Insomnia (TQP0110)

Posted: November 3, 2008 in Braak

I am dating a girl, right now, who tells me that she never has any trouble sleeping. She goes to bed at ten or ten-thirty, puts her head on the pillow, and POW, asleep. This is a condition of which I am extremely jealous.

I’m not even sure I can effectively describe just how jealous I am.

Since I was young, I have suffered routinely from insomnia.  Not the good kind of insomnia, where you’re able to stay up working late until all hours, or your split personality can get a second job and secretly create an army of neo-primitive anarchists.  I have the kind of insomnia where you’re tired, and you want to lie down in bed, and your eyes droop down and close…but you don’t fall asleep.  Your brain (my brain, anyway) just continues jittering along, thinking about this or that extremely stupid thing forever.

I can always tell when I’m going to have one of these nights and, even though every night is prosecuted in precisely the same way, I hold out hope that I’ll be able to get to sleep at a reasonable hour this time.  This has never happened–I’ve never gotten into bed thinking, “Oh, I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight,” and then around midnight actually fallen asleep.  And yet every time, usually around 3:00, I look over at the clock and panic, because 3:00 means if I fell asleep at that exact moment, I’d only get four and a half hours of sleep.

I don’t cope well on low sleep.  It makes me nauseated (because basically everything does), so I spend the whole day clenching my jaw, which gives me a headache, and causes terrible knots to form in the muscles of my neck and right between my shoulder blades.  My fingers become clumsy, I get distracted and foggy, I can feel my brain slowing down.  I do not care for this experience.

But there it is, 3:00 in the morning, I’m looking at the clock and fully aware that there is absolutely no way to avoid the miserable day.  The only method to alleviate this malaise is with copious amounts of coffee–a method which, ironically, is a contributing factor to the insomnia in the first place.

One of the most bizarre features of the insomnia is that I still dream, even though I never really get to sleep.  For instance, last night I heard a noise in my room, which worried me until I realized that it was just the fight I’d gotten into with the astronomers, and that was why I had to move my telescope away from the window.  I could see it, sitting over there by my bookcase.

Half an hour later, I thought to myself, a) What astronomers?  b)  What telescope?  c) What the hell is wrong with me?  Suffice it to say, there was no telescope by my bookcase.

Later, I dozed off for ten seconds–just long enough to have a dream that Kelsey Grammar had been working on a project in Israel, and had pitched an idea to one of his fellow actors called Left of 19.  This was some kind of a play, about how when one out of twenty people moves to the left, the remaining 19 move to the right.  I woke up and, helpless, was forced to spend the next hour and a half before dawn working out precisely why that was counter-factual (in actuality:  19 people move to the right, leaving the one remaining person seeming like he’s moved to the left, when he hasn’t really moved at all).  I think I have politics on the brain.

Throughout my whole life I have suffered under the burden of this strange malady, constantly afraid that it will bloom into that disease where you can’t really sleep at all ever, and you die.  I do not know the details of this disease, but I know it exists; I refuse to look it up, because I am a terrible hypochondriac, and I do not need to be stimulated by these worries.  Every working morning I look at my clock, and sometimes I am moved to the brink of tears with the desire for just a little more time.  Just enough for a nap, just to remind my body how to sleep, how much we enjoy it.

Once, and only once a year, my prayers are answered.

Three cheers for the end of Daylight Saving Time, god damn it.

  1. Jeff Holland says:

    I think I saw an episode of “House” with the no-sleep sickness. If I recall correctly, Dr. House cured it using vicious sarcasm. There may have been a medical facet to the cure, too, but I’m hazy on that part.

  2. threatqualitypress says:

    This is why I watch House regularly.

  3. matt says:

    I would think that Yoga and plain old meditation can help quite a bit. Sometimes, I have a problem sleeping, too. Usually when I’m concerned about money, or making a big decision (like getting married, buying a house, etc).

    What helps me (mostly) get to sleep is to try and shut down my brain not by thinking of nothing, but instead focusing on a sound, or the distant hum of…something.

    But, that’s how I deal with it. I’m sure you’ve heard all of this before. And well, there’s always Ambien or Lunesta. Either that or slip yourself a roofie before bed.

  4. threatqualitypress says:


    Yeah, a lot of people think that.

    There was a period where I was using rum as a sleep aid, and that worked okay, but I was disturbed by the implications.

  5. Moff says:

    I know exactly what you mean, and it’s even worse in a way, because for quite a while I was one of those people like the girl you’re dating. There are long stretches now where my body is wiped, but I close my eyes and can feel my brain frizzing away (that is the best term I can come up with; it’s almost an onomatopoeia) behind them. Even if I’m not thinking about something specific, my brain just will not settle into that relaxed state that segues into sleep.

    A few things that have helped are:

    1. Drinking more water and making sure I exercise (yoga or running) during the day.

    2. Focusing my thoughts before bed and running through a list of things that happened during my day. For me, this actually takes the form of prayer (and I’m still working on getting back into it), but my friend Eileen said last night that she just liked to think about a good thing that had either happened recently or was about to happen.

    3. Having a little caffeine in the form of a Coke Zero a few hours before bed, because I find that it tends to actual pop me up and then bring me back down.

    4. Making a serious effort to stay offline, or away from the computer at all. This is the hardest one. But can most of us agree that a week away from the screen leaves you feeling absolutely refreshed?

    This has been a long comment, courtesy of Moff.

  6. Erin says:

    I used to have the same problem: actually, I still do, but it’s so rare now that’s no longer a big deal.

    Two “solutions” have worked for me. The first is a form of meditation, but usually one involving blasting alien space ships. I’m sure that sounds like a joke, but the truth is I find it easier to put aside my problems while taking out TIE Fighters from the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon than with some Zen thing. But, hey: whatever works.

    The second solution, I’m sure, is entirely useless to most everyone. I got a job where I work from 11 to 7. Being awake at 3 is less of a deal when you don’t need to be up until 8 or 9….

  7. cschack says:

    I struggle with that stuff too – the most annoying thing about it is when people tell you “well, just go to sleep, that’s all you need” because theY DON

  8. cschack says:

    …that got cut off for some readson. They DON’T GET IT! If I could “just go to sleep” I WOULD! Anyhoo…

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