I started watching the CBS series “The Mentalist” on a flight from Europe last week, and found that I like it a lot. I won’t go into any great detail about the premise, but in a way the show is great publicity for rational thinking and behavior. The main character is so good at reading human behavior that he was able in a previous job to become famous for being a psychic. In the show however, he is in a post blatant deception career with the police, helping them solve cases. He is not a psychic, but just very observant. This in itself is nice to see, when so much superstition is in essence promoted on TV. Still, I was most struck by another recurring event in “The Mentalist”. The hero is an insomniac. Completely unable to sleep at night, (apparently because he is haunted over the death of his wife, but that is not important to this blog) and so stays up drinking Coca-Cola, and doing his most creative work at solving homicide cases. I often can’t sleep, and love the idea that those hours between midnight and 7 can be spent doing important work, but I have never found this to be true. I can’t really focus, and often just watch youtube videos, and old episodes of “Doctor Who”. I haven’t seen all of the episodes of “The Mentalist”, so I am not sure if he ever took sleeping pills, but I do take them from time to time, and have found that my nighttime experience is completely different. The type of sleeping pill I take is Ambien, which I was prescribed a year or so ago. Normally I just take it and go to bed, but there has been the occasion when I have not fallen asleep straight away, and the strangeness irony occurs. I am more tired and ready to sleep than ever, but I become inspired to work. I am more creative. This creativity doesn’t last long, because I do fall asleep, but I always find this frustrating. An even more interesting thing about this is that a common side effect of Ambien is a mild form of amnesia. I have found this to be true. So not only I am having what I think are good ideas, which I can’t complete because I am too tire, but I also forget what the ideas were the next morning.
Several months after I started taking Ambien I read a study about a man who was in a vegetative state for 4 years. He only moaned, and not in a way that was expressing himself at all. His mother, wanting him, and herself to rest, gave him an Ambien, and to everyone’s surprise, he did not fall to sleep, but instead came out of the comma. He is still using Ambien as therapy to stay conscious.
So I wonder if late night productivity can be found somewhere between Coca-Cola and Ambien, or if it is best just to get some sleep and work well before night comes.