Saturday, June 2, 2007

The opposite of hypersomnia

For most people, insomnia must mean being unable to sleep for multiple nights, at a stretch. That is "acute" insomnia. For me, it's a rather simple notion - being unable to sleep when I want to. Sometimes it is "chronic" and it can also be called "transient", only that it's impossible for me to be suffering from jet lag because the last time I flew on one was almost a year ago.

It usually happens when you have overslept the previous night, or when you last woke up less than 16 hours ago. What makes me most frustrated is that, like my "terrible" smoking habit, sleeping - a natural and necessary process - is also beyond my control. You could lie in your bed for hours at a stretch, tossing and turning; most of the times you realize your mind is racing. Thoughts would drift in, memories long forgotten would come rushing back, and you would jump from one point in time to another.

In order of them rushing in, the following thoughts could trigger your insomnia:

Things to do:
Assignments, submissions, designs and what not. Mostly the thoughts concern the "when", "where" and "how" aspects of these things. For me, when it happens, at least half of these things are overdue, and my thoughts could drift into any direction - from the different kinds of designs I have in my mind for a logo, say, to repercussions of not submitting it in time, to the number of people who may be affected, to what kind of actions they would take and what judgements they may pass about me and my performance in completing this minor task. Or what other designs I may use if all my design submissions are rejected for one reason or another.
Then there are those everyday chores like laundry - thoughts could concern the amount of clean clothes you have left and how long you can go on without another washing. Or cleaning your room - all the things you know you have in your room but have been unable to find them because everything is so messed up.

Payments that need to be made; the sources of your income and the expected amounts. For me it's also the amount of food I can afford to eat from outside and the number of meals I will need to cook based on the figures - and the amount of time cooking could take. These thoughts could take me to my grocery shopping list or to ways to make more money (apart from asking my parents for it).

This could be anything from your performance in the previous semester to the things you said the night before. It could be that email you sent to someone that should never have been sent. Or it could be the time you wasted doing something you didn't need to and could've spent time more constructively elsewhere.
My whole family is going to Los Angeles to attend a wedding and they have sent me all the visa documents - but I have decided not to go because I'm working on an internship in Singapore. Actually I mentioned the sacrifice I was making to my boss who said he could allow me to take a leave for a week or two; but then I realized I had committed to attend some important AIESEC events that will be happening at the same point in time as the wedding. I regret that I would rather stick to trying to be a man of my words than dump commitments and have a helluva time in LA. More regrets - Aesa is in Cairo right now and I could've been there for my internship because I was selected for it too, but for one reason or another, I didn't end up going. She's also learning Arabic - the major attraction for me to go there! I could also have decided not to do any internship or AIESEC work and could've gone home to see my family and friends who I miss so much.

The bigger picture:
After racing through all these kinds of thoughts step by step I would start looking at the bigger picture - when I graduate, when I get my job, the kind of woman I want to marry, the time when I get married, when I settle down, where I settle down, the number of kids I wanna have... From there it could all be about fantasizing about the "perfect" life I could have - the perfect house, detailed to the number of rooms and the size and everything. It could be about the kinds of businesses I want to venture into, or the novel I want to write, or the NGO I want to start. I could also climb a depressing note and think about the people who could pass away while I'm away in foreign land and how being unable to be there would kill me.

Other things that could make my mind race could be music, or stories from novels, movies or TV shows, or just from daily life.
But of course, having said all this, I am smart enough to know that if you are trying to sleep and failing miserably just because your mind is racing, you could distract yourself by turning on some music, or by counting sheep, or just by trying to stare into the void you see when you have your eyes closed. During semester one tactic that could be used is to open a course book and start reading - usually one paragraph is enough to put me to sleep. But sometimes what you're reading could prove to be interesting - stimulating the mind and working in the exact opposite way!

And by the time you get to all this, you realize that you need to be up in another two hours, or one, and that if you DO in fact fall asleep, there is a high probability that the sound waves from your alarm clock won't make enough noise to go beyond your ear drums. This is also the point when you start yawning and you're like, "finally!" For me, at this point, I usually decide the only solution for me is to stay up and make plans on living on coffee for the whole of next day - a plan that is always doomed to fail because I fall asleep at the same time my alarm starts ringing and I switch it off, just to "rest" for a few minutes.

