Pathways to Sleep I: An Introduction
At the time, my interest in the broader issue regarding the nature and purpose of dreams was not increased. I left interest in sleep to our colleagues in the biological sciences and to Russian scientists, in particular, who were apparently more interested in stages of sleep that were physically rejuvenating than in the more ephemeral topic of dreams and the stages of sleep when dreams were likely to occur.
We can now advance my personal history more than fifty years. I am conducting a program many miles away from Eugene Oregon. I am in Bali (located in the country of Indonesia). It is a beautiful—almost magical—region of the world. However, Bali is also prone to earthquakes. One of these geographic calamities hit while I was staying at a quite vulnerable villa in Bali. And more earthquakes (of high magnitude) were anticipated.
At this time, I was taking a sleep-enhancing drug called Ambien (generic name is Zolpidem). Having done a large amount of foreign travel for many years, I had received a prescription for Ambien that was to be taken occasionally when I was experiencing jet lag somewhere in the world. Like many users of Ambien (and related drugs), I had become addicted – now taking this drug every night (not just when I was traveling). I suddenly had to make a decision, while anticipating another earthquake. Do I take Ambien this evening and risk being drugged when the earthquake hits or do I refrain from taking this drug in preparation for the earthquake?
I chose to refrain from taking Ambien for the first time in more than a decade. I was going “cold turkey” – which you are never supposed to do (better to slowly wean yourself from this addictive drug). However, I had no choice. Cold turkey it was. These were not very easy days for me while remaining in Bali. Obviously, I found it very hard to sleep and my body was not happy about this withdrawal and let me know in many different ways. Yet, I survived this withdrawal and am very thankful to my body for coping with this profound biological change. Like members of AA, I can now say that I have been drug-free (of Ambien) for more than a year and are doing a good (though not great) job of falling to sleep and staying asleep.
After more than fifty years, I finally became interested in the psychology and biology of sleep with this experience of confronting withdrawal from a sleep-inducing drug, Suddenly, I was not only interested in dreams (about which I am also now writing several essays and a book), but also in sleep. I began to read about sleep and began to ask my friends and colleagues about their own experiences in seeking a high-quality night of sleep. I soon began to compile a list of various remedies offered by experts in the field, as well as advertisers (in abundance) and people around me. Within six months, I compiled a list of more than 70 remedies and called them pathways. I then came to recognize that these 70 plus pathways clustered around four broader strategies—which I began to call the components of high-quality sleep.