Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Sleepless in Somnia, USA

A very nice man, The Grunt, has insomnia. I’m sure he is cringing right now because I called him nice, you know how men are. I happen to think nice people are cool. Not fake nice people. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones that smile and say excuse me as they run you over with their shopping carts. Or the ones that ask you how you are but never wait for an answer. I digress, as usual. Moving on.

The Grunt is also funny, edgy and odd. I think he has insomnia because funny people have a keen sense of the absurd and are really good at spotting the idiocies of the human condition. Plus, edgy and nice often clash with each other. I bet he has a red devil on one shoulder and a white angel on the other and he gets cauliflower ears from them duking it out around his head.

I’m here to offer my hard earned kernels of wisdom. I can’t get to sleep many times, too and I also wake up a lot at two in the morning. I usually have insomnia because I forgot to put away the dishes or take out the recycling or I’m still annoyed at the person who walked in the street instead of using the perfectly good side walk the township provided: never anything as exciting as wondering about the motivations of the idiot who doused five kittens in cooking oil and placed them, live, in a fry pan.

I have developed a long list of techniques and strategies since the age of ten, when I first presented with my sleep disorders (that’s medical terminology.) This list does not include sleeping pills because I can’t take them. Whether over the counter or prescribed, I am afraid of sleeping pills. They make me nuts, but that’s just me (that’s not medical terminology.)

All of the following have worked for me in the past and they continue to work sporadically. I have found my sleep problems to be like disciplining children; what works this time may not work again or during the same circumstances. Also, remember that these are suggestions only and they are not meant to diagnose or cure. Please see your family doctor if symptoms persist as they may be signs of serious mental illness.

Stop the excessive use of caffeine (like ten cups of coffee a day is too much) and never have any form of caffeine after twelve noon. While I find it interesting that in Austria they give caffeine to psychotics to help them sleep, it doesn’t work for me. Look for caffeine in pain medicines and watch the consumption of chocolate, and non-cola beverages. I understand some personal lubricants may contain caffeine, too.

Alcohol is an evil bane on our world. You don’t need more than five beers and/or two shots to get to sleep. More than this will only cause you to wake during the night to pee.

Counting is a very useful tool. Not counting sheep, just counting. Start at one and continue to count until you find your mind wandering then start over again. It is an excellent way to whip that unruly beast into shape. I count all of the time to distract myself from the things I know I should be doing. If your conscience can’t intrude, then you’ll have nothing to worry about.

Often, insomnia is due to a chemical imbalance. The key chemicals that cause insomnia are a lack of calcium, potassium and tryptophan. These naturally occurring chemicals affect the pleasure center of the brain, the same area affected by anti-depressants. They increase your serotonin and melatonin levels. Big Brother took tyrptophan off of the market some years ago because a measly few people died from it, but tyrptophan was the best thing to help you get to sleep. All of these chemicals are contained in carbohydrates, the sedatives of the gods. About an hour before bed have a bowl of whole grain cereal with milk and banana slices or warm apple pie and vanilla ice cream. You’ll be snoozing in no time. Don’t eat meat in any form; you’ll get a tummy ache.

Turn the TV on, put on a movie you’ve seen a million times and like, but dim the brightness so there is no light in the room. Light keeps your brain awake, so turn your alarm clock’s brightness down, too. The sound from the TV is necessary as the movie will occupy your brain and keep it away from other thoughts. Since you know the movie by heart, your mind can get bored and drift off. Listening to ocean waves and thunderstorm tapes can do the same thing, but don’t play Bjork, she’s just weird.

Tell yourself a story. Think of your favorite fantasy and start telling it to yourself in great detail. I often tell myself the story about when the reporters come to my work in droves to do a surprise interview with me for my multi-bazillion copy best seller and my boss stands by with his jaw hanging open. After the interview, I take all of my co-workers to the local pub and we drink the day away in celebration and then I quit in a hail of applause because I have a ten book publishing deal signed and paid. But that’s just my fantasy.

So, these are the some of the sleep strategies I use. Other times, I just like wallowing in my misery and feeling all pathetic, so I just stay up all night watching bad infomercials.

Disclaimer: As with all things I say, don’t believe me, as I am full of shit and rarely know what I’m talking about.


  1. hahaha loved it! I periodically battle the insomnia demon and periodically take OTC sleep meds. Might think about counting 'til I bore myself to sleep. I once had a bad bad bout of sleeplessness and taught myself the alphabet backward during it. Now, I have an amusing party trick! :)

    Thanks for the giggles.

  2. My cure for insomnia? Get comfy, relax, and try out novel plots in my head. About the time I get a really good one and want to write it down -- I fall soundly asleep never to remember it again.

  3. Thanks Goldie. There has been so much going on with me and the last thing that I want to do is really lay it out there. I already tried that briefly and it got people upset. Sometimes I don't know what to do because I've always had to be the son who never spoke up, kept his emotions in check, and not talk about problems, so that the afflicted didn't worry. I guess I do that with just more than my family sometimes.

    Well, I can't sleep. Some people in my life want me to be cool with them, but apparently they can do whatever they please. I got a really ill loved one to take care of. The other members of my family are having problems. My personal life is pretty much sad. My professional (ha, what professional life) life sucks. Love life, please. On top of this I can't sleep.

