Since the Old Testament (Book II), nocturnal activities were described in full detail to achieve religious ecstasy. Anthropological science, called Hagiography, discovered that people imitated behavior of biblical personalities. Jesus Christ did not sleep for 40 days and Christianity is especially known for nocturnal, sleepless rituals. St. Symeon created a pillar so small in diameter that he could only stand on it. He spent all night on his feet praying, describing the ecstasy of talking to God. Religious persons of all cultures are known not to sleep for weeks during prayer to achieve trances, joy and peace.
The history of art and science contain many stories of creativity during sleepless nights. The Mona Lisa was created during a sleepless night of Leonardo Da Vinci. Van Gogh and Michelangelo, Alexander Dumas, Prokofiev and Mendeleev made their creations during the night, often at manic paces.
Sleepless nights were also used for nefarious purposes. Sleep deprivation is an essential component of many brainwashing groups. From David Koresh to Adolf Hitler, long nocturnal rituals were the main techniques for mind control. It is not accidental that Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin worked mainly at night and had their most important meetings predominantly during the late night hours. These times were considered optimal for compliance with some very unscrupulous ideas.
Only in recent years have sleep researchers uncovered the secrets of what actually happens during sleep loss. The temperature of the body and the heart rate increase giving feelings of something boiling inside the body. The senses become sharp and the person sees illusions and hallucinations. The mood is elevated and overly optimistic. The thinking becomes focused and grandiose. The sense of time and self-changes is a time of unusual ideas, revelations, and profound emotional turbulence.
The positive or negative effect of those profound changes depends on the attitude toward loss of sleep. If the person is highly motivated to finish a project, work or meet an important person, sleep loss would lead to an excited mood, increased energy, problem-solving thinking, and goal-oriented behavior. If you are not motivated or are indifferent toward upcoming sleepless nights, sleep deprivation will cause fatigue, tachycardia (faster heart rate), irritability, loss of sense of humor, mechanical behavior, and an indifferent attitude.
When a person has a highly negative attitude toward sleepless nights (like during sickness) the body will feel feverish, the mood becomes irritable, angry and depressed. Thoughts become disassociated, behavior becomes aggressive and the tendency to use calming or stimulating drugs increases.
Here are a few tips to help us buffer negative effects and increase positive results from sleep deprivation:
– If you predict a sleepless night, set your mind to a positive attitude. Think of sleep loss as training for resilience. Make plans on what to do during this time.
– If you already have sleepless nights, don’t feel sorry for yourself. Temporary insomnia usually doesn’t cause serious trouble. The first half of the next day you might have more energy and slow down by evening. Plan accordingly. Don’t let yourself be too irritable..
– If you have chronic medical problems, temporary loss of sleep, especially in the morning, might initiate critical changes for recovery. Set your mind on healing.
– Remember that after the night, a new day will come, the sun will rise as well as new opportunities in life. Sleepless nights might be a blessing.
Note: For all cases of sleep loss, consult your doctor.
By Alexander Golbin, M.D.