From the Braver Institute
Wait, let me rephrase that. From the time I was a kid until somewhere into adulthood I had a mind that was in full “go” mode all of the time. Ideas would pop into my head and I was powerless to do anything with those ideas besides think of them constantly. These ideas ran the gamut. They could be business ideas or some new contraption I had dreamed up, maybe a story or a song; a woodworking project.
When I had a new idea I was like a kid with a new toy who plays with it non-stop right to the point of losing interest and never wanting to play with the thing again. I would think about the idea to the point of wanting nothing to do with the idea.
I would go over all of the ins and outs and the hows and whys. I would know all of the ways the idea wouldn’t work and perhaps more importantly I would know the ways that it would. The seed of the idea would be planted and there was no off switch on it to stop it from growing. The only thing that would stop it was when I would stop thinking about it. Sometimes this was only a few hours but there were times when it could be days or weeks later.
This was all great and wonderful to have these ideas to play around with but there was a serious drawback and that was that these ideas would keep me up at night. It would be late, I would be tired, I would lie in bed desperately wanting sleep but if the idea hadn’t been worked through at some point earlier, my brain would stay fully engaged and it would take hours for Morpheus to finally pay me a visit.
Fortunately I was young and under the impression that I could function at the one hundred percent level with only three hours of sleep. Such is the illusion we live under at that age.
In my mid to late twenties I somehow managed to teach myself how to shut my brain off. I’m not sure exactly when it happened or exactly how I managed to do it, but I do remember coming up with a way to distract myself from the thoughts of the day. I would think about benign subjects by watching a documentary on Soviet era farming equipment or recount one of my high school history teachers lectures. Essentially I would bore myself to sleep.
As time went on I think my mind got the message that it had either shut down or it was going to have to listen to Mr. Bowers talk about the aftermath of the War of 1812 again. Eventually falling asleep became one of the easiest things in my life to do and what a marvelous thing that is.
These days if I am awake five minutes after hitting the pillow I start wondering what is wrong and if this is going to continue for another five whole minutes. It doesn’t matter if I go to bed at eight o’clock or midnight. I will be dead to the world in a matter of moments and more often than not I will sleep until my alarm goes off or (on non workdays) to the point of being fully rested.
The ability to fall asleep without any trouble is truly a wonderful thing to those of us who have been given such a gift.
I reached a point of near panic a few months ago when I found myself still awake after being in bed for half an hour. I wasn’t even thinking about anything. I simply couldn’t sleep.
I was really concerned that this might happen again but thankfully the next night I was right back to being asleep before my eyelids were clamped.
The best thing about being able to sleep so well is that I am so much better at thinking my ideas through while I am awake. The idea mill is definitely a more productive machine with proper rest.
So for those of you who spend the night tossing and turning, chasing the ever elusive unconsciousness, let me tell you about John Brown and the raid on Harpers Ferry.
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