Sleep

Ramadan Retrospective 2015

I know some of you are just waiting for one of my edgier or “NSFW” posts, and I’ve been keeping ideas that come to me written down, but timing and proximity are important so you’ll have to stay tuned a bit longer.

Ramadan this year was a whole different animal… specifically a nocturnal one.  It’s a bit ironic that during the longest days of the year possible (we crossed the summer solstice) my schedule took place primarily at night.   Prior to Ramadan beginning this year I was discussing it with a friend of mine and she suggested I swap day and night (Fast at night instead.)  Though I gave it consideration, I decided that it undermined the definition of Ramadan if I wasn’t doing it in unison with the billions of participants worldwide – meaning if I took it upon myself to swap the time-frames, I was no longer practicing anything that resembled “Ramadan” fasting and was instead simply observing a personal fast with similar rules.  It did occur to me that my original purpose – to support one of my best friends in her fast – might be better served if I swapped my fast because we’re in opposite time zones, but in the end I decided I should stick to the structure that everyone else followed regardless of advantageous personal circumstances.

Oh sweet face-stuffing...

Oh sweet face-stuffing…

Though it was almost definitely much easier than those with a day job, this year provided some unique challenges and taught me a few things.  The days were right about sixteen hours long, meaning I was only really sleeping through between one-third and half of the fast.  The first part (just after a hyper hydrating and face-stuffing breakfast) was the easy part, but I noticed that as time went on I would get hungrier, faster.  It got to the point that ninety minutes after stuffing myself I would be hungry again and over fourteen hours would remain before I had the chance to address that.  For whatever reason that hadn’t happened as much for me in previous years, so I can only theorize that my body schedule had something to do with it.

The one downside to sleeping the latter third of the fast, is how you feel when you wake up at hour sixteen.  If you think getting out of bed in the morning is rough now, try doing that when your body is in emergency conservation mode due to lack of food or water.  The first issue is that actually regaining consciousness is harder… I slept past my “end fast” alarm on several occasions, causing me to continue fasting even longer, which then continues to amply the effects of the fast (as specified in my previous post when I went nearly twenty hours.  It did not go well.)  The second issue is that even when you wake up, you pretty much feel like you’ve been run over by a truck.  It’s actually pretty similar to moderate hangover as both of these states are caused by your brain being dehydrated.  Waking up is hard, staying awake is harder.  Fighting that desire to fall back over and not feel like crap any more is tough, especially when even sitting up takes a monumental amount of effort.  You’re weak, you have no energy and you’re trying to tell your body to wake up when all it wants to do is shut down to conserve your energy.  But eventually the promise of cool, refreshing water will give you the strength to fight the amplified gravity and draw you out to the kitchen where you can chug your bodyweight in the clear, clean nectar of the clouds.  Except you can’t, because if you do you’ll be sick.  You have to go slow, very slow, and work your way up to food, coffee or whatever else you need.  But once you get past that barrier, you’re newly-nourished body will feel great, right?  Well…

This is not a motivated face.

This is not a motivated face.

This is another part that was new to me this year.  You see, normally you go to work just after beginning your fast.  This means you start strong and deteriorate throughout the day.  Then you break your fast at night, and usually go to bed pretty early to recover and wake up early to eat before you resume your fast.  But this year my opposite schedule meant I went to work after breaking my fast.  In theory this would work well since I can eat/drink while I’m at work (the fact I’m driving actually kinda made it essential.)  But in reality I encountered a new issue: post-fast lethargy.  You see, after sixteen or more hours without food or water, your body doesn’t simply wake up and return to peak condition because you finally gave in to it’s demands.  It needs time to recover and rebuild with the resources you provided.  Normally you break your fast and head to bed so it can make you ready for the next day, but now I broke my fast and tried to work while my body was trying to rebuild.  The result was a constant battle to escape weariness, sluggishness and a mental fog.  Only a considerable amount of coffee allowed me to eventually pull free of it, but my prep time before work increased dramatically and sometimes included additional short naps (voluntary or otherwise.)

This is by no means harder than dealing with your slowly-deteriorating condition throughout a normal workday, but it is an interesting byproduct that I’d never encountered before (bedtimes had to be pretty structured to wake up in time for the brutally early breakfast.)

