have also been taking daily the new miracle vitamin - good old D - which seems to help with a lot of the aging stuff. I also like really listening to the quiet.

    Family and friends swear by little naps in the afternoon, even a little lie down under the desk if you can do it unobtrusively.

    Some people get up and write about their wakefulness on Facebook. We could probably solve the problems of the world if we harnessed the wisdom of collective wakefulness - so long as we didn't expect any productivity the next day.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3214 posts Report Reply

  • Nora Leggs,

    Attachment

    Lavender - works for me when I'm over excited and buzzing - lavender cream on wrists and temples - even if I can't get to sleep it smells wonderful.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2011 • 2700 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Some things that have helped for limited times over the years:

    1. An app called "Relax and sleep" on my droid. It's a bunch of ambient sounds that can be individually turned on or off. I don't know why, but I found a combination of intermittent thunderclaps and traffic noise quite effective. There are many more.
    2. Ambient music. There's plenty of streams that are actually dedicated to sleep enabling. But watch the bandwidth!
    3. Hypnosis recordings. Might also help you quit smoking. Can't say the various post-hypnotic suggestions ever worked a damn for me, but the hypnotic induction can be extremely relaxing, has helped me sleep many times. The main problem with them is that they usually deliberately wake you up at the end. There are ones that are also intended for bed which don't do this. Hemi-synch and other strange snake oil sounding things abound.
    I also recorded my own ones, my own voice, with my own choice of post-hypnotic suggestions. I think I'm unfortunately not very suggestible :-) But being able to choose the relaxation visualization in detail means it's one that worked for me.

    For all of the audio solutions, a major downside is ear pain - I share the bed so I can't just play it over a speaker. I don't really think it's that healthy to have a headset playing into your ears for hours and hours. Earbuds are uncomfortable, and ear covering phones get hot and sweaty, and you can't roll over.

    4. Watching TV lying down in the dark. Only problem is the posture. Easy to get a sore neck.
    5. Reading on the phone in the dark. Arabian Nights has been good to me - I've been working my way through that one for about 9 years now - I don't know if it's been 1001 sittings, sounds a bit much. The point of light surrounded by darkness is itself sleep inducing, too. Hard to find a comfortable position, though. Books that are interesting don't do it for me, I tend to find I can't put them down.
    6. Sleeping somewhere else, or even just a different way around.
    7. Working on something tedious.
    8. Sitting outside.
    9. Doing dishes.
    10. Hot chocolate.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10650 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Ah, early mornings! I have sharp memories of those 5am stirrings, when I would help my father out on his milk-round. The TeasMade would be bubbling, and dawn breaking with the first bird song.

    Dare I mention afternoon naps, which can be invigorating. Between 3.30-4.00pm is good.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2557 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Just watched Flux change the colour temperature of my screen in real time, unexpectedly. It's not exactly subtle.

    I'm actually seriously unimpressed with it. You get a once-only chance to make any setting, which I somehow accidentally dismissed. From there the only way to interact with it is to open Activity Monitor and kill the process. Sorry, but this seems a pretty poor app.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Motel rooms may help. I am hoping this one tonight will work, with a view over the flat, grey sea in Napier (off in a trip to add more sites to http://cinemasofnz.info)

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2557 posts Report Reply

  • Kracklite, in reply to Ana Simkiss,

    He never let me have a peaceful emergence from a Saturday night's sleep - I usually woke up screaming "Oh Jesus and fucking Cthulhu in a tuxedo and tutu riding in his sidecar, how could you ever be so banal?!"

    Not a good way to start a Sunday morning.

    I suggest that they replace his show with a few hours of a ten-Hertz infrasonic hum. I hear that it induces sleep.

    As for the sleep, alas, insomnia is my family curse. No doubt some ancestor once called an old witch boring and she declared vengeance on us for generations. Now every bloody night, it's "Oh great, another slightly interesting idea that will keep me awake but is not quite the 'Eureka' that would get me out of bed to write down. Thanks, brain."

    The Library of Babel • Since Nov 2007 • 982 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    4. Watching TV lying down in the dark. Only problem is the posture. Easy to get a sore neck.

    This very reliably sends me to sleep.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22830 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Kracklite,

    Now every bloody night, it’s “Oh great, another slightly interesting idea that will keep me awake but is not quite the ‘Eureka’ that would get me out of bed to write down. Thanks, brain.”

    This is why you keep a notebook beside the bed ;-) (and a pen that writes in the dark - embedded LED)

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2933 posts Report Reply

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