Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: How do you sleep?

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  • Kracklite, in reply to nzlemming,

    I'm never more than a metre from a notebook, but last night's "What if all caves were made of slate segmented into rectangular prisms?" really wouldn't have been worth the effort.

    I also load episodes of Doctor Who onto my iPod and watch bits. It generally takes me off the usual mental ricochets and I can turn it off when it gets to a boring bit. All the meditation apps seem to take too long, but revisiting isolated bits of simple stories one liked seems to work rather better. I'm actually not being facetious - if you can't shut down thinking, it narrows one's attention without provoking more complex associations.

    Don't read a new book before you go to bed, but maybe a an old favourite?

    Also, if you've had absolutely no sleep the night before. That helps too.

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

  • Rich Lock, in reply to TracyMac,

    The Manifesto is not in copyright

    One would be rather surprised if it was, property being theft and all that.

    A friend says BBC is good

    The shipping forecast is oddly soporific

    I sleep very well, but my wife does the whole 'wake up at anywhere between 4.30 and 6.00 and not get back to sleep' thing. More advice on that would be much appreciated.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report

  • linger,

    I just would not sleep for 2-3 days and then crash for 20 hours straight

    Sounds like all of my thesis years.
    And also, like my job -- especially, alas, during thesis editing season, which requires many all-nighters -- except that I’m not able to do the “crash” part of the cycle until Thursday night. I’ve settled for “attending Monday meetings in zombie mode” instead.* Not sustainable long-term, but during my infrequent holidays in NZ I do sleep in, or as I call it, “maintain Japan time”.

    * To judge from the quality of the meeting decisions, I’m not the only one doing this.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1944 posts Report

  • Deborah,

    Years ago, we had a family gathering at my parents’ place. In the morning, when we were all getting up and making coffee and greeting each person as they arrived in the kitchen, my husband asked my then five year old nephew, “How did you sleep?”

    My nephew looked at my husband, baffled by the weird adult question, and said, “I just did.”

    If only…

    I find that reading myself to sleep, and then reading again if I wake up in the middle of the night helps. Fortunately, I have bouts of insomnia about as frequently on alcohol-free days as I do on evenings when I’ve had a glass or two of wine, so I haven’t had to give up drinking yet. Sometimes, if I wake stark staring up, mind racing and muscles tense, I get up and do some work for an hour or two. A few years back it turned out to be a remarkably effective way of getting our tax returns done.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1447 posts Report

  • Pete Sime,

    I sometimes listen to guided relaxation podcasts and they seem to send me off tickety-boo. But on more than one occasion I've woken in the middle of the night to untangle myself from the lead for my earbuds.

    Dunedin • Since Apr 2008 • 171 posts Report

  • BenWilson,

    I can tell you right now that swotting how to solve triple integrals is most sleep inducing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • danduran, in reply to Russell Brown,

    You can change the settings in f.lux quite easily - the newest version, which came out only a week or two ago, lets you set it to some quite extreme colour schemes, if you want. Maybe the Mac version is different, I dunno - but it's one of the best pieces of software I've ever come across!

    Auckland • Since May 2008 • 9 posts Report

  • Kimberley Verburg, in reply to Russell Brown,

    f.lux's settings are only accessible via the taskbar (top right for anyone on a Mac). Very, very easy to miss.

    But now I've got that sorted, looking at my screen is a lot more soothing.

    Leiden • Since Jun 2007 • 27 posts Report

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Kimberley Verburg,

    f.lux’s settings are only accessible via the taskbar (top right for anyone on a Mac). Very, very easy to miss.

    Ah. I see. I'll give it another try then.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Nora Leggs,

    I must be really suggestible, all this talk about sleep, it was a sleep-minus night last night.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2011 • 2700 posts Report

  • Amy Gale,

    For me, the content of what I'm consuming in the evenings seems to matter a fair bit. Current events (in any format) are highly likely to rile me up, so I have stopped watching or reading news at night. This seems to have been beneficial. The same restrictions apply to hate-reading, although obviously it would be better still to give it up entirely.

    tha Ith • Since May 2007 • 471 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen,

    I sleep pretty well now. But while I was struggling with depression I slept terribly, 2 hours was a good night. It’s one reason I started playing WoW since it’s better than disturbing my partner at 4 am and I wasn’t functional enough to do anything challenging. It also meant that not sleeping felt a bit less catastrophic, “hey I can’t sleep I’ll just play”.

