There are three basic forms of insomnia: (a) initial insomnia (difficulty falling asleep); (b) intermittent insomnia (choppy sleep); and (c) terminal insomnia (early morning awakening).

It’s typical for people to say it’s normal to sleep 8 hours through the night. It’s also typical for people to say things like, “We only use 10% of our brains.”

Since I’m awake and it’s the middle of the night, I’m inclined to wonder if I’m experiencing insomnia. I think the answer to that is “Yes and No.” Insomnia is also characterized by distress or impairment and I’m completely against being distressed about this and will be fine and (relatively) unimpaired tomorrow (but then, who am I to judge my own impairment?). Mostly, I’m against pathologizing the normal experience of occasional sleep disruption or, it might be even more accurate to say I’m against the pathologizing of just about everything. This sort of makes me against the DSM, but that’s not quite right either, as I find it a very interesting resource.

And now, having spent 2.5 hours grading papers and contemplating the internet, I must have overloaded my brain by using its 11th percent . . . and so it’s time to return to the world of sleep . . . a place where Carl Jung claimed to hear the voice of God . . . or something like that.

And . . . thanks to tonight’s insomnia experience and the homeostatic reality of life, I suspect I’ll sleep quite well tomorrow.

5 thoughts on “Insomnia”

  1. Hi John, I join you in the being against the pathologizing of normal human experience and physiologic activity. In my case, I work against the relentless onslaught of pathologizing birth. When birth is supported to progress physiologically, there are enormous psychological benefits for the woman, the newborn human with its entire psychological existence ahead, and the social glue between partners, all happening in that singularly rich oxytocin-infused environment.

    Can you please write a book about that for the mental health community? Your community should be enraged over the assault that happens at this pivotal, formative time frame. You all are continually picking up the pieces on a daily basis — how much better if we developed a maternity care system that supported healthy psycho-social transition and development at birth.

    Instead, our helpless babies receive chemicals at birth that have no research on long term effects, experience separation from mothers during peak hormonally-induced attachment, and have their first experiences of the world be scary and lonely, all with detrimental epigenic effect. The erosion of mama-bear mothering under the haze and illusion of “pain control” leads to a loss of the sacreficially-attentive quality of mothering. The papa/partners who fail to see their super-strong women birthing with power to awe the most feeble heart are not induced to man-up to supporting that mother/baby with equal power and might. Conventional maternity care “dumbs down” the emotional attachment that is inherent in physiologic birth, for everyone involved. The effect is insidious but can be seen attachment disorders and feeble parenting commitment. The social fabric of family is crumbling, in part because birth is muted from it’s original purpose — to cement everyone in the family unit together. Additionally, where does this increase in social maladjustment, personality disorders, drug addiction, attention deficit, autism spectrum, schizophrenia come from?

    Is the psychiatric care community listening? What are you doing about it?

    1. Hi Kate.

      Good to hear from you on this very important issue. Right now there are so many issues to contend with in our dysfunctional culture its easy to feel like the Dutch child with his or her finger in the dike with leaks springing all around us. The past three weeks I’ve been working on a grant proposal to help reduce sexual assault here at the University of Montana . . . which is a substantial need for us right now. Although I’m open to figuring out ways to help the psychiatric/psychology/counseling communities address the birthing issues you articulate so well, right now I’m spread about as thin as a pancake and so am left to appreciate all you’re doing in this very important area.

      All best,


      1. Hi John, of course, I knew you are working at your capacity for addressing some of the multi-factorial causes of our mental health and social dysfunction. And hurray for that!! But as my best access to the mental health care community, I hope you will put psychological birth trauma caused routine obstetrical practice somewhere on your radar screen or issues for future consideration and research. There is very little research in this area and very little attention from mental health or feminist communities. Did you know, there are women who experience PTSD and sexual assault trauma after forced or coerced routine obstetrical care? Also, as I am sure you are aware, public media would rather portray natural birth and “attachment” parenting as extreme (eg, last week’s Time mag on “Mommy Wars”); rather than something that promotes a well-adjusted family and society. As you do write and speak around the country, I hope you can add comments or a chapter here and there looking at these connections, and encourage others of your colleagues to do so as well.

        Warm regards,


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