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Seven Sleep Disorders of Highly Effective People

By Tom 'somnambulist' Waters
May 1st , 2006

My amorous engagements with the opposite sex often occupy a few hours rather than the point of insertion and release that most couples fumble through. If you employ multiple activities in the bed room, it could disrupt a healthy sleep cycle.

In one form or another, I've been an insomniac all my life. After researching all the causes and symptoms, I think I've been groomed for it. I've gone through pretty much every stage that's been diagnosed, from waking early in the morning, waking in the middle of the night, taking forever to go to sleep, and not getting a good night's sleep in general. After reading up on it, I realize I've done it to myself. I'm a go-getter, a man of many vices and at the same time a man of many neuroses. I'm a substance fueled, over motivated worry wart. This is a recipe for sleep loss. Most of the time it's not a problem. Sometimes it's a serious issue. A friend of mine cursed me with the knowledge that when he turned 30, he had a severe mid-life crisis. This summer, it's hit me like a ton of bricks and my insomnia has flared up to mid life crisis proportions. Sometimes it's a nuisance that keeps me from getting anything worthwhile done at work, on the word processor and in my personal life. Other times it's an effective means for getting everything done.

Here are some of the symptoms and stressors: excessive alcohol, caffeine and nicotine consumption. Check. I'm a big fan of all three and they tend to mess up your sleep patterns. Caffeine disrupts sleep and nicotine causes wakefulness. On an average day, I drink a two liter of diet soda, smoke a pack of cigarettes, and drink three to four cups of coffee. It keeps me alert and I will never be a juice person. As for alcohol, well, I enjoy a fine snifter of port by the fire while reading the classics from time to time. Not really. With a 'guy's night' two nights a week and a standard of one bar review a week, my liver is pickled three nights out of seven.

Occasionally, I wake up in the middle of the night to pee and end up having a cigarette. By the time I'm done with my smoke I figure I might as well catch up on my reading or get some work done. Before I know it, I've been up for three hours and I need to be 'up' for work in two and start worrying about going to sleep immediately. Other times, after an exuberant night out at the bars, I'll wake up with corkboard in my throat and have to get up to pound some ibuprofren and guzzle three liters of water to get some replenishing fluids circulating in my body again. Coffee is a vicious cycle. Once you start drinking it daily, you can't really wake up in the morning without it. If you drink any of it a few hours before going to sleep, you're too hopped up to go to bed. I love coffee, what do you want from me? It makes you alert when you're incapable of it.

Extreme weather changes or seasonal changes often affect sleep patterns due to the altercation of light patterns that the body associates with Circadian rhythms, or daily physiological patterns. Big check. I live in Buffalo, for crying out loud! The only kind of weather we have is extreme! We have blizzards, entire months of rain in the spring and crippling heat waves in the summer. For the past ten years, I've started waking up early at the onset of autumn and throughout the fall until around daylight savings time. This could also have something to do with the fact that my birthday falls in October and I tend to have major and minor mid-life crises every year about what I have and haven't accomplished with my life. That, and a love for the season. Autumn is my favorite time of year because it's not too hot, it's not to cold, and it's the world's way of telling you that everything comes to an end. Seasonally, it's a sign of death and rebirth, which is a core belief in practicing Scorpios. A preoccupation with death, as well as, um, sex. We'll cover that some other time.

Actually, we'll cover that right now. A psychological connotation with your sleeping quarters for anything other than sleep often causes problems. Check and mate. Pun fully intended. If you spend an inordinate time in the bed room engaged in activities other than sleeping, it could mess up your sleep cycle. I like to read in bed. I've gotten into the habit of smoking in bed before I go to sleep. I build small indigenous huts out of pillows and blankets and make a chieftains headdress made out of duvets. My amorous engagements with the opposite sex often occupy a few hours rather than the point of insertion and release that most couples fumble through. If you employ multiple activities in the bed room, it could disrupt a healthy sleep cycle.

Anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder often cause sleep loss. Chex Mix. If I'm flying high, I wake up early excited to take on the new day. I have trouble getting to sleep because there are a number of ideas that won't lay to rest. Over time, I've learned to reduce a lot of glaring symptoms by avoiding triggers and promoting healthy routines, but I still fall prey to the diagnoses. Anxiety and depression are generally close bedfellows. One follows the other. If I'm sad, I worry about a lot of things. Things that happen, have happened, or will happen. Work, family, finance, age, etc. Laying down some nights my mind is like a rabid dog frothing after its tail. I tell myself that the problems will still be there in the morning or that time takes care of everything but my thoughts go around in worrisome circles.

The upside of bipolar in terms of sleep is also the downside. Eventually, the manic part of me burns out and gives way to the depressed. I blow out all my neurons and crash and burn for a few months. I've come to accept it because my body can only take so much concentrated excitement and biologically, I believe it's necessary. And that's when I start sleeping eleven hours a night instead of five to eight. I recoup and recover. Sleep turns into avoidance therapy and a safe haven from unbearable stress and anxiety. It's a primal response along the lines of 'If I don't see it, it can't hurt me'. Cats do it all the time. Cavemen figured that nothing could bother or eat them if they were in their caves sleeping.

Extended napping can throw off your sleep patterns, too. I look at napping as an art form. Whereas beds occupy a number of activities, I spend entire days off sometimes laying sideways on my couch reading, smoking, channel flipping, and alternately napping. Couches are perfect for napping because they're normally in lighted rooms (so you won't conk out for too long) and centrally located near a tv and a phone. My couch is at the epicenter of my apartment. I've gotten into the habit of crashing out after work around six thirty at night and waking up around eight. This can't be good but it also can't be avoided.

And a preoccupation with your job can interfere with sleep frequently, too. I'm a store manager. I'm very good at what I do and I'm handsomely rewarded for it. Along with this come the anxieties and constant worries if my ship isn't running exactly as I'd like it to. If something's awry or askew at work, I'll spend a good portion of my evenings when I first lay down turning the situation over and over in my head until I find a resolution. It's the price you pay for being a leader, even if it is only retail.

Creative types and go-getters are known for having sleep problems. There are only a few days out of the month where it really bothers me, and the rest of the time I'm trying to take care of every facet of my life with the meager 24 hours a day we're given. Work, significant other, writing, promoting, freelancing, dinner, email, hobbies, hygiene, and general socializing can't feasibly be accomplished on a conservative schedule, so the only solution I know of is to shave off on sleep time and ante up on waking activities. Benjamin Franklin never would have accomplished everything he did without napping often and sleeping seldom. Same goes for Galileo, Winston Churchill, or Da Vinci. They were all notorious for having bags under their eyes. It's just something you work around. 30 is right around the bend for me and I've still got so much to accomplish. As Sam Elliot said in 'Roadhouse', 'I'll get plenty of sleep when I'm dead'.