    My therapist, a very smart man, recognized pretty early on that he needed to give me facts I could understand before he could move on to sort out my emotional issues so he gave me some reading about stress and sleep.

    So IANA neurobiologist but this is what I understand. The major sleep hormone is melatonin, most sleeping pills mimic melatonin, you need to have sufficient melatonin to be able to sleep well. Melatonin is derived from vitamin D, which you get from sunshine. The catch is along the synthetic pathway to melatonin is serotonin. That’s a hormone associated with happiness (and bowel movements but that’s probably not relevant), but it’s also a hormone closely related to stress, a lot of antidepressants target the serotonin receptor.

    Under situations of stress serotonin gets used up … none left to make melatonin and you don’t sleep. That of course makes you tired and (for me anyway) grumpy, a state of mind pretty much guaranteed to induce stress the next day, which uses up serotonin …

    It’s a vicious cycle. Obviously the long-term solution is to figure out how to interact with the world and people without being overwhelmed by stress. But some short-term solutions are obvious once you know what is going on. Get out in the sun and eat your veggies, both things will help you make serotonin and melatonin. If you are stuck in a cycle of not sleeping then sleeping pills can help break the cycle, but only as a short-term solution. For me they never give the same quality of sleep but at least I could function and cope better the next day.

    And reduce stress, hah! Like that’s easy. But getting some exercise seems to help, hard to worry about someone at work when all you are focused on some kind of exercise, exercise out in the sunshine is a double bonus.

    I love good coffee but I can’t drink it after about 1 pm or I’ll pay the price that night. I love nice wine but again there is a price to be paid. I always read in bed but if I want to sleep I have to read with dim lighting on my iPAD. If I get stuck in a thought pattern I practice “corpse pose” from yoga, basically the bit where you chase thoughts out of your brain while concentrating on relaxing each muscle and breathing, meditation by any other name. Essentially what Ben said, but just a note it does take practice to learn to do well.

    All things that do make sense, and of course all things that may not work for everyone.

    So yeah I sleep reasonably well now, less than I used to, but that’s a sign of maturity right?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Craig Young,

    Try to avoid benzodiazepines, they're addictive.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 573 posts Report

  • Richard Grevers,

    The males in our household are earlybirds, the females night-owls. Parenthood put an end to my solid sleep-through times, now I awaken quickly at any sound that might be a child. Consequently I seem to have lost my very strong body-clock which used to jolt me awake at the same time (to the minute) for months at a time. I don't mind this, as anything which required an earlier-than-body-clock start (particularly travel) weighed on my mind so much that I had a sleepless night.
    In winter, I usually just beat the alarm (6.15) up, but now I find I'm waking with the light (or with the roosters, who often beat dawn by an hour) - thank gawd for daylight time!

    For some time now I've found it impossible to work in the evening - I just nod off repeatedly. I think it's something to do with sitting down, because if I'm standing/moving about I'm fine. We've christened the sofas "the somnulent sofas of doom", because sitting on them seems to put paid to any planned achievements for the evening - and since the kids' bedtimes are inching later we're resenting the loss of "alone together" time in the evening. In theory I'm getting insufficient sleep (~5.5-6.5 hours), but maybe the solution is a siesta rather than an earlier bedtime. Historically I've never been good at sleeping during the day, however. While I used to read myself to sleep, the eyesight is at the point where reading needs very bright light, and our bedroom is not set up for that.

    I'm definitely not a good sleeper away from my own bed (and I used to do tours for a month at a time!)

    Our 11 year old daughter has suffered from insomnia for a couple of years. We've developed bedtime routines (meditation etc) and she uses a little pillow containing lavender and hop flowers - the trick is to get it out from under her pillow before you want her to wake up!

    With regards to caffeine, I've heard say that an evening coffee isn't a problem, but an afternoon one is.

