Yesterday, I went to bed with the notion of writing a column about sleep, so I grabbed my phone to take down some notes. And despite feeling greatly tired and sleepy, I was unable to go to sleep after putting down the device. I did everything I know to go to sleep: I tried thinking about nothing, breathing exercises, and imagining things that make me feel good…but I was unable to fall asleep.
Such an idea had to do with an article I’d read in The New York Times that talked about the importance of REM sleep in processing memory and emotions, and the citation I had noted referenced the way that the brain had of «separating memories from their emotional load.» What a curious process, I thought, and I was hooked on the idea that memories and emotions can go their separate ways…And I don’t know if it was because of the phone’s light that experts so encourage one to avoid before bedtime or because of my fascination with the role of emotions in our lives, but the truth is that the most absurd thoughts began to turn inside my head and did not let me get sleep for hours: Taking Care of Sleep, I thought, could be a good title for the column; Did I take the clothes out of the washing machine? I went on to think; Alright, inhale, count to four…exhale, count to four again; Did I turn off the stove?; Were they offended by my comment? And on and on my thoughts went until I finally fell asleep.
Learning to sleep is one of those pending subjects for many of us, and perhaps we could begin by being more disciplined when it comes to how many hours we sleep and the quality of that sleep. But I, for now, will settle for simply being able to dream that someday I will be an expert in the art of sleeping well.