November Daily Blog 29: problem solving and the subconscious

I don’t suffer from insomnia.  I gave up on having ‘a good 8 hours sleep’ very many years ago.  Instead I stay up until I’m tired and then go to bed with the result that I drop off instantly.   I generally wake up once during the night and then am welcomed back instantly by Morpheus until my alarm goes off at 07.20 to give me one dab at the snooze button before I get up at 07.30.

Since I’ve been getting into an empty bed the time I head there has got later, now never before 01.00 and sometimes as late as 03.00.  I seem to manage OK on that variable amount of sleep.

I am rarely aware of dreaming.  I know I do dream because that’s how the human brain works but unless you wake up in REM sleep, in effect while you are dreaming, you aren’t aware of doing so.

The brain goes through a period of considerable subconscious activity during sleep while it sorts itself out together with any problems fed into it.  Sometimes I sleep with a pad and pen on the bedside table as I can wake up in the night having worked out a problem and make notes to remind me of the solution in the morning.  Having scribbled the solution I go straight back to sleep again.

But there are paradoxes.  Good as the brain is at sorting out problems via the subconscious it occasionally does strange things in the middle of the night.  Very occasionally I wake up in the small hours with a pain in some part of my body which I was scarcely if at all aware of when awake. Badly-sprained-ankle-pain or barely-able-to-move-lumbago-pain.  Sometimes I limp to the loo, thinking that the pain is so bad I will need to take it to the hospital in the morning but by the time I wake up at 07.20 it has gone without trace.

Occasionally I wake up very troubled, not having solved a problem but having found or accentuated one.  Last night was a case in point. At some unearthly hour I woke up deeply troubled about how I would get to Gatwick Airport when I fly it Canada in January.  The flight is at 09.00 so I need to be at the airport by 06.00.  I plan to travel by express bus but at what time?  Do I travel the evening before and stay in a hotel? Or do I travel overnight and try to sleep on the bus?  What will be the best value for money and what will be most conducive to making the more than 12 hours trapped on a bus and a plane most bearable?  I will have a Big Bag plus a ski bag plus a boot bag all of which Air Transat take at no extra charge but will the bus company charge?  Crazy, almost trivial concerns yet wildly exaggerated and troubling in the middle of the night.

Rather than Morpheus welcoming me back instantly as is nearly always the case, I laid awake for at least half an hour (I know because I tossed and turned looking at the clock) unable to clear or relax my mind.

Why?  I know the issue has to be sorted out but 2 months travelling around Greece by bus in the summer made me more relaxed about the whole process and I have given it no more than the most cursory of attention so far.  It certainly hasn’t been on my mind and because it hasn’t been on my (conscious) mind it hasn’t been presented to my subconscious as a problem to solve.  So why is my subconscious doing this to me?  Not so much making a drama out of a crisis but creating the crisis in the first place.

I have no idea.  But there must be a reason in there somewhere. No explanations, just a recognition that despite all the scanning, hypothesising and psychoanalysing the workings of the human mind are still beyond human comprehension.

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