A cold, bitter rain is falling in Seattle this morning, not the misty, spitting kind we often get in the Pacific Northwest in the middle of winter, but the big-droplet, drenching sort, rain that soaks your clothes, makes you shiver, and causes your kids to catch cold.
The weather reflects our collective mood in Seattle today, as we struggle to process what happened at the very end of last night’s Superbowl XLIX, in which the Seattle Seahawks battled the New England Patriots for the NFL championship and the Lombardi trophy. In the final seconds of the final quarter, with the Seahawks in possession of the ball, second down and goal, mere feet from the Patriots’ end zone, Quarterback Russell Wilson threw the football instead of giving it to a running back (i.e., “Beastmode” Marshawn Lynch) for a rushing play. As most everyone knows now, that final play didn’t go very well, resulting in a Patriots interception that sealed the win for Brady and Co. and hammered the final nail in the coffin for our Seahawks.
I am doing my best not to turn this post into a commentary about that play, Coach Pete Carroll’s decision-making, and the resulting outcome of the game. But I will share here that I experienced some, shall we say, emotional intensities in response to Carroll’s authorization to throw that ball, something that surely would have been lauded as a “brilliant play” and a “gutsy move” had it resulted in a touchdown. Those intense emotions led to . . . you guessed it . . . some sleep-maintenance insomnia last night. I woke up at 3:16 a.m. and it took a while for me to fall back to sleep. I’m not alone in this misery. I’m sure there were a lot of people awake last night throughout the Puget Sound area, and not because of celebrating. Earlier this morning some colleagues and I were talking about the game in our doctors’ lounge, and my hand surgeon friend told me he had awakened at 3:30 himself! I strongly suspect Carroll has a number of sleepless nights ahead of him as well.
People tend to awaken in the middle of the night in the setting of intense emotions, particularly negative or traumatic ones. This phenomenon is called early morning awakening. Early morning awakening is part of the human condition: we all experience emotional peaks and valleys as we move through life, and most everyone has had an occasion or two to awaken in response to the peaks and valleys. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The driver of the problem (in my case, that crazy throw) is the first thing you think about when you abruptly awaken, almost as if you had been thinking about it somehow prior to your awakening, and you turn the thing over in your head, ruminating about what went wrong, setting up all kinds of alternative scenarios, going through the “what if’s,” . . . right? All of those thoughts and emotions have a stimulating effect, which tends to prolong awake time once aroused from sleep.
What I’m describing is a reactionary or situational form of insomnia which, again, in many respects is simply a result of human nature. The good news is that in many or most cases, this temporary problem eventually (and usually quickly) fades and resolves as the intensity of whatever it is that you’re ruminating over fades (for us Seahawks fans, the sooner last night’s game is pushed toward the back of the vault of football history the better). However, in some cases, particularly for those with suboptimal baseline sleep habits (poor sleep hygiene), this insomnia can snowball into something more substantial and chronic, called psychophysiologic insomnia, which may benefit from medical attention if severe, sustained, or problematic enough.
I’m sure the intensity of the moment will start fading shortly for me as I delve into this week’s work, but this morning I admit I’m a little bleary-eyed and upset, which is why I was in the doctors’ lounge getting some coffee and commiserating about our loss. Next year should be a great one. Watch out for the Seahawks in 2015-16!