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Adventures of a stay-at-home, skeptical, homeschooling dad (etc.)


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"You don't have insomnia."

A one-act play.

[Scene: two people are walking down a sidewalk, already in a conversation. One is looking decidedly tired.]

"You don't have insomnia. Insomnia doesn't exist."

You don't say?

"Yeah, I read all about it. We humans are designed to sleep twice. People used to wake up in the middle of the night all the time to tend camp fires. Waking up for a while at night is natural."

It's natural for me to wake up for 2 to 4 hours in the middle of the night?

"Yes!"

And in the morning, when I wake up still tired, if I fell back asleep at all, that's natural?

"Well, no, that's because our sleeping habits changed with the industrial revolution. Artificial lights and clocks. They try to put sleeping on a schedule. "

You're saying the solution is to get rid of all my artificial light sources and don't sleep on a schedule?

"Yes, but not entirely. You can just dim the lights after sunset, and avoid electronic devices."

That's the solution? Is there evidence?

"Yeah! In studies, people were sent on week-long camping trips. During their time there, they reported fewer sleeping problems."

I need to live at a camp site?

"No, just turn off the lights after sunset! And no electronic devices. You should go to sleep and wake up naturally."

Is that what you do?

"No, I don't have problems sleeping. But I read a few articles about how insomnia doesn't exist. Just dim your lights and avoid electronics after sunset."

I already do that, but what if that didn't go over well with the rest of my video-game-addicted family? And what about social events? I should sit in my own dimly-lit room after sunset?

"I guess that could present some problems… But people who do those things do fall asleep faster, so you'll need to do it. The light from your TV or computer stimulates the brain and makes it hard to fall asleep."

But I fall asleep just fine. The problem is that 4 or 5 nights a week, I wake up at 1 or 2 or 3 AM, and am awake 2 or 3 or 4 hours. It doesn't seem to matter if I turn on my small lamp to read or not. If fact, I usually fall asleep faster when I read than not. Then, some time between 5 and 8 AM, I wake up very sleepy and fatigued. When I do happen to sleep straight through, or am only awake for a few minutes to an hour at night, I wake up earlier and feel much better.

"But that doesn't make sense! Those articles said insomnia doesn't exist! Waking up at night is natural!"

I think we've already been here. If it is natural, why do only some people have problems sleeping all night? If it is natural, why, when I go camping, I sleep even worse? Why, if it's natural, do I feel so much worse when it happens?

Or better yet, even if it's natural, maybe it could still be a problem for some people? "Natural" always has a range: maybe some people are "naturally" awake for just a few minutes, some people are "naturally" awake for 30 or 60 minutes, and maybe, just maybe, some people are "naturally" awake for, like, 3 or 4 hours.

Those last people are probably "naturally" very fucking sleepy in the morning, and probably "naturally" don't take kindly to the first two kinds of people telling them they don't really have a fucking problem.

Things like ADHD, autism, and poor eyesight could be, and probably are, "natural" variations too, that doesn't mean they can't cause problems, or that there's some simplistic "natural" fix, which can't be applied to most of those affected anyway.

[awkward silence]

"… hmmm … uh … Let me buy you a cup of coffee."

That'd be lovely, thanks!

"Uh… no problem. So… Did you see that Lego Movie?"

Yeah, it was pretty good!

[The two, still talking, exit stage left, through a coffee shop door]

2014-03-06

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