Yes, yes that’s it!
The last three are the most important.
I am pleased that there are so many things on the list. It means I actually tried, and I tried a lot of things for a really long time. And it was the hardest I ever worked on anything, and the most desperate I ever felt about anything, and I want to say that every thought I have about understanding deep, deep suffering is burnt from the horrendous depths of desperation and sadness and lack of hope I experienced in trying to solve this.
And each time I had something new to the list, each thing that spanned months that I almost forgot, it’s enough to bring me to tears.
There are few things I have experienced in my life that approach the crushing lack of hope in knowing there was nothing I could do to not feel terrible everyday, all the time, and to not be able to do anything.
Now, up until iron, it’s all normal. The normal reccomendations. Then, it started to get interesting.
And so the caption represents how many times I went “yes, yes, that’s it” over the course of three years. How many times I eagergly declared the problem solved without truly knowing, assuming it had so many fewer layers of complexity than it always ended up having.
Some things were successes though. Somethings lived on.
So here’s everything I’ve ever tried, in a year of trying to fix my sleep.
The beginning of 2020 was maybe the most productive period of my life. This is when I made a lot of animations, and would focus solely on them for the entire duration that they took. Then, after school I would rewrite my story Once the Dust is Bitten.
I think these must have taken focus.
I have journals from around March where I’m talking about fixing my sleep.
Raj has been really really helpful every step of the way. A lot of the time in ways that he knows, and so many times in ways he has no idea about. (and I love him for it?)
Zander also gets an honourable mention for being especially helpful and supportive, even when I hated him for it. He also bought be the luminettes.
He reccomended the same thing over and over and over. He made me hate school for causing my tiredness when I was still equally tired, if not actually straight up more so, during holiday. He never changed his mind in response to any evidence I brought to him.
I daresay he made me waste six months hating school for my tiredness, when really they were entirely separate. But I did make some truly amazing essays out of it, maybe the most valuable, beautiful heartfelt writing I’ve ever done.
In the end, when I did try freedom, he still said it didn’t count.
I don’t trust him to update on new evidence.
But all in all, he may be excactly right. Only time will tell.
Extremely early on, before I met Raj, before I thought that the sleep issue was anything more than an easily solveable blight, I bought a sleep mask that could play audio through it. I wish I could remember the precise reasoning behind it, but it was a good idea and I’m glad I did it.
My first mistake was to play LA2 by Moby through them for many months, instead of just white noise. White noise masks many more frequencies of noise than white noise, so if you’re going to do it use it.
My other fatal mistake was in not buying earplugs.
I thought they didn’t work, but Raj, who I had basically just met, insisted on me trying them again, and they basically didn’t work, I think.
Or they did.
And then I realised that wearing them while playing white noise under the sleep mask could block out anything. Or basically anything.
It’s still pretty hard for it to fix people talking at full volume next to you, and you might end up with ringing ears if you listen to sufficiently loud white noise all night long.
But I still use earplugs whenever I need a quiet sleep, and white noise whenever there’s proper noise nearby or I anticipate such in the morning.
I encourage anyone screwing around with trying to get other people to be quiet to invest in a bluetooth sleep mask. MusiCozy is great.
I can’t drink coffee because I am allergic to coffee beans. So at one point, the idea of ordering caffeine in tablet form came up. I feel like Daniel from UofB might have been the one to mention it, but it could have been anyone.
I’m sure I did some research over whether it was safe, then took some, and had some of the best days of my life. Days of feeling super productive, super happy, the happiness was a really important part of it. Days of feeling super euphoric, like I could do anything in my future and like everything now was perfect.
I have very precise memories of this euphoria.
But then it’d start doing nothing. I have spreadsheets at the time where I was tracking how much of a quater of a half of a pill I was taking at what time, thinking that the precise combination of minutes between when I took them would decide how long their effect would last, and that if I found out the right thing I could take caffeine everyday and it would be great (I did not even explicilty consider that just not being able to take caffeine everyday was an option).
