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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Column: Insomnia

Red, bleary eyes stare listlessly at the red digital numbers as they tick upward at an alarming rate.
4:42 a.m.
4:43 a.m.
4:44 a.m.
Each arriving minute brings with it a sense of impending anxiety and a myriad of questions and thoughts, thus further exacerbating this cycle of sleeplessness.
Your eyes shift from the stoic clock, which offers no solace, to the comforting stucco lines undulating gently on the ceiling.
And just when your eyelids finally begin to feel heavy and the call of sleep feels like it’s whispering right into your ear, the roosters start crowing, the sun’s rays begin to peek pervasively through the blinds and an entirely new day looms menacingly at your bedpost.
From then on, the rest of the day is a shit storm. Your pants are inside out, your socks don’t match, you drank two double mocha shot espressos with light froth and ate a Pop-Tart for breakfast. You’re nodding off in lecture, sneaking into the bathroom stall at work to get some shut-eye on top of the toilet and you’re nodding off at the wheel — ahem, handle bars.
We’ve all suffered from varying degrees of sleep-related problems. These afflictions range from being unable to fall asleep, to being unable to wake up, to being unable to get anyone to sleep with you.
Why is sleep such an essential part of our lives? We sleep to forget. No, wait, that’s drinking. Well, we sleep to rejuvenate and restore our bodies. A good night’s sleep is always a beautiful thing; I think most can agree with that. And for some people, sleep comes easily. For others, even if falling asleep isn’t easy, once they are asleep, they become a veritable boulder:  staunch, immovable and adamant. Those are probably all synonyms, but I like to write in threes. My apartment-mate can sleep through an air raid. I’ve even seen him do it before.
But, for others — those not blessed with clear minds and sound hearts — the act of sleeping every night can be one of dread. Personally, not only do I have trouble falling asleep, but I also have difficulty staying asleep. The double whammy. I boarded my windows up because the whisper-thin slivers of sunlight that cut through the slats of my window blinds can actually wake me up.
Incidentally, I was wracking my brain the other night trying to come up with my next column idea. I’m probably going to spend tonight trying to figure out what I’m going to bring you guys next week. It’s an endless loop of bedraggled bed sheets and askew pillows.
If I’m to fall asleep then I need to think about falling asleep, but if I think about falling asleep then I can’t fall asleep. It’s an uncomfortable paradox that I’ve realized one too many times while lying in bed during the wee hours of the night.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50 to 70 million U.S. adults have a sleep or wakefulness disorder. One of the prevalent causes listed is ’round the clock access to technology. What a surprise!
I mean, first we got computers that sit on your lap, so you could masturbate under the covers without having to use your imagination any more. Then within the span of less than a decade we get computers in our palms, so we don’t even have to deal with the weight of a small brick on our laps while trying to get ourselves off. Or, I guess you could be using your computer for similar self-gratifying pursuits like Tumblring, tweeting, Facebooking, Instagramming, whatever.
Technology could be the explanation why it’s also reported that the largest proportion of people (43.7 percent) who find that they unintentionally fall asleep during the daytime are those in the 18 to 25 age bracket.
Does this mean we should cut back on our technology use? There are some people that suffer from genuinely serious and deadly sleeping disorders like sleep apnea and narcolepsy. They can’t be helped, save with actual medical attention. But for the rest of us, are we actually all suffering from some form of insomnia? Or are our lifestyle choices the real culprit behind the bags under our eyes?
ANDREW POH can’t sleep most nights, so if you’re up at 4:44 a.m. and would like to keep him company, contact him at apoh@ucdavis.edu. XXX

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