As far back as I can remember, I have had this tendency to wake up in the middle of the night, usually between 1-4 AM.
Even if I were to go to bed and sleep at 1 AM, I’d still find myself awake at 4 AM or so.
I’ve pondered over the various reasons for this – on this blog and elsewhere – but recently, I’ve truly come to accept this about my sleep schedule. I used to think that my tendency to routinely awaken during the chime hours was something that I needed to overcome. As a result, I’ve employed strategies ranging from medication to behavior modifications that involve everything from meditation to putting constraints on food/water intake to decreasing distractions from light or electronics or whatever…and nothing seemed to change.
So as you might imagine, I’ve read much about this, and often that reading occurs at times such as -you guessed it- 4 AM.
I came across this article recently.
While there wasn’t a lot of information that I hadn’t come across before concerning how modern technological advances have affected human beings on a biological and psychological level, I was struck especially by this portion where Clark Strand discusses ‘inner light’:
“In the absence of artificial illumination, the human mind naturally begins to quiet down a couple of hours after dusk, and then remains quiet and at peace throughout the dark hours of the night. After about four hours, through some mysterious trick of mammalian biology, a light goes on inside our heads and we wake for about two hours. But it isn’t an artificial light, or even an outward light. It’s an inner light, softer than a candle. It doesn’t come on strong or dominate our consciousness the way a light bulb does. It doesn’t even require us to be fully conscious or awake. It’s gentler and more receptive than that. It’s inviting, a little like that tiny white spot in the dark “feminine” half of the Yin-Yang symbol.
The Song of Songs describes that state of mind with the words, “I sleep, but my heart is awake.” This isn’t a metaphor: It’s an actual state of mind that anyone can reclaim just by turning out the lights. It’s part of our biological and spiritual heritage. It’s encoded in our genes.
Why experience “the Hour of the Wolf,” when you can experience “the Hour of God”? That is the ultimate question for our light-saturated culture of insomnia. Of course, I’m not speaking of God in religious terms when I use that phrase. The hour I am talking about is much, much older than religion. I believe— and Thomas Wehr reached the same conclusion—that this is the state of mind that all religions in the world are attempting to get back to today.”
Strand asserts that what seems to be an obstacle (the tendency to awaken in the middle of the night) is perhaps an adaption to how the presence of artificial light has affected how humans perceive the length of a day. Therefore I am heartened to consider that I am in good company with the rest of society, for once.
In that sense, what I thought was insomnia is just a modern adaption to human circadian rhythms.
I intend to pick up Strand’s book, Waking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age.