I bet against Raj that in three months I’d have gotten to the point where I just took more and more everyday. He was, of course, right. I’m not sure when excactly was the critical point where I realised it, but it was one of many cases of motivated cognition.
This ordeal has been the biggest, most extended form of motivated cognition I’ve experienced, because I had to. Because the alternative every step along the way was fighting the pull of sadness and contemplating suicide.
Anyway, at some point I realise that I can’t take caffeine for more than about four days in a row before I have to increase the amount, and I do this, cycling off a few times.
Every time I cycle off I get super depressed and contemplate suicide and taking modafinil. The pull to take modafinil is incredibly strong. But every time I have managed not to buy it.
The two “best” memories I have of this are in December 2020, where I was outside and just super duper sad, and I didn’t care about anything or anyone. And then towards the end of August 2021, where I was totally alone, and suffering constantly. My only relief to life feeling like it was worth anything was playing Minecraft and watching Youtube videos. I cannot excaggerate how much I hated everything all the time and how only these things brought relief.
But anyway, the next bit, GCSEs.
I absolutely could not work on online lessons. Complete and total excutive failure on getting myself to do that work. This is important, I think I know how I would get around this now, and I feel so sad that I cannot tell my past self.
My GCSEs might be the equivalent of the UK going to war. I desperately needed energy, and begged my heart out to absoultely no one that I could alleviate the symptoms for just two weeks, just for my GCSEs. And I was so deeply sad, because there was no one to pray or beg to. There was truly absoultely no one.
Then at one point I realise that I can cycle of caffeine during easter, then take it on exam days. And Raj, knowing the power of coworking, suggests inviting people over to cowork.
And it’s the only time I ever do it, and it’s a bizzare thing to consider that it did actually happen, but I invite two of my friends, Swadhin and Felipe, to study together in my back garden, a few times that week. And it goes really well, and we study a lot, and it’s bizzare to think it ever happened.
And at some point, they stop coming, and I start to do focusmates. I realise I don’t have to battle with my friends and slightly coerce them, lamenting at the fact that they do not remotely need me while I very much needed them. I could have a coworking partner absoutely whenever. And I did so many focusmates, and it was fantastic.
![[Pasted image 20220429183250.png]]
This is actually pretty mild for me by today’s standards. Eg, see my focusmates for banging out my EPQ the other day:
![[Pasted image 20220429183354.png]]
But of course, this will rear its head once more later.
But anyway, what’s bizzare is that somehow this did not lead me to realising focusmates power.
But anyway, those were my GCSEs. It was a frenzy, and it went suprisingly well, and then it was all over. I stopped taking caffeine shortly after GCSEs, knowing about the cycling.
And that was that.
It is finally time to tell the story of sugar over text.
In the early summer of 2021, I was at home, alone, pretty bored before the coding sprints with Raj started, and I ate all day everyday. I would munch on cereal all day straight from the packet, as well as rice and stufff.
(It’s weird, becuase nowadays I find it pretty hard to actually eat enough such that I feel uncomofotable. But I was also moving very little in those days. And I forget just how insanely bloating rice is.)
Anyway, I had tried out the No S Diet before (no sweets, no snacks, no seconds, except on days that start with s) and I saw it’s application here, so I followed it but without any breaks on s days. I forget the reason why, it should be on alien mechanic. I think what happened with taste was a pretty big surprise (maybe one of the biggest I’ve ever received, I still talk about it all the time and reap its benefits every day).
Anyway, I did this with a £20 bet, and emailed Chris Lakin, who at the time had some good posts about sugar and keto on his site to be the arbitrar of the bet. I would also send him weekly emails, which I did, and I should publish at some point.
I screwed around with trying to have a keto diet, which was super expensive. Also with meal replacements. Of course, I didn’t realise at the time, but the amount it costs people to feed themselves is a large bulk of their money, and a large amount of the money the governmen gives my mum to feed me.
The channel What I’ve Learned had a lot of videos about eating keto.
But it was super expensive, and I ruled it out.
At the end of the diet though, August 12th, 2021, sweet things tasted gross and I had no desire to eat them. A large swaths of foods were then written off of the list of the things I desired, most of them still continuing to this day.