Finally, this year moreso than any previous years I was alone in my fasting.  Though it’s nobody’s fault, I did not make it to my Muslim friend’s house for Iftar (he invited me several times, just didn’t work out.)  My best friend is on another continent and there were no curious supporters trying it out this round.  This year I even lacked a workplace full of curious people to relate my experience to.  However, with all that said, where last year I questioned the process, positivity and relevance of my fasting, this year there were no questions.  I did it and when it was done, I was a little sad to let the routine go.  If anything, perhaps because of the ease of my schedule, it didn’t seem like quite enough.  I even found it easier than normal to find some local homeless folk to feed in order to make up my time at MAU.  This year, everything happened in stride on my terms, so it was much simpler to work around it.  The result was that it seemed it was over as quickly as it started.  All the normal symptoms were there, but because it was all on my terms, the invasiveness was minimal.

Eid is the holiday after Ramadan that marks the end of fasting.

Eid is the holiday after Ramadan that marks the end of fasting.

Perhaps on some level my convenient situation was “cheating”, and perhaps my experience wasn’t as profound as a result.  But I am reminded of what Leslie would tell me about how in the middle-east, shops change hours, employers grant earlier shifts and mid-day time off and the entire culture shifts to accommodate Ramadan… or rather the shift is built-in to their predominantly Muslim culture.  So from a certain point of view, you could say that my experience this year was closer to that sort of experience (situational support as opposed to community support but similar result.)  On the other hand, I’ve also heard of Muslim folk who place little importance on Ramadan and simply go through the motions because they feel they have to.  They cheat the fast and take the situation very lightly.  I don’t participate because I have to, but I still want to be mindful of the experience as opposed to simply fasting because I have for the past few years.  But then again, if that were the case I probably wouldn’t be writing about it.

It is safe to say that this year was highly unique.  I don’t believe next year will be anything like this one was.  There will be new situations, new challenges and I might even look back and wish the subsequent years were as simple as this one has been.  If nothing else I’m glad I did it and glad I understand as much as I do about it.

Eid Mubarak.

Advertisements

Of Laziness, Fasting, Discipline and Trying to Learn From It All

The alarm shot through my instantly-forgotten dream like a blazing torch of sound; shattering my warm, comfortable darkness to reveal the last bit of daylight fading into evening outside.  Last I knew it had been mid-afternoon as the storms outside had gently drawn me off to dreamland.  My bed is entirely too comfortable,  and it was not necessarily time to wake up, but it was time to break my fast and I had learned a week prior that extending the fast beyond the long, sixteen-hour summer days was a very bad idea.

Migraines apparently also make you into a telepathic skeleton.

Migraines apparently also make you into a telepathic skeleton.

After returning from MAU, I had passed out without resetting my alarms and had woken up at 11AM the following day.  The issue was, I hadn’t eaten anything since the airport in Atlanta the previous evening and had only had coffee and ginger ale to drink on the flight home.  So now, a little over twelve hours after my last calorie of any sort, I had roughly ten more hours to go.  In situations like this, it might be considered appropriate to break your fast.  I had just come back from traveling and I realize now that fasting for so long could actually harm me.  But at the time I didn’t know that, and I’m nothing if not stubborn, so I pressed on through the day and felt relatively good… until around hour 19.  After that my condition had rapidly declined into near-uselessness: basically zero energy, fighting nausea despite a very empty stomach and the feeling that a white-hot metal rod was being driven into my brain from the back of my head (I was really worried this was going to trigger a migraine as it was a similar feeling, but fortunately it subsided.)  Thankfully all it took was proper hydration / nourishment and a nap to get me feeling right again, but the experience taught me that after twenty-four hours or so without food and water (especially), I would be basically useless.  It also taught me the importance of my regiment – even if I wasn’t hungry or meant to sleep through breakfast (around five AM during Ramadan), waking up to drink a couple glasses of water before returning to bed was a minimum requirement.

So the other day I had awoken to my “water” alarm and for a few moments after drinking it, I considered staying awake and getting a jump-start on my driving for the evening.  I’ve found myself wasting more and more time on distractions recently before heading out to drive.  It’s silly too, because I actually enjoy myself the majority of the time I spend driving.  On a few recent days it’s taken a bad mood and improved it.  But getting to the point I’m ready to drive I’ve been so, so lazy. It’s easy to blame Ramadan and the extended effects of fasting, but I honestly feel like that’s a weak cop-out in my case.  Mind you this isn’t anything too new, I’ve always been relatively lazy by nature, especially when I’m overly comfortable.  But right now I shouldn’t be.  Needless to say, that day I went back to bed until my second alarm sounded a couple hours later.

