A recent article by Pagan Kennedy published in the New York Times titled “The Insomnia Machine” got me thinking about my own struggles with sleeplessness.
I’ve always favored the night hours over the day. They are often my best hours for productivity. I am most “awake” (alert, alive) during the darkest hours, usually between midnight and 4 a.m., while much of the rest of my time zone sleeps. It is when my best ideas occur to me, the most creative thoughts arise, and the most organized planning happens.
I chalk it up to the Circadian Rhythms I’ve grown to know & love. In spite of inevitable next-day fatigue, overall I have made peace with these nocturnal tendencies.
That is not to say there haven’t been night-time hours where I’ve tried to sleep (or more accurately, had to sleep, perhaps because of work or other commitments) and couldn’t. I’ve also experienced the obvious consequences of insomnia. Which, in turn, might become a daytime nap that becomes necessary in order to get through a late-afternoon slump, and on and on…
When you lack sleep, as millions of people know, it feels like a vicious cycle of never quite catching up. A fine balance of caffeine to wind up and herbal tea to wind down. In the article, the author talks about ultimately finding a solution for insomnia in “spoken word audio” and goes on to give examples of some of the podcasts and streaming audio books that have been effective.
Similarly, for me nothing has been more effective, though, than the human voice — especially certain timbres of the human voice.
In the past few years, I have stumbled across a remarkably effective solution. I started listening to podcasts on long drives (when I distinctly hoped NOT to fall asleep!), and it started with French language learning podcasts, then grew to LibriVox recordings of literature in the public domain, like the ones the author of the article mentions. Then I began to seek out more specific, more literary stories.
My affinity for the ghostly horror tale led to even more inspiring, moody, curious bedtime stories. I sought out voices that soothed me. Gradually, I honed this listening to different stories for different times and circumstances. A daytime power nap or a nighttime sleep passage could be powered by a meditation, some of which were designed precisely for the purpose of leading the listener into a sleep state. And it went from there.
I was never read bedtime stories as a child. The idea of falling asleep to the sound of another’s voice while listening to a tale of far away places seems almost too quaint to work, like something that only happens in fairy tales and happy families. But work it does. And not only does it work, it does so better than any other technique or sleep aid I have ever tried before.
A highly welcome one, with no discernible negative side effects.