When being human sucks

Some people say that when they switched to a healthier lifestyle they stopped catching colds. It doesn't work for me. In fact, it seems that no matter how I change my diet, exercise and sleep habits, I still catch a cold pretty much whenever the seasons change. And it is at those times that I most hate being human.

Another common saying is that you really need to sleep well to heal quickly from a cold. Why is it then that our bodies make it so hard to sleep after catching a cold? Nasal congestion, phlegm and general physical discomfort might not be very good ideas if your goal is to sleep more. And what's the deal with sleep anyway? How come we still don't know how to induce and maintain sleep in 2012?

A friend suggested that I try sleeping pills. This sounded like a good solution – if I should just do it for 2-3 days to get over the cold quickly, I shouldn't worry about tolerance and habit formation. Then I read about anticholinergics and cognitive impairment and realized that it's probably better to sleep like crap for a few days and suffer from a terrible cold than to risk permanent brain damage. And if you think it's only dangerous if you take it often and among the elderly, I will ask you what makes you think it doesn't cause mild but permanent damage among young people too, but we are sufficiently buffered (as always) to not see the damage for a while? I think it makes sense to be wary of anything which has documented negative effects.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a good solution for the sleep problem. Melatonin helps a little bit when I take it in the early evening, but doesn't help me fall back to sleep if I wake up after 3-5 hours of sleep. Sleeping pills kill your brain and the sleep you get isn't restorative. Valerian seems as bad as many drugs, and not as effective. Chamomile seems to me as effective as just hot water.

The alternative approach is simply to get up and get some useful work done, thinking that my schedule is sufficiently flexible that if I need the sleep, I will just go to sleep during the day. Well, even if that were true about my schedule, it just doesn't work that way. I get somewhat tired, don't want to do any physical activity, I get depressed and life loses meaning, but I still can't fall asleep during the day.

How difficult can it be to figure out what the brain normally does to switch to sleep mode and find a gentle way to induce that?

Quick difficult, it seems.


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