Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The advantage of being boring? No hyperarousal ever!

I love sleeping.

Even during those long flights to India, and even if I don't get a free upgrade to business class!  I typically start a movie, wear the awful headset that the airlines distributes, and then a few minutes into the movie I am fast asleep.  Once, I slept through the meal they served and was ticked off.  Having learnt that lesson, these days I either place the sticker to remind them to wake me for food--if they have such a sticker--or I even tell the attendant that I wish to be woken up for food.  I don't care if the food is not that tasty--but, dammit, as long as I live, I shall not go hungry ;)

Here on terra firma, I love the deep sleep from which when I get up I can't really place where I am or what day of the week it is.  It takes a few seconds for me to reconstruct my life before I can even sit up on the bed.  The older I get, the rarer such deep sleep.  My daughter has quite a few stories of how she had to struggle to wake me up.  One of these days, it will be a deep sleep from which I will never, ever wake up ;)

Science has nothing definitive about sleep.  All we know is that we need sleep.  We need to spend about a quarter to a third of our lives sleeping.  Beyond that, scientists have no clue as to why we need it, how much of sleep we need, when we need it ... The scientific community has nothing but a bunch of educated guesses.

All I know about sleep is very simple: go to bed about the same time, and wake up about the same time,  Weekday or weekend. America or India.  There is also one more important aspect of sleep that I have come to understand: I need to prepare my mind and body to invite the sleep.  As much as one needs to be in the mood for food, or movies, or sex, one needs to be in the mood for sleep too.  I enjoyed the fact that my intuitive understanding is no different from what "a psychologist specialising in sleep and dream medicine, and a clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Arizona's Center for Integrative Medicine" writes:
Invoking sleep helps us fall in love with the act.
It makes perfect sense to me.  There is preparatory work in everything that we do, right?  Why should it be any different for sleep?  To invite sleep requires physical and mental preparation, which is increasingly difficult for people in this age of hyperarousal:
It refers to a turbocharged pace of life that is not modulated by adequate rest.
Strongly endorsed by popular culture, hyperarousal is a socially contagious condition rooted in an arrogant disregard for natural rhythms. It’s a cheap high, a kind of synthetic passion that is not without serious side effects.Characterised by racing brainwaves and a rapid heartrate, hyperarousal is linked to an overheated body and mind. By tethering us to the heights of waking, hyperarousal not only interferes with our nightly descent into sleep, it also masks our daytime sleepiness.
I suppose hyperarousal is not something that boring people like me worry about!
Hyperarousal leaves us sick and ‘t’wired’: simultaneously tired and wired. Being t’wired is the psychological equivalent of being on the rack.
The problems we humans bring upon ourselves!  If only we would stare into nothing and get bored.  Instead, we constantly check our smartphones, while a movie or a game is on the flat screen.  The blue light engages our brains even as we continue to sip coffee or alcohol, and it is already eleven at night.  Then we wonder why we can't sleep at night!  Hyperarousal is an understatement, methinks.



Ramesh said...

Well, "hyperarousal" has never been a problem for me, but I thought you were perpetually in that state thinking about all sorts of things including your favourite topic which has surfaced in this post too :)

Sleep well my friend, for it is one of the greatest of gifts. In fact it would actually be a good life objective, for sleeping well means you have nothing in your conscience that will poke you in the night.

Just don't read Nabokov in bed before turning off the light !!

Mike Hoth said...

I wish I got as deep of sleep as you describe! I'm a very light sleeper who takes ages to get to nod off. Part of the issue is that the "arrogant disregard for natural rhythms" is a cultural one in my case, as I sleep best between 5 and 11 in the morning. You may have noticed my tendency to work late at night by all those late night papers I turned in, but I swear that's because I do my best work at 2am!

Okay, maybe some of those papers were also procrastinated, but I really do work better at night.

Sriram Khé said...

Sleeping well is certainly a gift. I was tempted to include a note on Arjuna, from Mahabharata--he had conquered sleep, and could fall asleep any time, any place, and also wake up from sleep just like that.
Reading Nabokov is a sure way to fall into deep sleep, my friend ;)

Mike, I have never been convinced about the best work done in the dead of the night--we humans are not nocturnal animals. throughout our history, and until the very, very, very, recent times when artificial light has become so inexpensive, we have always done our work in the day, and the work we did in the night was to propagate the species ;)

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