Sunday, November 25, 2012

Brain Train -- Woo!

It's a pun.  I'll explain in a moment.

We serious insomniacs -- the no messin' around totally committed kind -- know life as days of unpredictable exhaustion and nights as endless battles. As we mature we come to accept that well-meaning non-insomniac friends will inevitably suggest earplugs, meds, naps, foods, removing foods, no coffee, coffee, no chocolate, chocolate, sleep studies, and the ever-popular "if you're tired, why don't you just sleep?".

binaural beats require stereo headphones
binaural beats require stereo
We know things, we insomniacs: we know we can't win, we can't quit, and we can't break even. We dread the night.

But we can't give up the dream that some day, when tired, we could just, you know, sleep.

So when I find something that helps, even a little, it's cause for real celebration.

A month ago I tried binaural beats again. I dove into this odd little sound-hack, and downloaded a handful of apps, most of them free. I started building my own.

The idea is this: you've got tones at different frequencies in each ear and the delta between them is a "beat" that correlates to specific brain waves. So, goes the theory, if you start with a normal wakeful beat frequency of, say 30hz, and you move that down to, say 3hz, your brain goes from beta to theta, and you go to sleep. This transition is called "entrainment." (There's your pun. Brain. Train. Woo.)

I didn't expect it to work. I tried it years ago and it hadn't really clicked.  We insomniacs get cynical. But we are also persistent -- we'll try anything once. Or twice, or even three times. Just in case.

It worked.

It's been a month or so, and I'm sitting on top of some seriously improved sleep. It's hard to explain to my more normal friends how exceptionally cool this is. How amazing it is to just lie down and sleep.


Or win, as the kids say.