Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I've Tried Everything Short of Aristotle...

Ok, so a post is forthcoming about my recent birthday extravaganza. But first and foremost, an advisory and a lament.

Advisory:

If you've never watched "Chuck," then I feel really sorry for you. But the good news is, you can totally watch all episodes from season one for free on http://www.thewb.com/shows/chuck. Bear with it for a few episodes, as it has a bit of a slow start. But it's probably the best example ever of a show that figured out exactly what it wanted to be between the first and second seasons. The first season is good, if a bit shaky, and the writer's strike messed it up. But the second season was far and away the best thing that just aired last season. You're a chump if you don't check it out.

Lament:

I can't sleep. I don't understand it. But I hate it. When I was growing up, I used to have horrible insomnia. I'd lie awake at night for hours at a time, generally not falling asleep for at least 2-3 hours after I'd been sent to bed. Nerves would exacerbate this, to the point where I couldn't fall asleep at all the night before big events. (Mainly this would manifest on the night before the first day of school. One year I fought this problem by staying up all night the night before the night before school. I watched all three Godfather movies, which may explain why I hate the third one so much. Other than the obvious reasons, of course.)

But it was a recurring condition. I'd drink warm milk, take cold medication that promised drowisness, etc. One time, my mom even pretended to spike my warm milk with sleeping pills, believing that it was psychological and I just needed to relax. That didn't work particularly well either.

Mainly, it's just a problem of falling asleep. It's balls hard for me to do. Sometimes I'll get a song stuck in my head, which will repeat and repeat, and I just can't rest. Sometimes my mind will just wander excessively and I'll be thinking so fast that I just can't get tired. Sometimes it's just noise that prevents it. (That's why I'm such a horrible person to share a hotel room with, and I slowly grow to hate any people that even vaguely coinhabit the places I'm trying to sleep. Nittany Lion, I'm sure, remembers extensively our time together at CryptoJew and the Hillbilly's wedding.) But the point is, it is fucking hard to fall asleep. Once I'm out, I'm pretty much gone for the duration, and could sleep through a tornado. But getting there is the challenge.

Now, this hasn't been a problem for a long time. I'm exercising more, worrying about less, and wearing earplugs when I sleep. I never have problems falling asleep anymore, and, barring a few isolated incidents, haven't since early college. Which is why these past few nights have sucked so much ass. Seriously. A lot of ass. Two nights back, I just got in a rhythm of pondering all the things that had been going on since I started grad school, and imagining the possibilities of what I would do if I could go back and start working on the dissertation again. Cause that's always a productive mindset to get into. That randomness, combined with the fact that it was just hot enough that I didn't want to use a heavy blanket and just cold enough that my sheet wasn't enough, and you had me tossing and turning for three hours before I finally nodded off, thus leaving me with a remarkable 4 hours of sleep. Which was great for my productivity and my temper the next day, let me tell you.

Last night, I figured I'd be aces. I had only slept for four hours the night before, I'd walked about seven miles that evening just to wear myself out, and I tried to avoid all sugars or caffinated drinks for at least five hours before sleep. But then I got "Mr. Roboto" stuck in my head, didn't fall asleep for two hours after that, and woke up three hours later after some very messed up nightmares involving the Cold War and espionage in a vaguely Hungarian setting. So yeah, things ain't looking too rosy at the moment, and I'm sure as shit not writing anything coherent in this dissertation of mine.

So I guess the point is, what do you all recommend for sleeping aids? Any home remedies that seem to work? Other than drinking, of course, which is tried and true, but also not condusive to working the next morning. Any other insomniacs out there, former or current, who can suggest remedies should this persist?

21 comments:

t said...

There are four things that have lessened the torment of my insomnia (and got me through both the diss and the job market):

1. one glass of red wine (or port) before bed
2. David Sedaris audiobooks on the iPod (just enough to distract my mind so that I can fall asleep - music just keeps me awake)
3. sleep mask (I'm one of those must-sleep-in-total-darkness people)
4. No work and no email for at least an hour before bed (this is key, really)

I can't stand earplugs, but I can fall asleep with one earbud in. The David Sedaris thing is strange, I'll admit, because he doesn't have a soothing voice, but I've got all his stories basically memorized, so they don't keep me up (the other go-to is an episode of This American Life called "The Super"). It's like white noise, but more amusing.

And I know it's terrible, but the thought of Mr. Roboto keeping you up at night is the most hilarious thing ever.

The Puncher said...

Hey Dubs--sleeping is one of my favorite things, so I'm sorry to hear its a problem for you lately. On the plus side for me, the Nittany Lion probably drowned any hatred you might have developed for me as a hotel roommate (unless my ability to actually get to sleep incurred your wrath).

My mom often has trouble falling and staying asleep, and her doctor recommended melatonin pills, which you should be able to get over the counter. She said if you're particilarly stressed or anxious, they won't help much, but when you're feeling at ease but just can't sleep, they work all right. It's a suggestion anyway.

And if counting sheep doesn't work for you, try counting the reasons why Captain Awesome is so awesome. "Chuck" rules!

Wizard said...

I use Benadryl when I have trouble sleeping. Also stops any allergy-related sleep disturbances.

kAb said...

I've had on and off insomnia throughout my first few years of grad school, and the best (non-chemical) thing I've found is reading. I usually go with something completely unrelated to my work--Umberto Eco is a favorite--and let it take over my brain for an hour or so. I don't put the book down until I'm basically at the point where I fall asleep halfway through a paragraph. It turns off the anxiety, I've found, and tends to replace the repetitive mania with vague notions about the plot. And it also has made me enjoy reading again. Double win.

S. said...

I don't actually try to sleep. I just read all night. I find it just as restful as sleep. So that's my recommendation. Find a good book, forget about sleep. It's totally overrated.

-B- said...

I'm prone to sleeping issues too, though for different reasons/circumstances. Aside from a healthy dose of wine, my strategy is usually earplugs and a book that I've read before, love, and that has little or no scholarly implications for me.

When that fails, 2-3 doses of Nyquil can be helpful, and less troublesome the next day than alcohol.

So much of what previous commenters have said. Oh, and also white noise. That helps a lot. A fan right near my head does wonders sometimes.

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