Tag: sleeping habits

How To Fall Asleep Quickly: A Pavlovian Tale

alone bed bedroom blur
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Last year I had a lot of trouble sleeping. At first I had trouble falling asleep. My doctor prescribed various medications, none of which worked well. After many, many months, I began to be able to fall asleep again, but struggled with something called “epic dreaming,” which I’d never heard of before until I read a great book on dreaming. There is no known treatment for epic dreaming, but those, too, eventually went away. For the last few months, I have been sleeping pretty well, but the most remarkable thing to me is that I have been falling asleep quickly. And I think I know why.

Back before our youngest daughter stopped napping, she and I would nap together after lunch every day. We did this for years. It was part of our daily routine and I looked forward to it. Indeed, when she grew out of napping, I continued to nap, and continue to do so today. One thing that I noticed about our naps was that I always–almost without fail–fell alseep quickly. Why was that?

The possible reason occurred to me what thought about how I described our naps to Kelly. I might say something like, “This was a one-song nap,” or “Well, it was a three-song nap today.” What I meant by “one-song” or “three-song” was how long it took us to fall asleep. You see, we had this playlist that we’d listen to when we went down for our nap. It was the same playlist every day, and I’d measure how quickly we fell asleep by how many songs I remember playing before I went out.

Once our youngest daughter stopped napping, I continued with the playlist for my naps. I found that over time, I seemed to fall asleep faster and faster. Today, it is not uncommon for me to fall asleep after just one-and-a-half songs. Sometimes, I fall asleep before the first song on the playlist is finished.

It worked so well, in fact, that when I went to sleep at night, I started listening to the playlist then, too. When I began doing that, I began falling asleep much faster than I usually did at night. It is usually not quite as fast as during the day, but at night, with the playlist playing, I usually fall asleep between 2-3 songs.

It seems that that playlist has had a kind of Pavlovian effect on my sleep. Hearing it, while laying down in bed, puts me out quickly. It is also remarkable how well it works. There are days when it doesn’t work, but they are few and far between.

I have a Siri shortcut I use when I nap. After laying down, I’ll say, “Hey Siri, let’s nap” which triggers Siri to do a number of things: put my phone into Do Not Disturb Mode, set an alarm for 5-minutes before the next meeting scheduled on my calendar (just in case), set the volume to a certain level, and start my napping playlist. I’ve created a modified version of this shortcut for when I go to bed at night. I call it my “Wind-down” shortcut.

These days, I am amazed at how quickly I fall asleep listening to the playlist. I don’t think it has anything to do with the songs on the playlist, as much as the habit and Pavolvian effect of it. Frequently, I’ll lay down for my nap, hear the first song, and wonder if I will be able to fall alseep with so much stuff on my mind. Often, I never even hear the end of that first song. It works for me, and I’m happy about that.

As I said, I don’t think it is the specific songs on the playlist that have a real effect, but rather the habit and repetition. Still, for those who might be curious, here are the songs that are on the playlist:

  • “Rey’s Theme” by John Williams
  • “Into the West” by Howard Shore & Annie Lennox
  • “On Your Shore” by Enya
  • “Exile” by Enya
  • “Mercy Street” by Peter Gabriel
  • “When the Angels Fall” by Sting

The entire playlist is 32 minutes long, which is about how long my nap usually lasts. (I generally wake up when the playlist has looped over back to the first song).

I suppose the one down side to this is that on the rare occasion that I happen to hear one of these songs come on in the middle of the day when I am busy with things, I suddenly feel unusually tired and sleepy.

Written on March 1, 2022.

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Bloom carries over 130 varieties of coffee*

Another weird night’s sleep last night, but better than the night before. We were up just a little late this morning and headed into work. I had anotherfull day of coding, punctuated by a meeting in the morning and a meeting in the afternoon. I felt pretty productive today.

At lunch, I finally wrote the next scene for my writer’s workshop, about 750 words, which is pretty good for lunchtime. Actually, the scene takes place toward the end of the story, but I kind of liked it. I think it works pretty well. I’m eager to see what the group thinks. I also got one critique written for the group and may get to one more before going to bed tonight.

Lots of mail today, mostly for Kelly. But I did get the October/November issue of ASIMOV’S today.

I managed a little bit of reading. I’m about 160 pages through Rainbows End.

After I picked Kelly up from work, we headed to the grocery store to do some shopping. Then back home and I made us French bread pizza for dinner. Doug called this evening and I spoke to him for a little while. Then Kelly and I headed to the gym. I did a half hour of cardio. It felt like a good workout.

I called Comcast today to have someone come out and check the phones. The phones haven’t worked since we moved in, but I never complained about it since we mainly use our cellphones. But since we’re paying for the service, it seems like it should work. So they are sending a tech over tomorrow afternoon.

* This was a line from a commercial that was playing when I started this entry and I couldn’t think of a good subject line so I appropriated it.

Fever dreams

Sarah came over last night and hung out for a while. She left around 9:30 and I went right to bed. I had taken NyQuil around 8 PM. I was asleep before I hit the pillow. I slept fine until around 1 or 2 AM, and then I got restless. My throat was scratchy and that made it difficult to sleep. So did the fever dreams. I don’t think I actually had a fever, but the fever dreams were there. I felt so-so when I woke up this morning. Still a little scratchy throat, still uneasiness in my head. But no other symptoms. I wonder if I caught some kind of summer flu that my flu vaccination is more or less fighting off?

I’m still not back on a routine, but I’m hoping to get there soon. You know: up at a certain hour, breakfast, pack lunch, back to the gym, etc. Kelly went to the gym last night but I wasn’t feeling up to it. Maybe today.

I’ve got to get a tire pump for my bike so I can pump up that rear tire and make sure that it just lost it’s air and is not actually flat. I may get to ride my bike into work after all this week. Stay tuned.

Reading has crawled to a near halt, although I am still progressing on The Count of Monte Cristo. When that’s done, I’m eager to start in on Charlie Stross’s Saturn’s Children, which I also bought as an eBook. Oh, and the eReader for the iPhone released version 1.1 this morning. I upgraded right away.

Funny dreams and frightening ones

I tossed and turned quite a bit last night because I was hot for some reason. I had two dreams last night. For the first time in a long time, I had a dream that had me laughing in my sleep hard enough to wake myself up. When I explained the dream to Kelly, she didn’t see how it was all that funny, but it was, trust me. The thing is, I can’t really explain it to you. It was funny in terms of dream-logic, but not regular logic. The funniest part of the dream was the fact that I was laughing so hard I woke myself up.

I also had a dream that Kelly and I got into a fight. We were climbing up the outside of a structure like the Washington Monument and I was trying to pull Kelly onto a ledge but she was talking on her cellphone. I think we started to argue about that in the dream.

The wrong side of the bed?

I have noticed an interesting phenomenon lately. I have been sleeping on the left side of my bed instead of the right side. I can’t place quite how long this has been going on, but it’s definitely been happening with increasing regularity. This is unusual because, for the 8 years that Tawnya and I lived together, I always slept on the right side. And in the years since, I have continued to sleep more or less on the right side (or in the middle where I can spread out). But in recent weeks, I’ve noticed this trend of sleeping on the left side. I notice no difference in the quality of my sleep. It is strictly positional. But I can’t explain it and it bothers me when I can’t explain things.