So I have VERY bad sleep hygiene.
Quick side note: I was about to say that if you’re unfamiliar, the term sleep hygiene does not mean what you normally associate the word hygiene with, but when I looked up the definition, it turns out that I have just been misassociating the word hygiene and it means the same thing in both instances so… maybe look up the word hygiene.
While I’m not certain, I think that this horrible at sleep situation can be traced back to either the first time I lucid dreamed, or my return to Isla Vista after studying abroad in Costa Rica – due to trying to sleep in a dank, loud, college-sloth house, after sleeping for a quarter outdoors, exhausted by hiking every night, in a literal sloth-house (sloths hanging from telephone poles nearby).
Actually, as I’m typing this out I’m having an idea for the first time that maybe I picked up some sort of spirit in CR… I am only half kidding. I will make a point to seek out a voodoo healer in NOLA or some therapeutic crystals in LA during this fall’s road trip, if I have not solved the problem by then. But hopefully I will have, and I can spend my money on the recreational voodoo and crystal purchases intended.
But the former theory appeals to the semi-rational part of my brain, the part that supposedly holds a B.S. (accurate) in this field, and maybe when my brain learned to lucid dream, it was at the expense of being able to normal dream.
Whatever it was, I wake up probably an average of 5 times every night. It is an average because some nights it is only 3 and some nights it is 8, but unless I am very drunk, it is never zero. As one sleeps continuously, one moves through different phases of sleep, each with their own restorative benefits, and the cycle starts over every time you are interrupted by waking up. Typically a person gets 4-5 full cycles in per night. So if you are continually waking up and interrupting the cycle, that’s potentially problematic.
Additionally, I am usually dreaming every time I wake up. I am often aware of when I am dreaming and either the realization itself wakes me up, or, I am aware I am dreaming but try to not focus on it, until my mind dares me by turning into a bad dream and I wake myself up on purpose. In these cases, I always prefer to try to turn the dream positive rather than waking up yet again, but that’s pretty much a white bear. Waking up so often means I usually remember 2-3 dreams per night. Of course, it doesn’t happen often if it is a good dream (and I swear this is not confirmation bias), but if it’s a bad dream, my second or third dream of the night will include allusions or memories from that first dream. ALSO it is a very fine line once I’ve realized I’m dreaming + wanting out of a dream, and actually being awake. In an effort to let myself drift back to sleep quickly with less interrupted rest, I’ve tried to avoid fully waking up as I end my dream, but I often drift right back into the same dream. It’s all very intangible and not yet scientifically understood and frustrating. At first it was immensely interesting to me, and it still is, but, after going through months of exhaustion, gradual development of stress/anxiety, months of not even remembering how it feels to be properly rested to the point that you’re not even sure it wasn’t always like this because it happened so gradually and it’s been so long, to having weird physical symptoms that almost certainly legitimize that this is not how it always was, it’s getting old. (by the way, this site is going to involve a lot of looking back to wherever tf the beginning of this sentence was to make sense of the end).
The silver lining is that I am constantly amazed by my brain’s ability to create seemingly novel, beautiful worlds. It’s amazing because it is all generated by me, yet conscious me has no access to it (at least not as of now), but because it is created by me to make me feel a certain way, I am being pandered to in the most satisfying way of all time. My pretty dreams have been painful to wake up from, and certain nightmares have shaped my fears more than events from my waking life. In a way, our subconscious is, by definition, the manifestation of the destiny our conscious selves crave. The businesswoman within wants to figure out how to monetize this and the scientist within wants to spend the next decade studying it and the rest of me wants it to just shut the hell up so I can make it through a day or two of the week without waking before 5.
Additionally, as my brain has gotten more exhausted and the quality of my sleep has continued to decrease, many scenes from waking life are sprinkled into and confusingly played out in my dreams.
i keep going to the fridge for groceries i bought in my dream
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) February 23, 2017
I have done this, or worse, thought vaguely in the back of my mind that I had a conversation or even argument with my sister or boyfriend that never happened. It’s a relief when they don’t know what I’m talking about, but a shame that I had even several hours between waking and talking to them of negative affect as a result of something that didn’t really happen, and embarrassing to have to ask if something really happened or not.
SO. How to fix this? I really think the situation was born from learning how to lucid dream and choosing not to turn it off before it became so dire that I couldn’t. But I think it could be remedied by waking up nice and early, exercising, and getting myself ~in the mood~ (sleepy, that is) before bed. Especially by meditating. Lucky for me, I have a decently solid core education in meditation.
Backstory: As part of my major, I had to participate in x hours per quarter of a graduate student or professor’s research. It was REALLY not a high number of hours per quarter and most of the studies paid. REALLY all I would have had to do was sign up online, go to a building on campus, and complete a survey or play a computer game or something.
OF COURSE, I put off these hours until the summer before my senior year, at which point my total needed to be at a certain point to enter said year. So, I participated in this month-long mindfulness intensive to knock all the units out at once. I think there were about 24 of us in the group, and in addition to meditation, we did yoga, other exercise, learned about diet, and talked about how to achieve our goals. It all ended up being really helpful and I learned a lot, despite going into it with a somewhat negative attitude, but the meditation is probably the practice I knew the least about and benefited the most from. When we were first learning it, one of the instructors was like “Do you ever find yourself in a room and completely forget what you went there to do in the first place?” Inwardly, I was like “no.” She goes on to say this is one example of a small side effect of not being present, something a mindfulness practice can help to change. I kept up the meditating throughout college and even for a bit after, but not so much lately. Also lately, I find myself in rooms struggling to remember what I came there to do, I’m not kidding, at least once a day. So ya, it’s time to crack the meditating back out.
In order to hold myself somewhat accountable, I’m posting about it here. I’m going to practice 5-15 minute meditations at least once, but preferably three times a day, for an indefinite amount of time but not less than four weeks. Probably will do a lil check in every week. I plan to do a mixture of good old attend & release meditation, gratefulness meditation, and walking mediation, with possibly some of that trendy transcendental mediation sprinkled in.
Starting… tomorrow. (…wow that’s pathetic)