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Memetic Insomnia


After I completed law school and adjusted to my newly becalmed life I stopped using an alarm clock. I also stopped drinking caffeinated beverages. Now my body naturally wakes up early in the morning, full of energy, ready for an hour of running or biking.

I do occasionally have trouble sleeping. One source of insomnia for me is chocolate consumption -- chocolate contains stimulating chemicals, and a late night chocolate binge will often lead to a restless night.

Another source of insomnia for me is spinning thoughts: memetic insomnia. A day full of stimulating events creates a desire to relive the events and process them. A day full of emotional problems creates a desire to work through the problems and solve them. The night before a busy day I might anticipate and plan various scenarios.

I've learned that I can usually short-circuit memetic insomnia with meditation. I've been practicing meditation for so long now that I can often command my mind into silence. I can move my awareness throughout my body, relaxing each muscle in turn, focusing on my breathing and my heartbeat, clearing my mind of any thoughts concerning the future, the past, or events outside of my perceptual well.

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Part of the solution to memetic insomnia is an understanding that problems do not require immediate solutions, that the future will unfold regardless, that the proper reactions need not be rehearsed ahead of time. In addition to the techniques of meditation I have attitudes and beliefs that foster relaxation and serenity. I am willing to let go of the thoughts spinning inside. Furthermore, I am in no rush to fall asleep ;-) One of the paradoxes of insomnia is that worrying about lack of sleep inhibits sleep!

Perhaps that is the most basic form of memetic insomnia -- a recursive worry about having insomnia or being insomniac. Once the insomniac meme becomes part of your self-image, you'll have a damnable time escaping it ;-)


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