For the past couple of years I’ve been losing sleep. A lot of sleep. At first, it wasn’t so bad. It took me a little longer to finally fade away into the land of dreams. Eventually, it got so bad that I had to seek medical help. I attended a few sessions at a sleep disorder clinic. They watched my nightly routine from cameras all around the room, and monitored the changes in my body though a massive number of small wires glued into place all over my body. They monitored my heart rate, breathing, my eye movement, leg movement, anything they could possibly think of to monitor – they did. It was determined that I suffer from insomnia, and that I stop breathing when I do sleep. A double whammy to say the least. Over the course of a normal night’s sleep, the average person gets around two hours of REM sleep. It allows the mind to have the down time it needs to reset itself, and allow you to feel refreshed in the morning. Over the course of my night, I get 15 minutes. That’s it.
My mind never has enough time to reset. It never shuts off, and I almost never wake feeling refreshed. There are a few monumental problems with this scenario. First, is that I have a very active lifestyle. I have kids that are always on the run, and I have to keep up. At work, I walk between 7 and 10 miles per night, while pushing pallets of incredibly heavy ceramic. Doing so with no energy is impossible. I had to find a way to handle this thing, because it was getting bad fast.
I began to look into alternative energy sources. At first, I was using everyone’s go-to: coffee. The problem with coffee, is that caffeine is easy to build a tolerance against. What started as a cup each morning, turned into cups all day. Then it turned into cups all day, mixed with the occasional shot of espresso. Then cups of espresso. Then entire pots of espresso. Finally, I developed a solution that seemed to work: supercoffee. I would make a pot of espresso, discard the filter and used espresso grounds, and run the liquid back through with a new filter and more espresso. It was like rocket fuel. I had the energy to go finally. I could feel my heart pound, and I feel like the Incredible Hulk all day. I knew I couldn’t use this stuff for long, because anything that made you feel that way can’t be good for you. By this point, I was only trying to get about 4 hours of sleep or so per night. With everyone else in bed, I began to use the extra hours in my day to learn about sleep, and the effects of sleep loss.
What I found out, was I was killing myself. The supercoffee was exhaustive to my heart. The strain of never resetting my mind was putting extra strain on all of my systems. I had begun to lose my short term memory, and began to develop some remarkable personality traits that I hated; primarily, the one I referred to as Jekyll and Hyde syndrome. One minute, all was right in the world, the next minute I would want to burn it to the ground. Seriously, just that quick, without warning. I began to worry about the safety of those around me. I had become a danger. This wasn’t working. I needed a plan B that didn’t involve stimulants.
I began to read constantly. Looking for answers. What I found shocked me. I was reading a book on meditation, and realized that much like regular coffee wasn’t enough to do the trick, regular meditation wasn’t going to either. I created my own form of meditation. I call it Systemic Meditation. The way it works is simple. I would lay in bed at night, and close my eyes as normal. then I would visualize my heart beating. Then I would focus on slowing it down. When I couldn’t feel it beating anymore, I knew it had slowed. Then I went to work on my brain. The brain took a lot more work. It was like trying to work on a motor while it was running. I began to visualize lobes, then folds, then synapses, and eventually dendrites firing like spark plugs. I started shutting them off. I’d imagine the spark firing, then flickering…and the next thing I knew I was waking up the next morning. So far it’s been a success. My short term memory has taken a hit from the years of abuse, but it’s beginning to return. My body is beginning to respond as well. Last year I lost 27 pounds that I had managed to put on over the last ten years. I’ve always taken pretty decent care of myself, so to see the weight begin to fall off was a remarkable thing. The best part of all, Hyde is gone. I don’t even write under that name anymore. It’s been a rough couple of years, but there is a bright light getting bigger at the end of the tunnel now.