Child in the womb,
Or saint on a tomb —
Which way shall I lie
To fall asleep?
The keen moon stares
From the back of the sky,
The clouds are all home
Like driven sheep.
Bright drops of time,
One and two chime,
I turn and lie straight
With folded hands;
They choose this state,
And their minds are wiped calm
As sea-leveled sands.
So my thoughts are:
But sleep stays as far,
Till I crouch on one side
Like a foetus again —
For sleeping, like death,
Must be won without pride,
With a nod from nature,
And a lack of strain,
And a loss of stature.
Things That Wake Up My Baby:
- the sound of me pouring milk on my cereal
- the door closing
- the dog barking at invisible squirrels
- a spoon stirring cream into coffee
- his own arms moving involuntarily
Things That Do Not Wake Up My Baby:
- the microwave
- the screams of people getting brutally murdered on television
- books falling on the floor
- the dog barking at actual men outside our house
- loud laughter
- power drills being used in the next room
SIMON: Is there something you’re taking more time for now that…
ROTH: Yeah, naps. Let me tell you about the nap. It’s absolutely fantastic. When I was a kid, my father was always trying to tell me how to be a man. And he said – I was maybe nine – he said, Philip, whenever you take a nap, take your clothes off and put a blanket over you and you’re going to sleep better. Well, as with everything, he was right. And so I now do that and I come back from the swimming pool I go to and I have my lunch and I read the paper and I take this glorious thing called a nap. And then the best part of it is that when you wake up, for the first 15 seconds you have no idea where you are. You’re just alive. That’s all you know and it’s bliss. It’s absolute bliss. So, I suggest – you’re still working but your time will come.
SIMON: That sounds like great advice.
ROTH: And take your clothes off.
The powers that be in Las Vegas figured out something long before neuroscientists at two Duke University medical schools confirmed their ideas this week: Trying to make decisions while sleep-deprived can lead to a case of optimism.
Add in the usual required dose of skepticism required for science journalism, sure. I still think this is interesting and the risk-taking aspect seems to tie into both 1) late-night bouts of creativity and 2) survival situations. Both of which can make you feel a little psychotic in the moment and can be kind of horrifying in hindsight after you’ve regained your right mind.
IT’S AMAZING WHAT SOME SLEEP WILL DO FO A MUTHA FUKA!!
For a while there, Charles Dickens was suffering from insomnia, so he took up walking “houseless” around London until the sun came up. A great portrait of a city and state of mind:
The restlessness of a great city, and the way in which it tumbles and tosses before it can get to sleep, formed one of the first entertainments offered to the contemplation of us houseless people. It lasted about two hours. We lost a great deal of companionship when the late public-houses turned their lamps out, and when the potmen thrust the last brawling drunkards into the street; but stray vehicles and stray people were left us, after that. If we were very lucky, a policeman’s rattle sprang and a fray turned up; but, in general, surprisingly little of this diversion was provided. […]
At length these flickering sparks would die away, worn out–the last veritable sparks of waking life trailed from some late pieman or hot-potato man–and London would sink to rest. And then the yearning of the houseless mind would be for any sign of company, any lighted place, any movement, anything suggestive of any one being up–nay, even so much as awake, for the houseless eye looked out for lights in windows.
An unbalanced circadian rhythm can be returned to equilibrium through the application of light to a sleeper’s retina near the end of a person’s “internal night.” Internal night? Yes — it may be night outside, but if your circadian clock is not prepared for sleep, internal night may not start until late and last well into morning. Biologically, it coincides with the secretion of melatonin by the brain’s pineal gland. It is difficult to know where your internal night lies if you artificially force sleep earlier, for example with sleeping pills. You can estimate internal night with a quick chronotype questionnaire that helps determine when light exposure will be most effective for syncing your circadian rhythm with external reality.
Seems like my natural bedtime is right around midnight. I do notice that I sleep better on days when I spend time outdoors, though maybe that’s tied up with better eating or moderate physical activity, too.
“A few weeks of ignoring can easily buy parents extra years of good sleep.” Mental note: train my future kids to not expect me to comfort them in the dark of night.
Photo by Vivian Maier.