All my life, problems seem easier to solve at night. When I was a kid and something was bothering me, or there was some change I wanted to make in my life, I’d lay in bed in the middle of the night thinking of ways to solve the problem. It always seemed easier at night. Ideas flowed more readily, and I could often see a plan of action forming in my head. With a solution on the horizon, I’d fall asleep.
Of course, I’d wake up in the morning, and in the light of day, I never seemed to have the same enthusiasm to implement those midnight plans as I did when I hatched them. Something was lost when those plans made contact with sunlight.
This occurred to me because it happened to me the other night. It was the first time in a long time that this happened. I was laying in bed, unable to sleep. I’d gone to bed at 10 o’clock and had watched the hour hand slip a third of the way around the dial. At 2 am, I sat there, staring at the ceiling and decided for no particular reason that my problem was that I wasn’t drinking enough water. I then devised a plan which would greatly increase the amount of water I’d consume each day. With that plan in mind, I felt good, and finally fell asleep.
It wasn’t until after I’d woken up, gone for my morning walk, had my orange juice, and sat down in my office to work, cracking open a can of A&W Zero Sugar Root Beer that I remembered my plan. I took one look at my can of root beer, one of my real joys of each day (and what I imagine coffee is like for many people), and decided that maybe my plan of the night before hadn’t been well thought out after all. Indeed, I couldn’t even remember the problem I’d been trying to solve, although it may have been that it had taken me four hours to fall asleep. If that was the case, then my nocturnal problem-solving worked, because once I’d solved my problems with thoughts of drinking water, I finally fell asleep.
This seems like a false clarity, and I wonder if other people experience this deceitful ruse of the mind at night as well. I wonder if there is a scientific explanation for it.
Not all nighttime problem-solving is wasted. Solving technical or story problems frequently happens at night. I’ve probably lost count of the times where I was laying in bed, letting my mind wander about this or that, when suddenly, I had the answer to a thorny coding problem I’d run into at work earlier in the day. When I was writing stories, and was stuck, random thoughts at night sometime unstuck me. Why is it that nighttime ruminations seem to work, when others don’t?
Yes, things often seem easier at night. Problems have ready solutions. Ideas seem better than they do in the light of day. And I’ve learned to be skeptical of those nighttime thoughts because they can be deceiving. It’s like that old saying, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. That sums up my experience with my nighttime problem solving.
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