Category Archives: Sleep

Short Cut to Deal with Sleep Shortage: Inflating the Count with Placebo

As the pace of society quickens, and we want to sardine as many tasks as we can into one day, short cuts and sacrifices are inevitable. Unfortunately, sleep always seems to be the unlucky candidate that gets the short end of the stick and told: “Sorry, maybe I’ll get to you tomorrow.”

Well, if these are just the facts and realities of the times, then we may have to be creative and find our own kind of placebo effect to convince ourselves otherwise, and maybe derive some unanticipated health benefits from our strapped circumstances.

Here is an example: We usually count sleep duration by erroring on the side that puts us in the category of being sleep deprived. We may be in bed 8 hours, but not all of it is quality sleep time. So, in our sleep journals, maybe we put total of 7 hours or even less to account for all the tossing and turning, aches, thinking, and, yes, procrastination. Accurate? Yes, but depressing. Realistic? Yes, but doesn’t do anything for the ‘feel good’ side of the ledger.

I want to argue that some days we should try to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. If we are in the midst of a hectic period where the allotted time and hours don’t add up, then let’s skew the statistics in our sleep journals, a little bit. On the odd chance, in the odd morning, that you find yourself sleeping all the way to your alarm, with the alarm actually waking you up, but it still totals only 6.5 hours of sleep, then let’s inflate the numbers a bit. For myself, I imagine myself, and tell myself, that I could have slept another half an hour at least, if the alarm didn’t go home, then I’ll just reward myself with the bonus. I could have slept a quality 7 hours, so just give me the credit.

Will this placebo effect carry me through the day? I know I could be just deluding myself and this could actually have adverse effects on my health over the long term, but it sure feels better than fretting and dwelling the entire day over how I’m short of sleep. We can deal with the truth in therapy later on when things die down, but can we be allowed this short cut for the time being? Instead of always shorting ourselves of it, how about we go long for once? Really, I’m refreshed.

-Patrick Law


Filed under Short Cuts, Sleep

When “What’s the time?” is the Most Complicated and Painful of Questions

Sorry, long time no sleep. No, that’s not what I meant. I meant, long time no posting in this sleep category. That’s what I mean. Which, considering, can be a good thing, right? If I’m not analyzing, reflecting, probing for sleep material, does that mean I’m not thinking about it, and just, plain old Jane, sleeping? Wow. Damn. Well, whatever bliss I had, just being in the moment, is lost, cause here I am again, thinking about it.

Thinking about time, clocks, and alarms. If you happen to get up in the middle of the night, or early morning, do you take a peek at your bedside clock to alleviate the anxiety in not knowing what the time is? I know that when I was young, I always looked and felt such a giddy joy, relief, and satisfaction when seeing I still had more time left to sleep and then instantaneously my dreams picked up from where I last left off.

Today? I’m not so sure. To look or not to look, which is better for sleep satisfaction? These days, more often than not, I find it more effective to not let those time digits even get within vicinity of my peripheral. Why? Because I want to trust. If I just let go of time, and have a trusting mindset that the alarm will do its work, then should I not be more at ease and increase the chances I’ll settle back nicely into sleep? In addition, these days contrary to my youth, I dread and fear looking at the clock to see that I have a lot more time remaining to sleep. My reaction is usually: “Oh my God, I only slept 5 hours so far and I’m awake already! That means I’m only guaranteed 5 hours of sleep, and these next 2 hours…who knows what’s going to happen? What if I waste 2 hours trying to get to sleep?”

Because I don’t want these thoughts intruding when seeing the time, I try to avoid time all together. It does result in some fancy footworkand nimble agility to go to the washroom in the middle of the night with my neck strained at an angle to avoid the clock while the rest of my body tries to avoid tripping over things in the dark.

Obviously, choosing to not look at the clock is not unequivocally effective. Sometimes the effort it takes to avoid is quite strenuous and makes me too alert. However, at other times, it is quite humorous, and laughing allows sleep to come. Then there are times when after putting off looking at the time, my mind is constantly curious about what time it actually is. Should I try to sleep? Is it worth it? What if there’s only 15 minutes left until the alarm goes off? So just when I fall asleep, and start dreaming, I get rudely aborted? But, often, in this latest scenario, I look at the clock to see that I have 2.5 hours remaining. Damn!!!! I shouldn’t have looked at the clock. Now that other kind of thinking will kick in.

You know what? Do you think I would have been better off not writing this post? Or maybe pull the plug on all the clocks and rely on nature. Sunset, sunrise. Just go by feel? This may work if can get to sleep early, at more or less exactly at the same time every night. Do I attempt this but have a clock as a backup for the first month to see how accurate I am in predicting time by light? Keep a journal collecting data of bodily predicted time vs actual time? And if I’m close enough, totally pull the plug and live the rest of my life only using natural time?

Boss, sorry I’m late for work today. For some reason the sun didn’t come up this morning.

-Patrick Law



Filed under Sleep

While in Bed, Nothing Within Reach – Except Sleep?

Delaney’s post, linked above, led me to think about what sleep strategies have worked for me. Granted, my title sounds kind of hopeful, optimistic, perhaps even a fairy-tale for those with more severe insomnia, but I still think it’s worthwhile to consider approaches that do not risk the side-effects of medication.

Perhaps it’s a placebo effect, or just plain symbolism, but I find having a high bed helps. If that’s not possible, maybe try to keep other belongings, possessions, and distractions below the bed or out of eyesight. A relatively higher bed, either physically or perceptually, can foster the effect that the sleep domain is on a higher pedestal and of greater importance than anything else. Perhaps this can then create an impression that a bed is a separate and unique sanctuary where distractions will have trouble surviving in its rarefied, lofty air.

I find that when I read or do puzzles on my bed, it makes my body and mind naturally associate the bed as a place of stimulation and thinking. While this is important, it’s not the most conducive state for sleep. When this becomes a habit, without even trying, lying on the bed automatically turns my mind on into overdrive. However, if I am able to resist and even do my before bedtime reading on a chair right next to bed, that physical and symbolic separation transfers to my mental state as well. All signs are trying to tell me that when I climb onto bed, there is nothing else, and everything is left behind.

Am I being too simplistic? Naive? Possibly, I know. But for some reason, with sleep, somehow this kind of elementary idea of a erecting a physical border around sleep has been working for me. Maybe when I try too much analysis, preparation, and cognitive techniques, or mind tricks, it actually has the reverse effect of stimulating me too much and keeping me awake to see and test if the methods are working.

-Patrick Law


Filed under Sleep