Sleep Well

When it comes to literally everything, knowledge is power. The more we know and the more we understand, the better we’re able to cope with—as Alfred Adler used to say—the tasks of life. One very important task of life is to sleep well.

In September, 1975, I went to college for one reason: to play college football and baseball. Going to class and learning anything was required for me to be able to do what I wanted to do. So, I went to class and I played sports.

Being away from the structure of home and family, I didn’t sleep well. Then, several months into my college career, I started having what I considered “Very weird experiences.” I didn’t tell anyone about those experiences, because they were weird and I was a young male and unaccustomed to being open with others about any of my private experiences. The very weird experiences just kept on happening.

The experiences happened as I tried to nap (on the floor, or a couch, a bed, or wherever I was). While dropping off to sleep, or waking up, I would start to hear what sounded like loud static. The static was bad and weird on its own, but then I discovered I couldn’t move, which was especially disturbing because I began seeing the shape of an ominous figure standing at the end of my bed, or couch, or in the doorway. I had to just lay there in panic because, of course, I was paralyzed.

Eventually, I would completely wake up, be able to move, and discover no one was in my room. And eventually, maybe because I adjusted to college or started sleeping better, the very weird experiences stopped. But, while they were happening, I searched my mind for explanations.

Because there was no Internet and no Google back then, I relied on what was in my brain. But basically, I had nearly nothing in my brain. Remember, I was interested in sports, not knowledge. . . and I was a bit averse to doing anything rational, like going to the library or consulting a professional. Consequently, being a meaning-making creature, I created two hypotheses, basically out of thin air.

Hypothesis #1: I was about to be possessed by a demon.

Hypothesis #2: I might be developing psychic powers.

There was no hypothesis #3. My mind bounced from hypothesis 1 to hypothesis 2, and back again.

Funny thing. In the early 2000s, I happened to be reading the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and found a section that described a phenomenon called, “Sleep paralysis.” I was, as they say, gobsmacked. The description was EXACTLY my experience, including the frightening and shadowy figure at the end of the bed.

My point is that it’s good to know stuff in general, and good to know specific stuff about our own experiences around mental health and. . . including that thing we call insomnia. I’ve posted before about insomnia ( I will also post more soon, but for now, I’m just sharing the “sleep hygiene” slide from my happiness and sleep lectures.

Sleep hygiene is a thing. I’ve got lots of funny and snarky things to say about sleep hygiene. Maybe the most important is that sleep is an elusive little bugger. What I mean by that is that sleep comes somewhat easier when we stop trying too hard, and often runs away when we’re feeling especially desperate to get some good sleep. The other piece of important information is that having sleep disruptions and not sleeping the magical 8 hours is pretty darn normal. Many or most people have regular sleep disruptions. And, fun fact, expecting that you should get 8 hours of sleep every night can get in your head and interfere with you getting 8 hours of sleep a night.

For now, here’s the famous sleep hygiene powerpoint slide (below). More to come (later) on tricks and techniques for sleeping well. Thanks for reading.

3 thoughts on “Sleep Well”

  1. After my Luke died, I developed segmented sleep…..I didn’t know what it was until as you say I research it. It actually went on for a number of years.

    I dealt with it my just accepting it without fretting about it. I’d get up, make a cup of tea (ok I’ll admit I popped a capful of whisky in it 🙂) took it back to bed and read until I was tired again. I was still working then, albeit part-time, so made sure I caught up with that sleep in the early afternoons when I got home. It worked for me.

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