Poor sleep is miserable, and this misery has been a companion almost my whole life. When other peoples’ minds and bodies would retire, mine would press on. If I wanted more tasks, thoughts, or mind riddles, I would be anywhere but my bed. Still, there I would be in bed to sleep, but the dream of sleep wouldn’t realize. I wrote this short article because I’ve slept well for about a year, and I’m really excited about that. Few people solve their sleep problems.
There’s nothing scientific about this article. I didn’t write it because I feel like I’ve made some important discovery for the human race; our internet has plenty of unsubstantiated health advice, and I don’t want to add to that. Instead, I want to give a personal story about how I used my unique personality to figure out for myself how to sleep better.
To begin, I suppose it’s important to emphasize that many consider me to be one of the least observant persons they know. Which, of course, is just what everyone wants when they hire a lawyer.
Let me defend myself.
To be functional, a brain must filter out a lot of information. Contrary to popular opinion, people whose brains don’t do this aren’t even close to having an advantage in this world. Instead, these sorts of people lack a functioning pulvinar nuclei, and usually suffer from debilitating mental illness. Some people think my brain is less functional because it fails to recall the details of many things. I like to think my brain just filters better than the others (it’s too bad nobody brags about having a great pulvinar nuclei). So, if you want me to remember something, my brain has to have some kind of a logical scheme in which to fit it. The consequence of this is that my brain is forced to notice patterns and connections, and it does so pretty well. I may fail to recall details that others might remember (like the color of the walls in my girlfriend’s apartment, which gets me in trouble), but I notice patterns and trends that others might miss. Until my brain decides that a piece of information fits into a pattern it cares about, it melts into the blurry periphery.
I actually believe this is a fantastic way to do law. Any legal situation is full of facts, but only so many of them are relevant. And judges only have the attention spans to absorb so much information. This enhances my analysis of legal documents and fact patterns; I never read a document, interview a client, or inspect tangible evidence without a very relevant set of purposes. And I find it easy to compile the information I gather into a narrative that human beings can grasp and follow.
This is great in the day, but problematic at night.
We’re all instructed as little children to lay down and close our eyes, but closing my eyes puts me into my analytical mind and activates my intuition. And enough of this over the years trained my mind to give me a burst of energy when I’m in my mind without any trivia with which to wrestle. This is the state in which my subconscious knows that I get stuff done—it’s my best state. So rather than shutting my brain down, it would go into overdrive. And worse, my sleep problems only got worse over time as I came to believe more and more than I was bad at sleeping. Most people struggle to sleep when they try to make it happen, rather than let it happen. Sleep wants to control you and not the other way around. After all, when was the last time you slept well when you knew it was important to do so?
Conversely, few things make me tired like being forced to learn random, meaningless trivia. Want to see me look stupid? Put me in a room with a bunch of people and force everyone to recall details about a picture briefly put on a screen. Not only will I lose, but I will leave the room exhausted. Unfortunately, too many educators teach their subjects this way—giving people facts to memorize before giving them a foundation on which to place those facts (a problem that Common Core attempts to remedy). I distinctly remember my high school biology teacher teaching this way. She gave me the only C grade I ever received in school.
But what I considered for most of my life to be a thorn in my side turns out to be perfect for sleep time. It occurred to me one night about a year ago as I was laying in bed to try and memorize every detail I could about my ceiling fan above me.
Instantly, I learned to sleep.