My extended time out of a “real” job combined with my laziness has taken it’s toll on my plans.  Yes, I’ve got the freedom I wanted in spades, but as is always the case when things are out of balance, the price I pay is heavy.  My goals this year were to: 1. Sleep seven and a half hours of sleep per night more often than not.  2. Save enough money to visit my best friend in Japan.  And, 3. Save enough money to purchase a pro-level full-frame camera as to further my photography.  In all three, a little over half-way through the year, I have failed.

Delayed, but not forgotten!

Delayed, but not forgotten!

In fairness I had the savings for Japan ready for the right ticket, and had I purchased it and kept on as I was, It’s highly possible I could’ve worked out the camera before the end of the year.  But then I was put in a position to make a decision about my future and how I wanted to live my life, so I made the only choice I thought I could, and it cost me those goals.  For now.  Uber is paying the bills but I’ve been too relaxed about my diligence and thus my savings have been slowly dwindling to nothing.  Now, my efforts with Uber must be more focused if I am to maintain my life at it’s current level, meanwhile my job search should intensify so I can get myself back to the income I am used to and begin working on my goals and plans.

So the solution boils down to a word that has an undeservingly negative context: Discipline.  More specifically, self discipline.  Since we were children we’re taught to dislike this concept; discipline is what happens to you when you do something bad.  But that’s not actually what the concept is.  Discipline is an investment you are making now so that you can continue to develop and accomplish things through proper actions.  It is this accomplishment that ultimately makes us happy, wether it be professional, personal, mental or even sexual, when you feel like you’ve done something, and done it well you are naturally a happier person.  It is this very concept that allows people to maintain their balance properly and be both happy and productive (so long as you balance it out with appropriate rest.)   When you’re naturally inclined to be lazy like me, self-discipline is what keeps you from swinging too far to the rest side, thus diminishing your accomplishments as I have more recently.

"A healthy ego is nothing but a sense of self-worth and identity."

“A healthy ego is nothing but a sense of self-worth and identity.”

A lack of accomplishment has a major effect on your ego, and if not corrected can send you into a downward spiral of even less accomplishment and more negativity.  I’ve noticed for instance that I haven’t been nearly as social or proactive in any sort of dating recently because somewhere deep down I don’t feel like I have the means to properly “court” somebody – this is a direct result of a lack of accomplishment affecting my ego.  The answer, of course, is to be more self-disciplined, therefore increasing my productivity, reinforcing my (healthy) ego and ultimately giving me more access to the resources that allow me to operate how I’d like to.

It’s fine line, balancing this freedom to do what I want, when I want, with the structure I require to keep myself productive.  Since I’ve been paying attention to my own issues, I’ve already begun to make changes in my schedule and mentality – allowing more time for Uber at high volume times and pushing myself when I know I’m distracting myself or being overly lazy.  I’ve already began to see improvement as well and with Ramadan ending this week, whatever excuse I feel I might have will be gone.  My freedom allows me to customize my schedule, and that should make me more productive but that requires that I reprogram some of my lazier, more wasteful habits.  That’s much easier said than done, but if I can pull it off, I can probably at least still accomplish the seven and half hours of sleep goal while keeping the rest of the balance in check.
Stay tuned!

Forward Motion

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about today, I have a ton of ideas in my head but none of them are totally fleshed-out yet (that’s mostly “no pun intended”…)  I do have a concept in mind of explain how I tend to bond with people sexually (I know, y’all need a sex post soon…) but I want to think about that a bit more before I broadcast.  So instead I think I’ll give you a couple of “small” things that may or may not get bigger.  The lack of cohesion might not appeal to you all, but it’s my blog, so you get to deal. 🙂

Dream Girl:

The real one is out there... somewhere.

The real one is out there… somewhere.