    Yet, I sack it up. I try to maintain friendships even when I'm truly hurting and feeling rejected. I don't give up on my loved ones. I'm going to see if I can get a better job. I don't care if it all kills me, but it would sure as hell be nice if it didn't.

    So, I am going to take your advice and try to get some sleep.

    Thanks, Goldie, this was truly nice of you.

  4. Lisa: Learning the alphabet backwards is a great idea. I'll have to try that one.

    Quilly: Yeah, I know what you mean. All of my best ideas have dissolved into nothingness.

    Grunty: I made light of insomnia here, but I know from personal experience that it really isn't funny. You have allot of shit to deal with. Taking care of someone who is ill is hard work and when it is someone you love it is even harder. One of the best sanity tools I have ever found is writing a letter to someone and then destroying it. I write with the intention of giving it to the person. Then I hold on to it for a while, re-read it and to it, clarify my feelings and thoughts, but never send it. It does work.

    Also, you have my email, if you want to vent to someone. I haven't forgotten what you sent me, but I really liked it and I admire people who can write music and songs, so I want to do it justice.

    You really are a good person and deserve to take care of yourself, too. And you make me laugh, which will get you into heaven.

  5. Hah Nessa! This was strange. As you know, I have been sort of falling off the edge with insomnia too. And no real reasons like Grunty has. Just a sort of catastrophic aimlessness which I am trying to counter by doing various things on schedule.

    How serendipitious was this post, huh?

  6. Hi! I have to confess, I Didn't even read the post. I'm falling asleep as I type... but I wanted to say hi and I know I've been kinda absent lately. New job = no time! I'll return soon, I hope. Cheers!

  7. Jenn, left you a surprise at my place. Arm hurts now so I can't type.

  8. Ack! I did this at Nea's, too. I was so busy padding Jenn's votes I couldn't think of anything else. Sorry, Nessa.

    I did plant a couple votes for you, too -- couldn't let my friend finish below 100. That just wouldn't be right. There is no way I've got the time or the wrist to catch you up, but I loved both your stories - -though I think the moon cheese one is best.

  9. I have no useful advice on combating insomnia but have discovered if I look at the lack of sleep as the great recovery of otherwise dead hours, I’m so horrified in the face of all that empty time that retreating into unconsciousness suddenly becomes the better option.

  10. Yep coffee does work on me when I need to sleep. No i'm not psychotic :P

  11. What a great post, Vanessa, you are so good.
    I personally go drugs, doesn't always do the trick but I am too groggy to care.

  12. Ha! I just had a bowl of whole grain cereal with banana slices. That was my dinner tonight... can only eat cereal if dinner is too late. Looks like I will sleep well, though!

    I actually use a lot of those strategies/techniques... and they work for me. Especially the telling myself a story idea. The cool thing is that they are nice lead-ins for dreams. :-)

  13. Nessa -- did you get your page reloading issue sorted out? Go to the TOOLS menu, click OPTIONS, then click CACHE, then click CLEAR CACHE. I do it a couple of times a day, or Foxfire keeps showing me what was there rather than what is. Very frustrating. They need to fix that.

  14. Great tips! I want to second the motion that The Grunt is a nice guy! (ok I don't know him in real life but he SEEMS nice :)

  15. Nessa, ignore the end of my last post. Don't just clear your cache, set it to zero. Then Foxfire won't show you any pages from memory. the draw back to that is that your pages will have to load everytime, so its slower. On my P4 the speed difference is negligible -- don't know about your machine.

  16. If I get restless at night, I browse the Web or read until I fall asleep. Those are really the only two that work for me. Sweet dreams, y'all!

  17. Jenn: Sleeplessness (Jeez look at all those letters) seems to affect us all. Do you think our fore fathers and mothers had this problem?

    Jadzia: Glad you popped in. Sleep tight. Hope the new job is good.

    Quilly: Thanks. I like the moon one best, too, and I have an actual bruise on the top of my right wrist from clicking.

    Fury: I think about that, too. If I could just do something with my insomniac hours, it would be ok, but I can't bring myself to do anything useful. It's disgusting.

    Grey: Are you sure?

    Logo: Sleeping pills make me have the most vivd dreams, I'd have a heart ache in my sleep.

    DCMM: I love having cereal for dinner. Yes, good dreams happen with planning.

    Mr. Fab: Or are you funny becasue you can't sleep?

    Quilly: I reset my cache and will try that a while, but it's a pain.

    Celeste: Yes, we must tell him until he believes it himself. Or we can slap him. I think he'd like that.

    Andy: Reading is a good anytime snack.

  18. Celeste and Goldie, you two can join in the slap parade. I need more people like you two to keep me motivated without the burn out. I mean, I go, but it is a reckless drive unless I have good friends around to tell me to keep it on the road.

    I am nice, BTW. I'm just having to get used to hearing it. I guess it is a good active purposeful nice versus a pathetic passive nice. I can live with that.

  19. Those strategies sound good. I must admit, though, that i saw your title and I thought it said "Sleepless in Somalia." And I said to myself, Maybe the problem is that you're trying to sleep in SOMALIA!

    -- david

  20. Hi Goldennib. Great topic. Tho I don't suffer ( I RARELY have trouble sleeping), I have friends that do. My best friend finds a glass of wine relaxing.

    Grunt ~ if Goldie says you're nice, then you're nice darnit! :)