Insomnia (and its cures)

From the Latin "somnis," sleep, and the Latin prefix "in," not, the word means an inability to sleep, specifically difficulty getting to sleep and difficulty staying asleep.

Insomnia, and poor sleep patterns can bring down your entire life. Sleep deprivation is a terrible thing. It significantly impairs your intelligence. It effects your ability to regulate moods. It can easily kill you and others, by causing traffic accidents. There's no limit to the extent of global chaos that insomnia can create.


Reported cases of insomnia have been on the rise ever since the introduction of (drumroll) (wait for it) The Television!

Yes, the chief cause of insomnia over the last 50 years has been watching television in the evening, and later at night. So the first thing to do if you want to cure your insomnia, is to introduce a time at which you stop watching television each night. If this doesn't cure your insomnia, then wind the cutoff point back and back until your insomnia resolves. If you're a good little scientist you will take notes on this and report back on how it goes.

Of course, the popularity of the smart phone is sure to be the instigator of a new and far worse wave of insomnia. The academic research will take a while to catch up with The Way We Live Now, but believe me, my independent research proves it. So the next thing to do to eliminate insomnia is to ban smartphones from the bed area. Never look into the bright screen of your smart phone after heading to bed.

Two more causes to discuss before getting onto the real topic -- my patented fix-all for getting to sleep.

Bright ebook readers can be another cause. If you read a back-lit ebook late at night, dial the brightness down as low as you can. In a dark room you can probably read easily with the brightness as low as 5%.

Caffeine is the other great cause of insomnia. My personal rule is not to drink coffee after 5pm. But for a lot of people even this is far too late. 2pm might be a better cutoff point. If you record observations of cases of delyed sleep onset and how much caffeine you've consumed (and when) you might quickly notice a pattern.

How To Get To Sleep

"Something nameless hums us into sleep —Mark Strand

The classic 'one weird trick' for getting to sleep is to count sheep.

This. Doesn't. Work.

What is stopping us from getting to sleep? The mind. The overactive mind. Can we stop the mind? Does it have an off switch? No. It does not. Can we think of something as bland as sheep jumping over a fence? Of course we cannot. It is so banal, so simple, that only a master yogi could whittle down their thoughts to such a monotopic trope.

The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.
—George Jessel.

To get to sleep you need to find something that occupies the mind fully but doesn't cause it any stress, or leave enough room for intrusive thoughts and emotions.

To this end, I've devised and slowly refined The Alphabet Game.

Version 1 of the Alphabet Game

The original version of the alphabet game was like this. Pick a topic. For example "Fruit and Vegetables". Now move through the alphabet, find a word that starts with that letter and fits the topic. So we would go: Apple, Banana, Carrot, .... D? D?... Durian?... E... um.... Eggplant. F.... Oh forget it.

This technique was too hard. You could get there in the end, but it was so mentally taxing that you'd end up more awake than you were before you started.

So thus was created the revised alphabet game.

Version 2 of the Alphabet Game (This one works)

The revised version of the alphabet game throws out the idea of topics. Now, you must move through each letter of the alphabet, thinking of a word, absolutely any word, that starts with that letter.

There's one other rule. You need to breathe slowly and deeply as you go. Perhaps only come up with one word/letter for each outward breath.

It's easy to form the words into nonsense sentences.

Another Boring Carnival Decided Every Fully Geographic House Isn't Just Keeping Lucy's Magnetic North Octopus Prosaic Quilt. Regional Studies Take Useless Vacations When Xray Yellow Zebras Announce Basic Calling Dangers. etc.

For the tricky letters like X, Y and Z it's okay to just use a word that contains that letter, or sounds like it contains that letter. It doesn't matter if you skip a letter, there's no need to go back and make corrections. You want to relax the rules enough that the sentences flow freely.

You may find that the mind continues to race. In such cases, it's good to time each letter with an out breath. And slow down your breathing. Don't think about the in breaths. Just perform nice, slow and steady out breaths. The in breath will take care of itself. You may need to make a rule such as one letter on ever second breath. Keep the breaths niiiice and sloooowwww.

Soon you find the alphabets gives way to hypnagogic hallucinations. The images rise and emerge, echo and alter as soon as they are perceived. If you are disturbed by these transformations, just go back to the last letter you remember and continue on with the game from there. You may have to go through the alphabet a few times. That's okay.

Slow down, breathe deeply and soon you'll drift away.