I mentioned the other day that I’ve been sick recently, and that part of being sick involved a fever. I haven’t had a fever in a very long time – actually, hang on, I should say that I haven’t felt a fever for a very long time. I don’t actually know if I’ve had one because I don’t own a thermometer, because I’m an adult without children and this is still perfectly acceptable.
But anyway. I’ve been sick before, sometimes severely, but I hadn’t felt a fever for probably over ten years. Then I felt one this past week, which happened to be the hottest week of the year, which happened to make doing anything feel impossible. Can’t sleep. Can’t cook. Can’t move. Can’t wear real pants. Can’t even think straight, because not only was it too warm to be comfortable in my house, but the rising temperature in my body made me feel like my brain was cooking in my skull and as metal as that sounds, I did not actually enjoy it.
The not sleeping was the worst part, though. What you need to understand is that I am very into sleep. I don’t sleep too much (I average about 6 hours a night) and, unlike some comments I’ve received from friends, it’s not that I’d rather sleep than stay out until 1am on a school night (wait, yes, that is exactly what I’d rather do), but I’m serious about sleep. I know exactly how much I need and at what times to feel normal, and if I don’t get that or if I miss the window (and can’t recover it with a nap or something), I start to feel like I’m losing my mind. Insomnia isn’t a manic state in which a person is incredibly productive because they’re not sleeping; insomnia is a fucking misery because you’re so fucking tired and want nothing more than to sleep but your body won’t fucking let you.
I have a handful of tricks I use to help me sleep. White noise, like with a fan, is essential. Not keeping a TV in the bedroom and limiting my phone use in bed is another key factor. Keeping an arsenal of dryly-written books by my bedside is another, because by now all it takes is the specific rhythm of certain authors’ styles and I feel sleepy. Another trick – one that I hesitated using for so long because I heard it was habit-forming but my god does it work – is watching ASMR videos.
I thought I’d written about this before but a search tells me I haven’t, but I am a person who experiences ASMR – that is, autonomous sensory meridian response. Very, very simply, ASMR is “the tingles” you experience, usually from the top of your head downwards, when something is deeply pleasurable or calming to you. It’s not sexual, it’s not a medical thing, and the term itself wasn’t around until like 2010 and even then it was introduced on fucking Facebook. But the sensation has always been there for me; I think I can trace it back to being read to and having my hair repeatedly tucked behind my ear when I was maybe 2 years old, and it having a name is just…nice, I guess.
Mental Floss recently published a thing about how Bob Ross has become a sort of ASMR celebrity (instead of just a really great kickass PBS celebrity, I guess) and in it, the writer described how many professionals link ASMR to flow states, synesthesia, and musical frisson. Which was kind of even better than learning that ASMR had a name, because when I first heard of synesthesia years ago, I kind of hugged myself a little because I finally had a name for the background pictures I’d see in my head for (seemingly) unrelated words or smells or whatever. And AGAIN, none of this means I’m nuts. It’s just a weird association thing in my brain, I guess, and it doesn’t stop me from living or working or doing stuff. If anything, it’s a brain bonus. That, um, I didn’t share with anyone until it and ASMR had names. Because I was afraid it would sound like lunacy.
I’ve never tried watching a Bob Ross video to get to sleep. Yet. I’m not sure that I would, though, since my memories of Bob Ross are watching The Joy of Painting while sitting on scratchy brown shag carpet in my grandparents’ house because they were watching me that summer and it was too hot to go outside for any length of time. The videos I watch are almost exclusive whispering and hair- and face-touching videos, which, yeah, weird if you don’t experience ASMR, but fucking magical for getting to sleep in under two restless hours.
Possibly habit-forming. But at this point, who even cares.