    New Plymouth • Since Jul 2011 • 143 posts Report

  • Kracklite,

    I sleep pretty well now. But while I was struggling with depression I slept terribly, 2 hours was a good night.

    Anyone who has that, see your doctor immediately! It got to the stage where a lot of mental functions began to shut down, I reeked of ketones (spontaneous human combustion risk there, believe it or not), my skin began to crumble into a kind of wax in parts and even the act of picking up a cup was difficult - I felt like a rover on another planet: extend arm, open fingers, move further, close fingers, raise arm with cup...

    Insomnia is not just a bad night's sleep if it becomes chronic.

    Sorry, off the soapbox now.

    Also, never have anything to do with Massey University at Wellington.

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

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Kracklite,

    All the meditation apps seem to take too long, but revisiting isolated bits of simple stories one liked seems to work rather better. I’m actually not being facetious – if you can’t shut down thinking, it narrows one’s attention without provoking more complex associations.

    Weirdly, the only way I go to sleep any night, unless I'm absolutely knackered, is to tell myself stories. They distract my mind from my body long enough for sleep to kick in. While I generally sleep well once I am asleep, if I can't think of a good story hook, it can take me an hour or so to get there. Trying to keep my mind blank is the best guarantee of insomnia I can think of.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2105 posts Report

  • BenWilson, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Essentially what Ben said, but just a note it does take practice to learn to do well.

    I think that I only got the hang of it when I made the decision that the "effort" involved in doing it wasn't worse than trouble of sleeplessness from churning thoughts, and so I decided to try to do it all night if necessary. But it didn't take all night, it took about 20 mins, then less and less. Somehow I'd always been a clockwatcher when it came to meditation because I find it dull, and removing the "is it working yet? No, ffs" from the thought cycle helped. But like any skill, it's something you do clumsily at first, full of rules and tricks, then it becomes more and more habitual, until you're eventually just doing it without thinking about it. So you stop thinking about not thinking, and just stop thinking. Weirdly recursive, but it works.

    If it doesn't, the worst is that I'll meditate for the entire night. That might have an almost equivalent effect to having slept for all of it. But I find it incredibly unlikely to happen. Zen monks who meditate heaps do it sitting up for a reason, and there's a guy who wanders around waking up all the people who have fallen asleep sitting up (whacks them with a stick, I think :-)). It's actually a very hard skill to learn, to meditate for a very lengthy period without falling asleep.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report

  • Jos,

    I woke up around 5 as usual and all I could think of was you lot all being awake as well! Somehow strangely comforting :)

    Whakatane • Since Jan 2012 • 877 posts Report

  • Francisco Blaha,

    try more exercise during the day and/or a small joint prior bed... discontinue if it condition does not improves!

    Since Dec 2006 • 18 posts Report

  • Marcus Turner, in reply to BenWilson,

    I endorse this: both the part about meditating all night if necessary, and the part that you probably won’t.

    It’s my understanding that Zen meditation is carried out with eyes open. (Maybe not in all groups: I’m not sure.) There’s some story about the founder ripping his eyelids off.

    Edit: Here's the story: http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhistworld/chan.htm

    Since Nov 2006 • 212 posts Report

  • Jos,


    This is my favourite screensaver, it's what I try to picture to attempt to turn off the brain whilst attempting sleep in the early hours.

    Whakatane • Since Jan 2012 • 877 posts Report

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Marcus Turner,

    Edit: Here's the story: http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhistworld/chan.htm

    (because I'm supposed to be working on a translation and I'm way behind in essay marking)

    Interesting story, pity about the messed up attempt at old school Wade-Giles transliteration. Zen is chán (禅). Wikipedia has a slightly more detailed and coherent version of the story using Hànyǔ Pīnyīn (not perfect, but much more consistent and logical than badly done Wade-Giles), and has the decency to get its spelling right.

    #ignore me, I'm peeving

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report

  • Kracklite, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    is to tell myself stories

    Used to do that too when I was a child. Good idea... maybe I should start it again.

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

  • Sacha, in reply to Jos,

    those lights are distracting :)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    ...tell myself stories

    Why, I do believe the National Government may be
    using the same technique to 'lullaby' the nation...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report

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