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I've Tried Everything, Now What?
I'm suffering from onset insomnia of late. It makes focussing on anything hard. You're never quite awake, and it takes hours to fall asleep, time that is lost by sleep, and to productive endeavour, but like interest, even though it's not technically part of the debt, it falls due and sooner or later. If you don't pay, the Crash & Burn Bailiffs will come knocking.
Here is a partial list of the things I'm taking care of:
I have a night time routine that I adhere to, going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time.
I keep good control of my Type 1 Diabetes, particularly at night time
I use a daylight lamp early in the morning (daylight exposure is lower during Winter, and daylight exposure also facilitates melatonin release.
I read fiction on a Kindle with warm dirplay settings, I’ve also tried not reading a Kindle to see if even that light is the issue, it isn’t.
I stay hydrated
I supplement in the mornings with Vitamin D
I exercise pretty much every day
I never hit the snooze button
No matter what, I do everything I can to keep stress low
I don’t drink coffee after 2pm (in the past I’ve been able to have a large espresso before bed, no issues, but now I play safe)
I don’t stay in bed if I fail to fall asleep within an hour(important not to associate bed with restlessness)
I read and used the approaches suggested by Matthew Walker in his highly recommended book “Why We Sleep”
Our bedroom has no distractions, it’s minimalist
The bed is clean, the bed linen is clean
Temperature is around 18 degrees, it’s never too warm at night, except during summer, and in Britain, we don't have too many days like that
I use a Dohm noise unit
We use blackout blinds, it’s as close to black as it’s feasible to get in our bedroom
There are no blue light sources in the room
I've tried various night time snacks and drinks to see if they’d help
I've tried cold showers an hour before bed too.
That's a pretty comprehensive list, right? You can see I take my sleep seriously, and I’d have every right to feel annoyed that this isn’t working. You'd think I'd done enough, but clearly, I haven't. So I have to accept it.
When we fail at something, having worked out a great plan, a well-researched plan, one we might even consider water-tight, or dare I say it, fail-safe, the temptation is to say it doesn't work and we need to try something radically different. We might understandably become emotional, and we might throw the whole approach away. Can you tell that this is not really about my insomnia, not really?
Let's say you had a plan for debugging some code, and you have a checklist, and you have spotted an obvious error, and now you're convinced you're in the clear, and then you run the code and absolutely nothing has changed. Do you abandon the methodology?
My football team is Liverpool. We are going through a bad patch, that has coincided with my insomnia funnily enough. We are not winning anything, and we are misfiring up front. Some idiots have quite staggeringly called for the departure of our charismatic manager, Jurgen Klopp. These people can readily be discounted as idiots. Others have suggested we sign a centre back, forgetting that with our first choice centre backs, we got thrashed 7-2 by Aston Villa.
The same process that allowed us to win every meaningful honour in an amazing period, breaking numerous records along the way, is clearly not working now. That doesn't mean we abandon it, but clearly, there are new variables that we need to account for.
One theory is that the hard working midfield duo of Henderson and Fabinho, who are now playing as makeshift centre backs have caused a ripple effect throughout the team, meaning that our normally adventurous fullbacks, the creators of so many goals, no longer have the freedom they had before, because the cover that Henderson used to provide is no longer there. I think that might be part of the problem, but there is something else I've been thinking about that might be playing a small, but significant role, and that is the psychology of the players.
The global pandemic has meant that games are being played in empty stadiums. The latest research shows that the absence of fans has allowed players to feel slightly more relaxed. How is that a problem? Well, Liverpool's identity, as Klopp has famously said, is intensity. The famous Liverpool press would work best at elite level on the finest margins of stress. Normally, any crowd would amplify the danger of Liverpool's press, and this would cause the defending team to misplace more passes, while if they're attacking, again, their accuracy might be reduced on the break. Liverpool's players have been trained to thrive on intensity, other teams are more about tactics, and execution. It's a tiny point, but as you approach the highest levels of performance in your chose field, even if you were initially to sigh in exasperation at the anticipated extra load of another set of skills to add to your collection, you know that you just have to knuckle down and do the bloody work. That’s why Klopp is not freaking out.
What about my insomnia? Have I really tried everything? Accounted for everything? Obviously not. I could try exercising so long and hard that I fall asleep through sheer exhaustion. I could increase my daylight exposure. I could try hot baths before bed.
Going back to the Liverpool example, it might just be that like many others, I'm just sick and tired of this pandemic and in the back of my mind, no matter how loudly I protest to the contrary, there is this gnawing unease. I don't think so, but when you've worked as hard as I have on this problem, you want to ensure you leave no stone unturned and as Jim Ryan used to say to me, "Keep going!"