Saturday, July 31, 2010

Insomnia everywhere

Almost without fail, when I check Twitter at night, I see one of my friends noting that they cannot sleep. I've noticed it even more since moving to the west coast since when I'm lounging on the couch, my east coast friends are already in bed.

Or should be.

And it's not me seeing them make updates and then interpreting it as insomnia. These folks actually discuss how they have insomnia.

And I can't help but wonder... why?

You have to understand that my average night involves me fading quickly into sleep once the 11 o'clock hour hits. I sleep like crazy. I sleep through just about anything. My wife stays up far later than me, but I would stay up later, too, if I had her schedule. I'm up at 6:15 every morning. She gets at least two more hours of sleep. Bottom line, though... neither of us are struggling to get our 40 winks.

Many of our friends are, though.

I am neither a doctor, nor a psychologist. But I don't think you need to be one to know that the inability to fall asleep cannot be healthy. From a standpoint of pure disease prevention, I know that when I've had a series of early mornings for a week, I can start to feel my throat get sore. And then I sleep. And away it goes. I almost never get sick. And while I think a healthy lifestyle has something to do with this, it can't hurt that I sleep well.

And in my non-professional capacity, I cannot say for sure why my friends are unable to sleep. But, of course, I have two theories.

The first is simple... anxiety. The time in my life I couldn't sleep was years ago and related to a specific stressful situation. I tossed and turned. I would wake up with a sore jaw from grinding my teeth. And the remarkable thing was that as soon as the situation was resolved, I went back to sleeping normally.

Certainly there is a significant amount of societal anxiety right now. The economy is odd and it seems to be dawning on people that there may not be a simple solution to that issue. Many are under pressure at jobs. Many are likely seeing plans on hold due to their financial situations. I can understand that. But for these folks, I would hope they could find a way to find a contentedness with their lots for the time being. As one of my favorite fictional characters once said... "Get some rest. If you haven't got your health, you haven't got anything."

The second theory I have is much more complicated and speaks more to our Gen Y culture's outlook than anything else. These people do too much. I could make a list of friends that spend their days at work, then the gym, then a class, then meeting friends, then doing 10 other things - performing, writing, teaching, speaking, you name it...

And I think when these folks start trying to do 10,000 different things, their minds never really relax. I have a ton on my mind about work every day. And a ton on my mind about life at home every day. And those are both two things I enjoy greatly. But I cannot imagine having something else on top of it.

Actually, I can... and when there is something else, I'm almost a mess. When we were preparing to move across the country I was extremely stressed out. And, certainly, I didn't sleep well. Why would I choose to get involved any any other pursuits that could do the same to me - something I would only be able to care too much about - voluntarily?

Yet, I see a ton of my friends doing this. There are folks I know who love their jobs, love their spouses... but spend hours of anxiety about something they took on themselves.

I'm not saying go to work, then go home. Each of us needs hobbies. But shouldn't the point of those be to de-stress? I love hiking. I bake. Now and then I sing. And I work hard at all of them, but not a one of those activities causes me an iota of anxiety about life.

I have friends who have taken on hobbies and pursuits that they claim to enjoy... but it's clear that they are giving themselves a whole new source of stress.

And I fear it could start to catch up with them.

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