Get Some Friggin' Sleep & More
Cool things to soothe and amuse you
Do you rest well at night, or is it a struggle? This week, I had to recommit to prioritizing our dear friend Sleep. Let’s talk about our soporific and sometimes-inconsistent angel.
After the basic needs for food, shelter, potable water and breathable air, I’d say most of us find the most important component of good health to be regular, adequate sleep. Even if one has the former items in order, one will surely suffer without the latter.
During my research for a February 2022 Instyle piece about so-called “coronasomnia,” I interviewed a medical doctor and sleep researcher:
“Dr. [Chris] Winter is skeptical of the long-term value of sleeping pills, cannabis, alcohol, and other substances for which people reach in order to combat sleeplessness. ‘It's a crutch that is helping a patient avoid the more difficult task of dealing with their sleep problems or insomnia head-on,’ he says. ‘It's like seeing a water stain on your ceiling and painting over it. You really have not dealt with the difficult problem of finding the leak and fixing it. You've just superficially covered it up.’”
Dr. Winter wasn’t saying we should never try a safe sleeping aid. His opinion is about the long-term value of a substance used to enhance sleep. Most of us have used something to help us sleep at some point. Some people certainly have rare conditions that require the long-term use of medication, but without understanding the underlying cause of the sleep issue, we probably won’t really address it (unless it resolves on its own).
I think about this a lot with regard to mental health issues. First, we have to get our head above water, sometimes with the use of short-term medical intervention. Ideally, we are able to figure out a long-term solution with the help of caring professionals.
This happens to folks in sobriety a lot. First, we have to get to a place where our life isn’t in imminent danger. But once we put down a substance or end a particular addictive behavior, we may find in the course of years of recovery work that we need more help from an additional expert who understands, say, obsessive-compulsive disorder and can help treat that issue.
No one human being, book, system, pill or program can help us “fix” what ails us. Even if they find a cure for the common cold, I bet we won’t recover quickly if we’re also eating like shit and staying up all night.
Sleeplessness may require a multi-pronged approach. Humans are not machines to be assembled and/or repaired on a line in a factory.
I’ve linked my original article in the Recommendations section below, but feel free to share your own experience in the comments. Of course we aren’t prescribing or diagnosing here, but if you have a sleep-enhancing playlist you dig or an audiobook that helps you, let us know.
My recent issue was that I had been staying up late chatting to friends until 4, 5, or even 6 a.m. Most of my friends are night owls anyway, and plenty of them live on the West Coast, so they’re three hours behind me. Even the new parents are game for a chat sometimes when they’re up doing a feeding at 3 a.m. or whatever.
I am so glad to have friends! But I am way more likely to experience panic attacks or a resurgence of agoraphobic anxiety if I stay up for, say, three nights in a row - even if I get eight hours of sleep during the day. And since I work during the day, that ain’t likely to happen.
It’s been good to reset. Last night I got some decent sleep. Tonight I hope to do the same. For me it’s about drinking enough water, limiting my caffeine (and ending caffeine consumption after the early afternoon), turning off screens a couple hours before bedtime, and keeping up with my meditation practice, therapy, etc.
My mom reminded me last night that we each have to follow our own recipe, and that sleep is medicine. I couldn’t agree more. I hope your four issues of SARATONIN per month help you enhance your own recipe for wellbeing.
Now let’s get to the rest o’ the newsletter - and if you dig it please consider a paid subscription (if you have a free subscription, it should be easy to upgrade using your same email address.) Thanks!
Table of Contents, My Guy
On Writing: Ten Things You Love
These are things I’ve read, wish to read, and/or think we should all read/use/absorb. Links aren’t sponsored (please sponsor me in cash money or rewards points, thank you). Anyway, if there’s something you think I should check out, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
First Light Meditation - The newsletter (edited by a Unitarian Universalist minister who happens to be a former Mennonite) from which the Thomas Merton quote comes.
Yes, We're All Still Sleeping Miserably for InStyle - I wrote this a year ago.
The Myth of the Writing Expert - ICYMI, last week’s SARATONIN issue
Hello There: January 2023 Audio Letter 1 - ICYMI, last week’s patrons-only podcast episode. THE AUDIO LETTER drops four times a month, exclusively on Patreon.
Verified fundraisers for people affected by the Monterey Park shooting via GoFundMe - If you wish to help, this is a great place to start.
A Coder Wrested a Pistol From the Gunman’s Hands, Preventing Greater Tragedy by Victoria Kim for NY Times - Brandon Tsay is a hero, and heroes need support and help after they endure trauma in order to save themselves and others. I hope he gets all the love, warmth, understanding and assistance he needs in the coming months and years.
The Rare-Book Thief Who Looted College Libraries in the ’80s by Susan Falciani for Atlas Obscura - “By passing as a professor, James Richard Shinn made off with over $100,000 worth of books.” This article from 2017 delves into a hell of a tale.
The Atlas Obscura Guide to Mexico City - Here’s a compendium of articles from one of my favorite websites, about a place I hope to visit soon.
Brooklyn Tintype - I know I recommended them previously, but Rowan sent me the hard copies so here’s another recommendation! Pretty cool. They have the best prices of any place I’ve seen, so do your research. It’s probably never going to be cheap, but it doesn’t have to break the bank entirely.
On Writing: Ten Things You Love
I’m a writer of books, scripts, essays, articles, marketing copy, and scribbled journals. I hold an M.A. in the Teaching of English from Teachers College at Columbia University. I’ve taught lots of classes and workshops. None of this means I am an expert in writing. It just means I’ve done a lot of it, thought about it often, and spoken about it with many others.
In that spirit I offer these ideas as suggestions. If you have specific queries you’d like me to address here, please email email@example.com
Here’s an exercise to help you when you’re stuck on a writing project or you simply can’t seem to start.
Stop and write this by hand if you can. If you can’t, speak it or type it. The things can be people or emotions or whatever. You just have to love them. Don’t worry about how much you love them. Don’t think; just write.
Iconically, yes, my list does actually include an accidental smudge of peanut butter on the entry for “peanut butter.” Love this.
Now go away from your writing/speaking/typing area. Doing part one of this little exercise may be enough to jog your brain a bit, but if it’s not, don’t worry.
Return in the same 24-hour-period to your list. Pick one of the items. Now freewrite about it. That means write whatever comes into your head, even if you veer off-topic. We’re getting your creative muscle in shape. Don’t worry about how “good” it is. The point is just to do it.
Fill an entire side of one page. Ready? Steady? Go!
If you can read my handwriting, honestly, congrats to you. My high school teachers would truly love to know your secret, and so would I.
Don’t worry about how neatly written something is when you freewrite. We’re in the gym here working your creative muscle. Re-read what you wrote and ask yourself if some piece of it can make its way into your short fictional story, work email, newsletter, feature film script, etc. If not, who cares? You worked the muscle. That’s all we were trying to do, anyway.
Keeping your creative muscle in shape will bear fruit down the road, whether with your current project or with another one. I really do believe that.
Two new private podcast episodes will drop on Patreon this month, so join us if you like. You’ll get one more new issue of SARATONIN before the month is up. Paid Substack subscribers and patrons will also get a new essay before February.
Have a beautiful week. Thank you so much for being here. You really do help make my life better, and you make this writer’s life less lonesome. (It requires a lot of solo time at the desk, and these letters to you are a lot of fun, as are your comments.)