I didn’t dream last night that I can remember, I got just under six hours of sleep which (I fairly recently learned) is consistently dreamless as far as I can tell.  I would imagine it has to do with when I wake up in regards to my sleep cycles, but regardless I tend to remember my dreams a lot more consistently at the seven and a half to eight hour mark.  Monday night I did indeed dream, but it was a sleep-deprived dream at only four and a half hours.  Normally when I dream, it’s lucid.  I’m aware I’m dreaming and reacting with that knowledge.  But this was one of the very rare ones; ultra detailed, specific and realistic.  I didn’t know I was dreaming.  Obviously the typical “dream fog” about how I had gotten there was in effect as I didn’t question it, but it got me regardless.  In this dream I was having a conversation with a girl I don’t really know (as in I know of her, and we’ve talked online and what-not, but have never met her in person…)  and we talking about “us” and confirming that we should be together.  It was a touching and kind of adorable situation that I’m not 100% comfortable describing because it was a but mushy.

What’s important about this though is that I had absolutely no reservations about this girl.  “It” was there and I was very, very ready to dedicate myself to her.  It reminded me of what it can feel like, what it should feel like.  It’s been a good fourteen years now since it felt like that, exactly right, and my subconscious still remembers it enough to recreate it.  Maybe that’s what fooled me, how easily we can be manipulated by the heart.  I woke up confused, disoriented and trying to figure out how I got to my bedroom after I had been spending time with her (sorry, no sex, this was a gushy dream, not a sexy one…)  For the first time in a long time, after a few seconds when I finally realized it was a dream, I was actually a little sad.  I thought about sending the girl a note telling her about this, but I don’t know her, at best I just know my idea of her based on limited discussion and social media.  Unfortunately, telling her something like this would likely just creep her out, and I couldn’t blame her for that.  She made an excellent dream girl regardless.

Unpause:

No.

No.

Every so often routine sets in and things just sort of freeze for a while.  While I understand it as a natural necessity of life and try to use it to my advantage, the truth is I find it very, very boring.  Me bored is bad.  Even though I have tons of things (like this…) to fill my days with, if I don’t feel like my life is in motion and things aren’t developing and growing around me, I tend to get very resigned and more likely to start reaching at things I probably shouldn’t.  Relaxing is a GREAT thing, and routine is beneficial when populated with good habits, but boredom with the state of your life is poison and needs to be fixed as soon as possible.

I’ve been in said routine for a while now.  Much of it was intentional as I had a bit to reconcile from the previous cycle to this one (probably not quite done with that… but more stable anyway.)  However, things are in motion again.  Spring is almost (literally) here and the world around me is beginning to shuffle and put things in motion that it’s been whispering about for some time.  In short, even if my life won’t dramatically change anytime soon, the state of my life and several factors around me have already begin to and will continue to.  All these prospects are the opposite of boring, and anticipating the shake-up is admittedly exciting for me.  It’s not that I crave chaos per-say, but I like renewal.  Change often sucks when you lose things, but the upside to that is that eventually new things begin to take shape and the potential they represent is exciting.

Fitting DMB Lyric. :)

Fitting DMB Lyric. 🙂

Is that vague / cryptic enough for you?  Well for instance, I have things to look forward to.  A week from now, I will once again be in Seattle for a week or so.  While I don’t have the exciting plans I had last time, after the show ends on Saturday, I will again see family, again eat far too many of my father’s hot wings and very likely find a few ways to entertain myself (though in all honesty I’ll also just be happy to relax and take in the Northwest again.)  Following that, show season is in full effect for Cybis until May, when “Dave Season” (Dave Matthews Band) begins with a concert in Atlanta on the thirtieth with some really great people.

So, in the absence of dream love, there may still be a few good reasons to peek outside of my cave.  I’ve been a little recluse on purpose, but the universe will only allow that for so long.  It is not my way to be idle and there are things to be done.

Philosophy of Moderation – Part 3: Sleep

So this year I made “goals” instead of “resolutions” because for some reason it’s gotten to the point that resolutions are synonymous with failure.  (I’m watching the population of my gym closely, it has already declined some since the year turned.)  Among my goals for this year was to make sleep a priority.  Not just any sleep, decent sleep, like several sleep cycles (which adds up to 7.5 hours with another 15 min added to wind down and actually fall asleep.)  Previously I had shot for six a night and often missed the mark, which really added up by the end of the week in terms of my energy level, mood and ability to stay awake in what are sometimes relatively boring meetings (which is an unfortunate necessity.)

Now I know some of you hard-core folk are out there doing what you do, pounding Monster energy drinks and sleeping three hours a night with the mantra of “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!!”

