Have Trouble Sleeping at Night?

Elizabeth Wagele cartoon from "Are You My Type, Am I Yours?"

Elizabeth Wagele cartoon from “Are You My Type, Am I Yours?”

If no one has already, I hope someone will make a study of how the 9 Enneagram types do when it comes to sleeping.

I’ve never had a major problem with sleep – except for one 6-week period after open-heart surgery, when my heart fibrillated for many weeks, beating twice its normal speed. I couldn’t calm down enough to sleep because of the booming in my chest. Hoping to turn it around, one friend sang Indian healing songs to me. Another friend made me an audiotape of her soft, caring voice, based on some hypnotherapy sessions I had with her. I provided my heart with an example by holding my metronome on my chest at 72 clicks per minute several times a day. In some of those sessions I would play Bach on the piano at the same speed. Then, shortly before I was scheduled for cardioversion – shocking my heart back into a normal tempo – my heart righted itself on its own.

By then I was in the habit of not sleeping, however, so I thought of bringing to mind everyone I had ever known, one by one, and wishing each one health and happiness, similar to counting sheep. My one rule was that I had to mean it – the health and happiness part. It worked. These days I only have trouble sleeping rarely, when my legs are too wiggly or my brain is too active. I can almost always get to sleep if I get up and eat some yogurt.

My father had insomnia. He’d simply read for an hour or two. But he’d be groggy the next day.

Pagan Kennedy writes about insomnia in the New York Times, 9-17-16. On her worst nights her own insomnia feels like temporary insanity. Her mind turns into “a mad dog that snaps and gnaws itself”.

Kennedy concludes, “Though one in 10 American adults suffer from chronic insomnia, we have yet to answer the most fundamental questions about the affliction. Scientists argue about the mechanisms of sleep and the reasons it fails in seemingly healthy people. There are few — if any — reliable treatments. At the same time, medical journals warn that bad sleep can fester into diseases.”

She describes mental games she invented as a child to distract herself. She would compile a list of things and people that made her happy, starting with words that began with A and moving through the alphabet.

“Though millions of us struggle with chronic insomnia, we’re not a unified army fighting the same foe. Every one of us is grappling with a different mix of mental and physical dysfunctions. Dozens of medical conditions deprive people of sleep; these include apnea, Parkinson’s disease, chronic pain, depression, brain injury, autism and restless legs syndrome.” She also cites a study of twins that found wakefulness is significantly heritable, especially in women.

And she describes the Internet as a gathering spot for insomniacs. Drew Ackerman designed a “Sleep With Me” podcast “to tame the vigilant, overactive ‘guardian’ in the brain that feels it must stay awake to worry.” About 70,000 listeners download each episode of his podcast. He treats insomnia as a disease of existential loneliness. “Even if they’re in bed with somebody who loves them, it’s the deep dark night and they’re all alone.” He promises to talk to them until they drift off. And he commiserates.

Kennedy’s article ends, “In the dark hours, when we’re wandering in the wilderness of thought, sometimes we just need to feel that someone, even a digital someone with a prerecorded voice, is watching over us.”

To help you get to sleep, listen to my recording of Jack and Jill on You Tube and/or purchase my Beethoven Enneagram.

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