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Sleep and Puzzles

I must first declare that I am not a doctor and this article does not contain any medical advice, treatment or diagnosis (see disclaimer).

Sleep I have experienced can have a huge impact on my ability to solve a puzzle and my motivation to even have a go at solving one. I am not someone who struggles to get to sleep on a regular basis but can on occasion find it difficult to fall asleep if something is on my mind and bothering me. The other issue I have with sleep is I can sometimes wake up several times during the night when I would obviously find it preferable to sleep right through as after this happens is when I feel most alert and concentrated. Lack of sleep when it does occur has had an impact on other areas of my life other than puzzles and can leave me in a bad mood with the day seemingly dragging on forever. Waking up in the morning is usually the biggest challenge for me even when I have had a decent night's sleep but when I haven't it can be a monumental effort. I find it easier to fall asleep in the winter months when it is colder and darker but easier to wake up during the summer months when it is lighter earlier and warmer. I have over the course of my life through experience gained and doing some research been able to find what works best for me in order to get a night of quality sleep.

Puzzles or challenges that I particularly struggle with when I am tired due to lack of quality sleep are ones that demand concentration and for me to think through with both of these required attributes diminishing rapidly the more tired I am. Puzzles that I can do automatically without thinking are not that much of a problem when I am tired to have a go at and complete such as a speed cube as I know the manoeuvres to solve some of them automatically especially the simpler forms. Any puzzle that is fiddly to manipulate or requires precise and steady hand movements can become really irritating and feel a lot more demanding when I am tired and therefore I won't bother with these types of challenges when I am in this condition as it is not worth it and can put me off these puzzles altogether. Any challenge that is going to take a while to solve is going to be an issue when I am tired as I have very little patience in this condition so short or quick-fire challenges would be better if am going to attempt any sort of puzzle tired. Puzzles that demand outside the box thinking are basically non-starters when I am tired as I struggle with these even when I am 100% alert and concentrated. Puzzles that involve more than one person or that are group activities can be problematic when I lack sleep because I can in a tired state be very easily irritated and become less sociable which can lead to arguments or falling out with the other players. My physical performance also feels like it declines a bit when I am tired and is most noticeable with my hands as these are the body parts I use for puzzles the most and they can feel somewhat slow, uncoordinated and unresponsive. A puzzle, therefore, that demands fast reaction times or to respond in real-time both physically and mentally would be very difficult for me, for example, answering a question before anyone else does in a quiz which can demand both that I come up with an answer first and maybe press a buzzer first of some sort as well.

When I do get a good night's sleep then I have plenty of motivation in general and when I am in this frame of mind I will try for the more challenging puzzles that I own or come back to a puzzle that has caused me difficulty in the past and have another go at it. There will also be for me more motivation to have a go at any puzzle whereas when I am tired I would probably just not bother at all with any kind of brain teaser. When I feel alert and can keep my concentration for longer I can then attempt a challenging puzzle that will take some time to solve and it be an enjoyable experience. I also feel that my thinking is much sharper and that answers or a solution will come to me faster or with less effort and that I will be able to come up with an answer when I couldn't before when I was tired. I am far less likely to miss obvious clues to a puzzle when I am alert and furthermore be more likely to spot hidden or well-concealed clues. I am in a better mood when I have slept well and therefore will get along better with other people as a result so when I am like this then it is the time for me to play a group puzzle such as a board game. I find my recall far superior when I have had sufficient sleep which is particularly useful for puzzles that will test my knowledge or one in which I will have to memorise something. Being able to visualize moves in advance is a skill that I am much better at when I am fully awake with the more alert I am the further ahead I seem to be able to think. I make fewer mistakes when mentally fresh which is what a good night's sleep provides me with and therefore I am able to solve puzzles at a faster more efficient rate which is especially applicable when I am solving a challenge for the very first time. My reading level improves when I am fully awake and concentrated which is important for puzzle books that can pose questions with lengthy, vocabulary rich, detailed and complex descriptions that I have to then interpret.

I never take on a puzzle in the morning as I am not a morning person and it can take me a while to fully wake up and be alert so I will usually wait until the afternoon or most likely in the evening when I have time to have a go at one as well. I might in the future try simple puzzles in the morning to see if they will help me to get my brain into gear and become more alert and awake. Attempting a difficult puzzle in the morning when I can't think straight would be just a frustrating and fruitless endeavour and as puzzles are supposed to be fun as well as challenging for the brain it is better to wait until I am awake and alert so I can enjoy the puzzle as well as solve it better. I wouldn't attempt a puzzle just before I got to sleep either as I don't want my mind to be challenged at all at this point and just want to completely switch off and let myself drift off. It can often be a challenge in itself to find the time or create an opportunity in the afternoon or evening for me to fit puzzles in but one opportunity available to me is on the commute home when I go by bus or train. As puzzles come in so many forms some can be taken with me on my daily travels and are therefore at hand when I have the time and am in the right state of mind play with one.

To get a goods night's sleep I like to wind down for about an hour before I fall asleep by listening to some music or maybe a podcast which are activities that can be done in the dark which are the conditions I listen to them in for this purpose of falling asleep and listen until I feel tired enough to fall sleep. I try to sleep at regular times so in other words got to sleep and wake up at more or less the same time every day as I have discovered when doing this that getting to sleep at night comes automatically. I try to tire myself out by doing a form of physical exercise with my preferred choices being either swimming or cycling and as I enjoy these forms of exercise the motivation to do them is not a problem it is just fitting them into my crowded daily schedule that can be an issue sometimes. Switching my old mattress for a new one has been hugely beneficial in the past and in the future I won't make the mistake of waiting until the springs in the mattress begin to stick into me before changing it. Fresh sheets I have found can also help enormously especially during the summer when my room can get hot and sticky and not changing my bed sheets enough can also have an impact on my sleep. I find it very difficult to sleep in hot conditions and the obvious remedies to this, which I do, are to open the window or use thinner bedsheets or even use a fan if it is particularly hot. I don't have such an issue with cold conditions but if it is too cold then putting the radiator on or closing the window or even using more bedsheets does help me with this matter. Not drinking too much fluid before I go to bed is another tactic I employ in order to stop me from having to go to the bathroom multiple times during the night which can destroy my sleep. I will avoid watching TV or looking at my laptop or phone just before I go to bed and especially in the dark as this has definitely contributed in the past in preventing me from being able to fall asleep. When I want to get to sleep I keep my bedroom dark and as close to pitch black as possible and during the summer months when it is still light late in the evening and early in the morning I have found blinds better than curtains at keeping the light out.

There are factors out of my control or very difficult to stop that could hinder my ability to sleep which could be me worrying about something such as an ill relative or possibly a drunk person going by my house in the middle of the night shouting and making noise. Somebody snoring in my house is another issue I have had to deal with and after having tried unsuccessfully many different methods such as earplugs, which I found uncomfortable to wear, to get rid of the noise I have over time been able to tune it out somewhat so that it doesn't bother me or that I notice it anymore. Stress is something that I find and in modern life is unavoidable that has impacted my ability to get a good night's sleep and this is a problem I am still trying to find a better way to deal with when it does occur. Whenever I get a cold which for me seems at times impossible to avoid, when somebody I am in daily contact with has one, no matter what I try is when I really struggle to sleep and have in the past virtually got no sleep because the cold has been that bad due to its symptoms such as headaches, a high temperature, sore throat and runny nose.

In summary, it can be occasionally for me tricky to get a good night's sleep but I have learned a number of ways through trial and error what works best for me to achieve this so that by playing a puzzle in an alert and concentrated condition it will be a much more enjoyable, rewarding and doable experience.



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