Thoughts on Sleep...
...or the distinct lack of it
When a ‘solid 5 hours’ is being hailed by me as a good night’s sleep, you might be able to tell how bad sleep has become for me, but the sad truth is that many people have it much worse than that. The one thing I have found to be a useless activity is the comparing of the self to others whether that relates to sleep, health, wealth, body shape, height or any other attribute that might vary between one human and another. There will always be someone whom I feel is in a better position, and others whom I will feel are in a worse position. So, and I know this is becoming somewhat clichéd, the answer is to compare only yourself with yourself, if comparison is needed at all. If something needs fixing, then fix it – if you can.
Sometimes, though, we need help to fix things. Human beings are contrary creatures who often do things that are bad for them (drink alcohol to excess, take drugs that are addictive and cause severe health problems, eat too much), and they also don’t do things that would be beneficial for them, such as doing exercise or studying or working. In all cases, what appears to be contrary behaviour, is actually the perceived attainment of a secondary benefit or the avoidance of a perceived harm (such as getting high, or avoiding emotional distress).
Thus, the solution, to state the obvious, is to find new ways to satisfy the perceived benefit or avoiding the perceived harm. Unfortunately, we can easily convince ourselves that the solutions we offer ourselves don’t work, take too much time or effort or are not an adequate substitute, and so we can quickly give-up on those solutions.
The truth is that we easily give-up on things that could resolve problems for us because of this kind of reasoning, and we don’t seek-out alternative solutions. It is right at this point that we are being offered information about how bad the problem really is. Most of us strenuously avoid listening to that information, but if we could just hit pause, stand back and be scrupulously honest about acknowledging that information, then we are in a better position to accept the need to continue pushing for better solutions.
Thus, if we return to my sleep problem, it might be time to acknowledge that it has multifactorial causes, needing solutions for more than one problem. For example, I could enforce an earlier bedtime, I could do more to avoid eating late at night. I could put more effort into eating healthily, especially given that I have Diabetes. I could exercise more, and I could ensure that takes place earlier rather than later, given the fatigue that kicks-in every day. I could acknowledge the usefulness of sleep sounds and ensure that I use that resource consistently.
To be fair, I do use that last one, and that is probably the reason why I am getting 5 hours sleep instead of 2 or 3 hours. My mission, if I choose to accept it, given what I know about secondary benefits and avoidance behaviours, is to convert those 5 hours into 8 hours. The acknowledgement of a number of factors and other problems at work suggests that this journey could be bumpy and long, and so persistence and determination will also be required.
My problem with sleep will have similarities to the problems that other people will have with sleep, but it won’t be the same. We all have our own set of lived experiences and our own individual perceived benefits and avoidances. So, I am not able to find an off-the-shelf solution for this problem or any other. The same will be true for everyone.
My hope is that if you suffer from a lack of sleep, you are able to find the right solution for you, and thereby live a more contented life in a way that works well for you.
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