"I've been told that the insomnia I've struggled with on and off for most of my life comes from drinking too much caffeine, or eating too much sugar. Or sleeping on a bed that's to soft, or too hard, or too flat. That I don't exercise enough, or that I exercise too much, or that I exercise the right amount but at the wrong time of day. Or that its the result of watching tv or using a computer right before I go to bed. But isn't that when everyone pokes around on the computer or watches tv?"
~ from the "Fear of Sleep" episode of This American Life.
I intentionally did not listen to the "Fear of Sleep" episode of This American Life until after the marathon. I have enough sleep issues on my own without listening to other people's struggles. I finally listened to the episode on the way back from Huntington Beach this afternoon. My brother was in L.A. for work, and we met somewhere in the middle for lunch and a walk on the pier. It was great seeing him, if only briefly.
Although This American Life is one of my favorite podcasts, it can be hit and miss as it covers such a wide variety of topics. Even within an episode, the strength of the different 'acts' can vary quite a bit. And that was true of this episode, but as a whole it did a good job of describing the fears, frustrations and damage connected with interrupted sleep. The first act is a great bit by Mike Birbiglia about sleepwalking. The third act was somewhat uneven, but it opens with the above snippet that helps characterize the frustrations with treating insomnia.
And all this talk of sleep got me thinking. Sleep is one of the few things we cannot live without, and even though it has been studied for hundreds of years, we still seem to have only the smallest understanding of it. It embraces us, nurtures us, comforts us, repairs us, and allows us to explore without consequence. It feels like the ultimate reward after the struggles and frustration of each day. It is the time when we are the most vulnerable, and we typically only share this safe harbor with the one we most trust.
And the more I thought about it, the more sleep began to feel like faith. And maybe a little slice of heaven here on earth. When you can get some sleep.