And I thought this was amazing, and this helped me grok some of the lessons from replacing guilt about going alone with your desires. I realised that not wanting sugar was so much easier and so much nicer than restricting the innate desire to eat sugar. And the other solution I found at the time involving delays, was also very important.
But this was the relationship I had with keto at the time. This will be important later.
This is summarised in Delays Cure Addictions. But essentially, after reading Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism around this time, I spent a large amount of time trying to decrease the amount of screentime I had while not crippling myself entirely, and I found that delays were vital. This was in the summer of 2021, and this will be important later.
I think a large amount of this still has to stay secret if I ever want it to work.
I was reading a lot of Naval Ravikant, and he said “if you reall want to experience meditation, you should do an hour every morning for sixty days”. But that was a bit much for me, so I did 30 minutes everyday for an hour.
I had been meditating for years prior to reading this, since 2017, but only for about 10 minutes, 20 minutes tops when I accidentally left on the audio tracks.
But I did it for 30 minutes every day for a week, and my entire brain changed. I have spoken about this before. I begun to dissociate, and it felt, for the very most part, wonderfully surreal (and 99% rather uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s nice not to be aware, like with social stuff in conversations, with tv tropes, and with the inner workings of your own mind. Hat trick, and three amazing hats mind you).
But also, around this time, I began to write things rather different to the types of things I had written before. Things like “you don’t need energy to be happy” and “tiredness is a hinderance to the eyes, and not to you”. And I kept this up for a bit. This was actually during online school, and in part real school.
And I did pretty well for myself, and it was nice.
But then at one point I stop, and I start feeling tired again. I don’t remember why I stopped, or excactly how long I stopped for, or excactly what the shade of tiredness anew felt like. All I know is it took me a while, months afterwards, to associate the period of writing those wooey things with the fact I had been meditating. When I realised this, around September, I put meditation in my back pocket of things I can try when things become dire, when I have nothing left.
But before that, in May, I meditated for three days and begun to dissociate, and it was great. And then I fell off, and it was less great. I think.
At some point, I start wearing these: ![[Pasted image 20220429191441.png]]
I think this was in late August, around when I was in deep caffeine withdrawal. (I think it’s interesting how out of order this whole story is, and I guess relatedly how much I was trying things at the same time).
I think trying them had been on my list for a while, and I tried them briefly before I got the luminette bright light glasses. In September/October, there was a point where I was deeply analysing what effect whering the bright light glasses had at each point and trying to line up the timeline, and I think I settled on twelve days with red glasses before luminettes.
I will paste in the email I sent to Chris Lakin about the glasses reccomenation.
I am not sure I remember what started happening around here when I started wearing red light glasses. It may have been that I started being able to go sleep earlier but it had no effect on my wake up time or energy levels.
But anyway, there was a whole other half to it.
Raj had been reccomending I buy them for a really long time, and Zander agreed to purchase them for me, given they were safe. Piotr Wozniak — who somehow hasn’t come up (I think becaues - actually he deserves his own subheading) — he had to give the go-to on whether it was safe.
So Zander brought them for me, and I wore them, and I combined with the red glasses I gained total control over my wakeup time.
This is drawing close to September, when I started at my boarding school Wellington, so the first month was largely defined by getting up at 6am and doing whatever, and I miss this.
I would get tired pretty early and go to bed around 21:30.
They had no effect on my tiredness throughout the day whatsoever.
Daniel had been reccomending it for years. I bought it and it did nothing, but it is a lot nicer than a normal blanket. It also made getting out of bed feel super impossible while on melaotnin, but fine without it. Having a big snuggly cuver seems kinda nice, but the weighted blanket feels nice.