I hate sleep.

If I could debate with God, I would ask Him to wire us in such a way that we don't require ANY sleep. Imagine all that you could accomplish if you had all 24 hours to work! I could take the Salsa 2 classes that begin in two weeks, and work full time during the semester.

And this is just one half of the story - of trying to FALL asleep. WAKING up is another story altogether! When I sleep, I mostly enter deep sleep, about which they say it's when N-REM [Non-Rapid Eye Movement] occurs and you don't have/remember dreams. I believe I have a dreamless sleep on most nights. The only time I remember my dreams are when I wake up in the middle of the night because of thunder, an uncomfortable sleep posture, or when I am sleeping with an injury [aka "active" sleep or "REM" sleep].

So I am considered to be one of those lucky people who can sleep anywhere - a train, a plane or even a wooden chair. On one occasion, I even slept while standing up. Someone in my family used to say that if I was sleepy, I could fall asleep even if I was nailed to the cross!

Now, imagine waking up from such heavenly slumber. Unless you have an alarm clock with two bells that ring loud enough to wake up everyone living on your floor, it would be impossible to wake up. I do have such an alarm clock, PLUS I always use my cell phone's alarm as a back up - and even then there have been days when I just didn't wake up. And when I did, I couldn't even remember if the alarm clock ever rang. Such is the story of my sleep.

You see why I say I want to talk to God about taking out the sleep function from human programming?

And I haven't even mentioned the biggest obstacle I encounter in my sleep management. Whenever I sleep, I sleep for 8 hours at least. It is near to impossible for me to wake up before 8 hours. And once I do wake up, I don't feel sleepy again for another 18 hours. But the way they designed the day is such that it has only 24 hours - not 26. This simple fact makes it impossible for me to have a stable routine. You know, like those "normal" people. That is why I am always stepping back every day - by two hours at least.

During the semester you may get away with living your life based on a 26 hour day, but when you're working on a 9 hour job [that also requires two hours of traveling everyday], you realize the importance of having a "proper" routine and living a "normal" life. One function participating in AIESEC performs for me is that it makes my normal university day filled with so many activities that it is like having that 9 hour job. I realize that to be successful in the working world, I need to learn how to live on 24 hour days, and if practice makes the man perfect, then practicing to do it should do the trick.


Anonymous said...

read ur entry in february. cream, hmmm, try asking for fresh whipping cream. small green packet. have to boil/whip it urself. available in mustafa


Nabeel K said...

Why thanks Rameza! I also discovered this "Pure Cream" from "Bulla", an Australian owned company. I believe I got it from Giant or Sheong Shong. =)

naomi said...

Insomnia is attacking more and more people by the day!I guess we all need to formulate our own remedies to combat it.But how could you even wish to live a sleep free life??I love sleeping:)
I guess it can be a problem when you don't have control over it. good luck with that!!

Aesa said...

i really enjoyed this post. I know u are not enjoyin the insomnia. but its a good post. The things u mentiond are the exact same things tht I think of wen i cnt sleep.

And dont be jealous of me :P u will get ur chance next yr. and I will give u a bunch of contacts of people who will really make u have a good time here :)

Nabeel K said...

@naomi: I love sleeping too, but if you didn't have a sleep function inbuilt, you wouldn't need it, hence you wouldn't love it or miss it.

@aesa: I am not jealous of you! Really! In fact, I am happy for you and also myself for the same reason you mentioned - now I know someone who has been there in a similar situation [AIESEC internship] and I can only benefit from it. Plus you can teach me the chunks of Arabic you're learning =D Heina?

And thanks for your appreciation Aesa. The only reason I put it up here is to see if other people feel the same way about sleeping.

I don't understand how people can choose to get their sleep in 3 parts as if it was some Prison Break episode they could pause and resume whenever they wished to.

Steve Berke said...

I enjoyed reading your article. Please make more interesting topics like this on.
I'll come back for more :)

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