Many of you are plagued by Pandemic Traumatic Stress Disorder. You’re not alone. Mine takes the form of frequent fits of classic insomnia. Nothing has really worked to ease the pressure. Not even this. My insomnia takes various forms, from long exhausting delays in falling asleep to totally sleepless nights when the faucet of my mind floods the brain with glutinous thoughts and feelings exacerbated by recollected peeves, disappointments and random feelings of remorse. These are the worst of times and the worser of times.
After listening to Matthew Walker, director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, on Fresh Air, I learned that every time I miss sleep, I lose that time at the end of my life, which would make anyone nutso.
I also learned that the brain has to be trained to sleep. An interesting concept. The bed, the sanctum. The mind must know that it is for sleeping, not watching TV. Napping during the day or early evening does not replenish what is lost at night. Sometimes it’s hard not to drift off when exhausted, but humans can never cash in on missed sleep—there is no such thing as making it up. Whatever is gone is gone forever. Different people do have different Circadian rhythms, but those rhythms are not fungible.
COVID confinement severely altered my cognitive patterns. I’ve always been an early riser, but I’ve also always had at least seven hours of REM sleep. So I changed certain habits: No screens of any kind after 9 p.m.; read right before bedtime; follow fixed routines. I read for two hours every night and absorb 3 mg of melatonin an hour before bed. And for good measure, I do a smidge of meditation before hitting the pillow.
Anyway, after giving Dr. Walker’s method a try, I found that after a few days it tentatively worked. I fell into a deep sleep within 15 minutes and even have had unmemorable dreams—but at least they were dreams, which is a good sign. Then, the other night, I had nightmare: I dreamed about MORLOCKS.
Ever since I first saw the film based on H.G. Wells’ classic The Time Machine, I’ve worried about Morlocks—the Trump-orange-haired fiends that inhabit the deep state of the year 802701. Wells advanced his social and political ideas in this narrative through a nameless time traveler who is hurtled into the future by his elaborate ivory, crystal and brass machine. The world he finds is peopled by two races: the decadent Eloi, useless and dependent on food, clothing and shelter provided by the burly green and orange subterranean Morlocks, who prey on them for nourishment. The two races symbolize Wells’ vision of the eventual result of oligarchic capitalism, or what he called “a neurasthenic leisure class” that would be raised and eventually devoured by the deplorable proletariat.
Well, I happen to be reading The Time Machine to ease myself to sleep. Wrong choice. The one night (in what has turned into a string of deep-sleep nights) that I actually had a REM sleep/dream, it was a Morlock festival. Moral: Don’t let COVID or the 2022 elections get you down.