The summer of 2021 was also largely defined by extended exchanges with a doctor trying to get a prescription for melatonin. It was super annoying and it took months and it didn’t work and I didn’t get a prescription.
|Then Raj was like “you can probably order some online”. I never asked why he didn’t mention it earlier, but I ordered some (0.2mg) from Eurohealth, I believe. Originally I got a dropped and measured out the amount of drops I thought was 0.3, and would stop swimming briefly to go into the bathroom to take it at 15:30, at the timing suggested by this Scott Alexander post: [Melatonin: Much More Than You Wanted To Know||Slate Star Codex](https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/07/10/melatonin-much-more-than-you-wanted-to-know/)|
Oh wait, before buying it I did a lot of research over whether it was safe for me and whether it would stunt my puberty, getting a bunch of articles and looking over a tonne of research papers. I remember happily telling Jeremy Chan about this, so this must have still been during the time when I was happy about telling people about my sleep issues.
Daniel also looked over the papers, and said that it seemed probably fine and melatonin probably didn’t have an effect on puberty.
I thought about all that research extremely little after I did it. Maybe the research didn’t matter, maybe I was always going to take melatonin anyway.
On the first morning after taking it I felt super energetic and happy, and was super relieved cos I thought everything was fixed. I walked through a part of the forest here at school that I realistically haven’t been back to since, I can probably relive a lot of that joy just by going back.
A few hours later though I got really tired, and eventually nothing happened. I was still really tired all the time.
I was saying I would try melatonin for at least two weeks though. Raj wanted me to stop and try some other thing but I forgot what. Eventually, the two weeks came and my sleep times were very different, but I was super tired.
I was rewatching Futurama at the time, and I was totally useless. I literally couldn’t do anything. I would fall asleep while listening to people talk at 6pm, and at socities. I would suffer so much in class and just beg for them to be over. I have way fewer notes from the time because I couldn’t write. I was not functional, and I hated my life, and I was so sad, but I was holding out hope for melatonin because Scott and Gwern and everyone had spoken about it like it was the greatest most powerful thing in the world.
But, after about a month I think, while I was still taking it, I decided to pull out one of the very last stops I had, one of the very last hopes I had to just feeling okay. I had called this very manual form of happiness “The Hard Way”, and it involved meditation.
So I started meditating, and I felt amazing.
I meditated for half an hour during break time.
I was so relieved, because I was doing a bunch of work and focusing in class and everything and it was great.
I remember, one of my friends noticed I was doing a lot better, and I explained about the tiredness and that I had found a solution. And they asked what it was, and I said “I’ll tell you in two weeks”, just becuase I didn’t want to risk me being really happy about it and it not working.
And then, everything changed when…
I stopped meditating? I don’t remember why. I think I got busy, or I got sick and then I was super duper tired, or something. But I stopped meditating for a little bit, and it was hard to get back into the habit.
And around this time, I think I stopped wearing the red glasses and then I’d wake up at 07:40 when they woke me up at school which was so much worse than the freedom I’d gotten when I was waking up at 06.00, and I never got it back.
Anyway, at some point I realise that melatonin sucked ass, and it didn’t live up to any of its promises. Or I wanted to clear my melatonin before airbnb. I also remmeber needing to be clear of caffeine before airbnb.
By this time, I was clear of everything. I fully had no memories of how I actually felt before I was tired, and how much work I could do with different interventions. I realised that I had either been on caffeine or on caffeine withdrawl for a year, and when that wasn’t the case I was on melatonin or with the red or white glasses. I didn’t actually know what it was like to have nothing. So I cleared everything, everything, just before the free running sleep airbnb experiment. But, in the week before that…
I had been going to the doctor at school about the sleep, and they referred me to a sleep apnea place.
Raj had said months ago that I definately don’t have sleep apnea, cos I’m not overweight and I don’t snore.
I remember bregudingly saying fine and swearing to hate him if he was wrong and I wasted a year for no reason.
But also, throughout the entire time, I had held on hope that it was probably sleep apnea, becuase if it was it meant I didn’t have to try anymore, and everything would be okay, and it was such a simple solution.
And I did the sleep test, and I think it did kind of a little bit come off in the night, but I don’t think so cos I did it twice, and it said I didn’t have sleep apnea. He siad my tonsils and stuff looked fine, when they stuck the worm camera into my nose.
This will be important later, of course.
