Like any other responsible adult, I have lost my fair share of sleep due to stress or worry. I may have tossed and turned well before adulthood, but the point of this article is not to whine about my droopy eyelids and dark circles. An effective method of putting myself to sleep developed out of a particularly stressful time in my life. I managed to slip into an unusually long “funk” after college graduation. Post-vacation blues mixed with unemployment, debt, self-doubt and family trouble added up to a freakishly uncharacteristic gloominess. I replaced sleep with video games, job applications, partying and exercise. Distractions only kept me feeling awake for so long. I would get tired and try to sleep, but stare off while my brain flickered in and out of different scenarios that ranged from hopeful to terrifying. This is when I came up with my delightfully nerdy brain tranquilizer.
All of the situations and scenarios that kept my mind active seemed to be centered on my losing control of different aspects of my life. I was either afraid of or excited by all of the different possibilities. So I decided to start imagining situations that weren’t possible. That way I wouldn’t be afraid of them. I needed to narrow my focus to slow down my thinking and stop it from ping-ponging around in my head. My solution was nerdtastic. I began to imagine that I had one superpower and a specific goal to reach using the ability. It always started with a question like “If I could fly, how would I use it to make money.”
I would choose a different combination of power and goal each night. Sometimes I would even make up something new, like the ability to see from the perspective of any set of eyes on command with the goal of helping the government fight organized crime. The scenarios could be as specific or general as I wanted and my imagination would always find some path to follow to create a story. My focus was always on the next step of the adventure. Expressing my creativity, even if just to myself, made me comfortable and content.
I thought up tales of using time-travel to go back and pick the winning lottery numbers. I imagined being able to commute by way of teleportation. One scenario had me becoming a movie star because of my ability to fly. Studios could save a fortune on special effects. Becoming a successful magician thanks to my telepathy and telekinesis or earning countless commendations as a detective because I could read suspects minds were a few others. There is an enormous number of impossibilities to imagine and some need to be revisited. I have a few favorites that I repeat, but change one detail or decision in the story.
I am happy to say that I quickly grew out of the lull that spawned this tactic. I don’t lose much sleep anymore, but there are nights when my head is rattling. I still use my nerdy brain tranquilizer to ensure I get to sleep quickly. If I can make myself focus on creating a vivid, detailed scenario, I can calm my mind enough to fall asleep through the noise of the city and the stresses of adulthood. So next time you are lying awake, stressing over how unprepared you are for the upcoming rooster’s crow, imagine being able to pause time and sleep as long as you want.