In my hopeful search for common ground between the political and cultural forces of the far right and the far left, I have pretty much come up empty.
Until now. After much consideration and not that much scientific research (since so many people don’t believe in it anyway), I realize that what many of us have in common is sleeplessness. I generally don’t ask friends how they sleep, but more and more often, someone mentions that their sleep has changed during and post-pandemic, if we even are “post,” which is part of the problem.
I imagine that folks on the right are up at night worrying about the big money the Dems want to spend. Some tell me they think that, if the Build Back Better bills pass, the money will be mismanaged or disappear into a maze of inefficient government programs. I hear fears that undeserving people will get a “free ride” and others will have to pay their tab. They think about President Biden’s age and wonder if he can lead us in the world. Who will pay for it all? they ask.
Some Republicans resist vaccine mandates and mask mandates, believing their civil liberties are being violated. They stay up at night worrying about what their kids are being taught in school. Yeah, it’s enough to keep you tossing and turning.
I know what folk on the left are thinking, because that’s where I stand, although I am losing patience with the far left and finding myself drifting to the center. No wonder we can’t sleep: We’re all floating.
I worry that resistance to Covid vaccine mandates will perpetuate a chronic pandemic, unleashing unknowable variants. I think the Dems, addicted to infighting, will lose a one-time opportunity to pass legislation this session that would truly help people with child care and elder care and medical coverage. Here is the chance to repair roads and bridges and outdated schools. The Dems have failed miserably in communicating the good stuff in these bills, while perseverating publicly on everything that will be left out of a compromise package. I so believe in what they’re doing, but their message isn’t resonating with voters.
One commentator advised the Dems to stop giving us the detailed recipe for what you’re baking and let us taste the brownies!
The other stuff I worry about is, oh, basic things like no one can agree on facts or the truth or whether or not John F. Kennedy Jr. is really dead or when the last election will be overthrown. We haven’t even touched on gender rights and racial equality and climate change, and why anti-Semitism is surging across America.
Last night I lay awake thinking about the fact that hundreds of QAnon followers gathered in Dallas last week to greet JFK Jr., who has been dead since 1999. They believed that he would appear and help Donald Trump become president again. How can you sleep when this kind of aberrational thinking is gaining traction?
So, can we agree that wherever we sit on the political and cultural spectrum, our worries are keeping us up at night?
In the world of sleep science, five major disorders are recognized: insomnia, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, narcolepsy and REM sleep disorder. I am describing something new that blossomed with the pandemic and now feels as chronic as the uncertainty with which we live.
Back in 2020, once I realized that Covid-19 would not be a two- or three-week sprint, my sleep changed. I would fall asleep because I was emotionally exhausted and then I would pop awake, and this would go on for hours. When I woke in the morning, my heart would be racing.
I’ve learned some breathing techniques and other ways to talk myself down and relax. But I don’t sleep as peacefully as I once did. When I pop awake these days, I read a boring science article or an underwhelming book. No middle-of-the-night crosswords, bridge, Words With Friends or checking out the morning newspapers. Eventually, I sleep.
So, for my friends worried about Biden and his programs, and my friends worried about the insurrection of Jan. 6 and the resurrection of a former president, watch your alcohol, caffeine and nicotine intake in the evening, get into a regular bedtime routine, exercise during the day, and if you pop awake, read or do some other quiet activity until you feel sleepy.
See a doctor if symptoms persist, or if you think you saw John Junior on the grassy knoll last week.
Copyright 2021 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at email@example.com.