Then in probably Decemeber, I was talking to Sydney, a person I know inside of Effective Altruism, about a job opportunity to get a lot of money. And she said “do you want 30k? What would you do with 30k?” and I said I’d loop through a bunch of potential solutions to my sleep problem, and she said we can spend money on that.
So in December I asked her if she could pay for an airbnb so that I could sleep undisrupted from being forced to wake up, and she said yes. It took a while for the money to come through, but she did it, and I went there, for 9 nights.
And it was really nice having my own place. My family of course thought it was bizzare, and it was difficult to explain, but they thought it was nice having basically their own place too. It was five minutes from my house.
And perhaps the most important development happened while I was in this airbnb.
I needed a way to measure how tired I was.
And I had been doing this for absoultey months before anyway, with a tracker that asked me how tired I was from 0-10. But I realised I needed something more objective.
So I thought “why does it matter anyway? Then I’ll track that”. And this was the most important thought I had.
So I measured it with focusamtes. Could I work, on me and Raj’s web app Increview, for a 25 minute focusmate?
And I felt really tired, every single day…
And I could work during every single focusmate.
And I couldn’t believe it.
![[Pasted image 20220429215642.png]]
It was on January 4th that I realised, with those four frenzied focusmates. My sleep got later and later, till I was sleeping at 6am and waking up late in the day, one time at about 17:00. And I was plenty tired all the way through.
But focusmates worked, and it completely blew my mind.
And at some point, I can’t remember if this was before or after the airbnb experiment, but I did a test with a focusmate while on melatonin or while I was sick, maybe. What’s important is it was some point when I was super tired, and it didn’t work. And this was something of a relief I think.
Anyway, I couldn’t meditate after this. I knew I had an EPQ deadline at the end of the holiday, and I was really stressed about this. And if I wasn’t starting to feel good by the end of the holiday, I was going to start meditating again so I could have a boost of energy.
But I couldn’t meditate. I think it was late december that this started, or maybe early january, but I just couldn’t. It was either becasue I thought that detox/normal level of tiredness me would be fine, or because I knew focusmates probably worked, but I just couldn’t convince mysefl to do it.
At one point at least I was tired enough that meditation became… painfully boring. And I kinda don’t wanna harp on this. If I could meditate now, my life would be even more amazing. And that’s a fact. And I may need it again. Or I may not…
Okay, I got the timeline entirely wrong. I was still using and counting on luminettes during January. I pushed a bunch of things that happened in January to December. Remembering the excact timeline is pretty hard, and I might go over this whole thing and match the events to their timelines, but it doesn’t matter really. What matters is what I was feeling at what point.
Actually no, I think some of the specifics about the red glasses is interesting but maybe not totally important.
At one point, I had exams coming up. Big Important Exams, but not nearly important as GCSEs, but they felt really important, and I wasn’t studying because I was tired. And I was so worried and so scared. And then something happened, and I used focusmates somehow, and grinded super hard, and I did really well. And I realised that I would be okay then, and that focusmates worked. I have no idea how the airbnb happened and then I went like a month without realising I could just do focusmates, maybe being sick made me not think them.
It’s stupid, because I’d already had this excact same discovery, under the exact same circumstances, when studying for GCSEs. I feel like purposeful reflection, maybe with a question like “what have been your periods of grestest productivity” would have actually solved this for me.
But anyway, I was insanely relieved, and I think this was the last time this had to happen for me to realise it (between GCSEs, and EPQ happening before and me somehow not creating the pattern of focusmates solving it both times).
Anyway, I only checked becuase I remember making this voy. At the beginning of February, I think. I had realised focusmates were the way. And I said “I won’t try anything else, for a month. I really want to hang onto this, to prove to myself irrevocably that they work, so I won’t try anything else and do this for just a month.”
And I did. ![[Pasted image 20220429223011.png]]
Not quite as many focusmates as I would’ve expected, but a lot.
And it was fine.
No melatonin, no bright lights, no red glasses which I had bedrugingly become known for in my school, no loridatine, no caffeine, nothing.
And I could work.
And it was amazing.
There’s more, but I~m tired.
