Saturday, October 31, 2009


You know the feeling. It's 3 a.m., and while normal people are sleeping so soundly they wouldn’t wake up if they passed a kidney stone, you're wide awake. Maybe there’s a finite amount of sleep to be had, and some people – babies, the infirmed, on-duty air traffic controllers – are hogging it all. It’s torture, worse even than getting drunk at a Halloween party and then because you don't have a costume, agreeing to coat your entire naked body in glue and then roll in a tub full of glitter, immediately followed by passing out on a pool table and later noticing that a few of the cue sticks are missing from the rack. Not that this ever happened to me.

Yes, the bedroom is truly a horror flick when you can’t sleep. You’ve got your possessed digital clock, glowing so brightly you think you’re having a near-death experience. The temperature keeps rising and falling, which you’re sure is due to menopausal hot flashes, even if you’re a guy. And let’s not forget the house-settling noises creaking to the rhythm of the Brady Bunch theme, which is a very scary song even in the light of day.

The traditional sleep-inducers rarely help. Take reading something boring. Like a bulldog so ugly it’s cute, a sixty-page manual for a stapler is so dull it’s interesting. Most insomniacs have read countless manuals, out loud, simultaneously translating from Sanskrit where needed. Then there’s drinking warm milk. Despite its tranquilizing tryptophan, this practice unfortunately keeps you up wondering if anything else besides paint tastes as bad. That only makes you obsess about how much the room needs to be painted, and how you never really liked this room, or your whole life, really. Even taking a sleeping pill can leave you wide awake. Usually that’s because in your stuporous fumbling in the bathroom you washed the pill down with Drano, which not only tastes almost as bad as warm milk but is also a digestive irritant for about half the population.

Luckily you could choose to be productive during your extra awake time. You could do your income taxes, for example. Studies show that tax returns completed by sleep-deprived Drano drinkers are up to 30% more accurate than those completed by fully conscious accountants.

The good news is that insomnia usually passes, clearing up as soon as people get rid of stressors like demanding jobs and draining relationships and weekly alien abductions. (By the way, having a history of those makes it really hard to get health insurance.)

The best plan is to keep counting ceiling tiles or your eyelid veins until you realize that as the saying goes, you’ll catch up on all the sleep you missed when you die. Of course, thinking about the inevitability of your death, especially when you’re so behind schedule because you’re never well-slept, is enough to keep you from ever falling asleep again.

In that case, just show up at my house, because I'll definitely be up. You bring the glitter.