Friday, January 6, 2012

Sleeping . . . Naturally

My dog has been having trouble with his hind legs; they just don't work quite right somehow. This makes for an entertaining walking gait. I don't know if you've noticed, but four-legged animals instinctively know to have their left front leg forward with the right hind leg forward, and vice versa, to keep their balance. Tagger has lost this instinct. It's as if he's having to think about which leg to move when, and when you think too much about something that should come naturally to you, you just can't do it at all anymore.

I can relate. These days, I'm trying to remember how to fall asleep.

For those of you who haven't been following my sleep saga, you can hit the "sleep" tag to the right and get caught up. For the rest of you, my latest venture is going cold turkey on my sleep meds. My idea, with my sleep doctor's blessing.

We had kind of gotten to the point, Dr. Summers and I, where there simply was nothing left to try but more meds . . . different meds . . . change the timing of meds . . . and I'm sick of meds. I've been sedating myself to sleep at night on a regular basis for four or five years -- on a semi-regular basis for another nearly ten years before that. I've started to think that the meds were doing as much harm to my sleep/wake cycle as good, if not more.

So, I'm gettin' clean and sober. The first twenty-four hours were awful. Since then, though, I've slept off and on during the night, and surprisingly, I haven't been too terribly tired or cranky during the day.

Here's the thing: I discovered that falling asleep is a challenging task. I mean, you can't will yourself to sleep, like you can will yourself to exercise or put down the cupcake. Sleep just happens. It's a letting go of consciousness -- and it's very difficult to consciously let go of consciousness. Once you're conscious of what you're doing . . . well, you get the idea.

So, I have to figure out what I'm doing that keeps sleep from coming. And I'm getting there, I think. I've stopped using the computer or TV for the hour and a half or so before bed. I do some reading, some praying, memorize some scripture . . . and then listen to some calm music when I get in bed.

But the trick is a mental one. If I TRY to empty my mind and let go of consciousness, it doesn't happen. I'm concentrating on not concentrating on anything, and it doesn't work. I have to have something to think about . . . but it has to be something that doesn't engage my brain too much. (The first night, I started thinking about my spring play for the homeschoolers and ended up writing several scenes in my mind for the next few hours. A productive use of my time, I suppose, but not at all conducive to sleep.)

It's a tricky thing, this letting go of consciousness. But it's something that should come naturally, without thought, like the dog balancing himself on four legs. Heavens, how we mess ourselves up.

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