An aspect of this that has get remained unspoken, and that I do not wish to talk about with people, is the post “Thesis on Sleep” by Alexey Guzey, where he basically said you can work just as well with very little sleep compared to good sleep, and there’s very little actual benefits to actually good sleep.
I forget excactly when I read this, but I remember this causing a shift, and making not actually trying to be any less tired a lot more okay.
Once I stopped taking melatonin, I started going to sleep at the time all the other people did, and it made me realise my sleep times were not remotely anomylous among teens. All teens despise getting up and go to sleep past 23:00 at basically the earliest, very often past midnight, and being awake with them made me realise there was nothing about my sleep schedule that was really broken, and everyone else functions with this with minimal complaining.
I think. The thought is something like this.
Ah, I had forgotten to mention that around this time I started decisevely feelign emotionally ready to start improving and getting stronger again. This was largely because of speaking to Ilhan, who brought to light all the previous thoughts I had had about addiction, and youtube, and attention, and he took them really seriously. And he made me reconsider whether my then life of constant youtube and discord and browsing was really what I wanted.
Over a few days this manifested as just emotionally feeling ready and restless to start improving and becoming awesome again, culminating in me leechblocking youtube for a week, a decision I kept.
Oh god twitter no am i not ready? I think I’m just straight up not ready um yeah no I kinda wanna be productive even when I’m not doing focusmates and I think I can do this because I did it on the plane, therefore
And so for about a month, or a month and a half, I worked happily on everything that needed working on. The goal was to do nothing else regarding sleep except work with focusmates. And the ultimate proof I think that this was in fact a success was that I was fully able to plan and get tickets to and renew my passport and everything for my very first time flying, and it being alone and it worked.
But then… while I was on the plane…
I could work.
My phone was, for the first time in over a year, completely, utterly and totally fully unvariable. It was utterly impossible for it to have anything on it. I had already precommitted to not buying wifi. There was absolutely nothing I could have checked.
And I worked…
I worked so much…
Without a focusamte in sight.
With total deprivation from distractions I attained a really deep focus.
And then I met Andrew Snyder-Beatie, as we draw up towards the final few pieces of the puzzle to where I am now.
I met him at the constellation offices, his coolness pointed out to me by the black-and-white of his phone (a very strong signal of somebody being cool and reflective). He explained stuff I was already familiar with, just like Ilhan did, but with a new intensity.
Eventually, after talking to him he revealed (i’m not sure I can say this, but his name is so iconic it feels wrong not to write it in full. Okay I should listen to this damn self podcast and go to sleep.)
For some reason I had a reccuring focusmate at 16.00 for the longest time? I think it may have been to nap? But I don’t get it, it doesn’t make any sense.
![[Pasted image 20220429183609.png]]
And then for some reason in June I do a tonne even though I’m on holiday, and I don’t remember these at all?
![[Pasted image 20220429183645.png]]
And then no focusmates in July, and then back to some occasionally in August
This has taught me the lonely burden more than anything. A lot of people want to help me, but extremely few can. I think Raj might be the only one, as well as Jeffrey Yun, in experiencing it himself.
But even my mum, my brother, Sarah Miller, Mr Peat. I’d ask for their help if I could, but there’s nothing I can think to try, so nothing I can ask for their help on.
How do I put this in a way that’s emotionally salient?
Mr Peat knew about melatonin, knew about my tiredness. I was caught sleeping in basically the staff park, and he said “if you’re having problems with tiredness we can talk about it” and he meant it, and I knew he did. But there’s nothing I could imagine him doing. Nothing at all.
Maybe that’s all the more reason to ask him.
But how do I communicate this? Doing everything I can at every stage to make it clear how much I’m suffering whenever I think there’s any chance that they can do anything about it, and not bringing it up at all when I know they can’t, because there’s nothing for them to do.
But I should tell my dearest friends. Just to let them in.
Just to let them in.
It’s still so weird to think that I’m just tired every day and I still just have no idea why. Absolutely no guesses, no leads.
There are things that I still hold out hope for, like keto, and I do think it would help, but obviously can’t be the cause of the issue.