Well, if you’re doing that solely on principle, then fuck off.  You’re wrong.

I guess you won't sleep when you're... undead?

I guess you won’t sleep when you’re… undead?

I’m not going to go into the endless amount of science that says a good amount of sleep benefits you in nearly every way possible.  Nine out of ten doctors don’t do it for me either.  Doctors of what? For all we know they all have their PhD’s in English Composition (god knows we all know I don’t.. but I digress…)  What I WILL tell you is that I’ve been there, done that.  I’ve never taken hard drugs, but I’ve skimmed the surface by taking enough ephedrine and caffeine to keep me awake for three days straight until my body was literally trying to shut itself down while I was standing up at work.  I continue to use obscene amounts of coffee to make up for the hours lost hooking up on a work night, or simply playing an MMO until my eyes threatened to bleed and the sun was rising.  But just because we’re badass and can do that, doesn’t mean we should do that.  It comes down to quality of life and when it comes to living, if you believe quantity is more important than quality, I think you’re doing it wrong.

Now let’s back up a little and clarify something.  I know life happens.  I know sometimes you have to do what you have to do by working several jobs, overnight, military or caring for a newborn that doesn’t give a rat’s ass that you have to go to work tomorrow.  All those are situational life happenings that are important and can’t be helped.  I would never condemn somebody that is sacrificing for the sake of promoting themselves or those close them.  That’s life, shit happens, we do our best.  I get that.  I’m talking about those (like me) who intentionally and through lack of discipline put themselves in a position to lose what is essentially as important to your health and longevity as breathing, eating or drinking water.  Just like those things, if you don’t sleep for a certain amount of time, you’ll actually die.  

Handy infographic.

Handy infographic.

When you get less sleep over time, you are damaging yourself.   Most importantly, you are actually damaging your brain. It literally kills brain cells.  The good news is your brain can heal itself to some degree, the bad news is with prolonged regular damage, there’s gonna be some lasting effects.  That’s assuming you don’t kill yourself (like I almost did) by falling asleep on the road or doing something else equally stupid.  And the icing on the cake (all of this was recently confirmed): premature aging (especially skin), stupidity (literally), decreased sex drive and (that’s right) weight gain.   Add that to the overall dramatically increased chance of death (especially through cardiovascular issues) and all of a sudden those couple extra hours of MMO don’t seem so life-changing.  I love food, video games, women, sex, alcohol and what have you, and there’s nothing with losing a couple hours form time to time to partake in all these awesome things life has to offer.  Life is about experience, so live it!  But for the love of god when it’s just another night in your everyday life, needlessly throwing away your body’s ability to fix itself from all the awesome damaging experiences is just plain stupid.  Don’t be stupid, too many humans already are.

sleeping_baby_kitten

Every other animal in the world understands. Also.. baby kitten.

So then what did this goal do for me thus far?  Well, the other day I was in a six hour meeting at work to go over systems and processes and otherwise boring shit that’s essential but not boobs and explosions.  You know what?  I had a pretty good time.  Since I was well rested, I was not only not fighting dozing (which honestly sucks because you know you’re missing everything..), but I was witty enough to banter about what we were talking about and make it more fun.  Yep, sleeping made work more fun.  On top of that, my morning coffee works much better, because instead of compensating, it’s just boosting.  When it wore off, I didn’t crash, I was good.  Here’s the kicker though and it’s something I hadn’t thought about: dreams.  See before I would occasionally have a dream or two, but most times I just assumed I forgot them when I woke up.  Now I think that I just wasn’t having them.  My brain just wasn’t making it to whatever process that caused them.  Now granted I’ve been having more “Walking Dead” style dreams than anything else (hurry back!!) But even that isn’t really unpleasant because my brain has dug up all kinds of random crap I haven’t even thought about in years and it’s pretty entertaining.  I dream literally every night.  Other than reoccurring nightmares, I think most people would choose to dream rather than not… ever.   Beyond all that, I’m generally more level-headed and patient despite going through a fairly strange and isolated time in my life, so I would say this particular goal has especially good timing.  Oh, and getting enough sleep regularly also has the benefit of making it much  easier to get through days you don’t happen to get enough sleep because you’re busy being a rock star.

Having a rockstar night every night has killed or damaged many a rock star.  So, like all things, be a rockstar (or MMO badass) in moderation and get some sleep!!