I wish that I could! My problem for the past several years is awakening around 2 a.m. then struggling to fall back asleep again.This bothered me enough to ask my family physician about a remedy. He offered a plausible non-medicinal solution which I tried but was unsuccessful. While a lay awake waiting to fall asleep I fretted and worried that I would be tired the next day, which I think prolonged wakefulness.
It was time to investigate the science of sleep. Our local public library offered 384 books on the subject of sleep. Sleep issues have become so frequent today that The Post-Journal on May 14 offered, "Tips to have a better sleep" in the "WCA Health Talk." The article explained that a healthy sound sleep is vitally important to promote alertness, creativity, stamina and a good mood. Lack of sleep or poor sleep can lead to chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity, depression, weakening of the immune system resulting in infections and emotional distress.
An article in the Wall Street Journal in August 2012 by David Randall described a sleep pattern followed by human beings until the invention of the bright electric light over 100 years ago. Since there were more hours in the night than men and women needed to sleep, it was discovered man went to sleep for four hours shortly after sunset then awakened for a couple of hours to talk, stoke the fire, chase animals away and have sex. They then went back for a second sleep until the sun rose. David Randall's book, "Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep," describes an experiment by the psychiatrist, Thomas Wehr, who in the 1990s demonstrated interrupted sleep by human subjects exposed to complete darkness 14 hours a day for one month.
During the first two weeks the subjects slept 8-10 hours catching up on a chronic sleep debt. Unexpectedly, during the last two weeks of the experiment, each subject slept around four hours then woke up for one to two hours followed by another four hour sleep. They reverted to the natural segmented sleep of prehistoric man. So in my mind I questioned whether my middle of the night wakefulness was just reverting to the natural sleep pattern.
Further reading made me realize my problem likely had a simpler, less historic explanation. William DeMent, a world renowned sleep authority, and his co-author, Christopher Vaughan in their book, "The Promise of Sleep" (1999) noted that during aging "sleep becomes lighter and more fragmented" while falling asleep and staying asleep are more of a chore which is mundane, final and true. Knowing wakefulness is due to aging is a relief for me because it is normal. Fretting and worrying are a wasted effort. Now I can accept wakefulness, get up to sit in a chair or rest in bed pondering issues like how to organize my next newspaper article or what should I say during my upcoming father of the bride speech and then fall asleep. One brother-in-law effectively treats his wakefulness by listening to after midnight radio talk shows.
Sleep experts point out that during nighttime wakefulness, bright light should be avoided. Light striking the eye stimulates the body to release hormones that decrease the sleep drive. At the same time, absence of light stimulates release of the hormone melatonin, in the evening which promotes sleep. The hours of daylight set our the biologic clock which determines the onset of fatigue in the evening and wakefulness soon after sunrise. This is why if one consistently gets a good eight hour's sleep starting at 10 p.m. and waking at 6 a.m. then one night goes to bed at 12 a.m. will still wake up at 6 a.m. directed by their biologic clock.
Now when I experience middle of the night wakefulness and get out of bed to sit downstairs, if my wife asks me, "Where are you going?" I will tell her factiously, "I am going to put some wood on the fire and chase the predator animals away."