There’s nothing more refreshing than a good night’s sleep, which explains why I feel half-dead all the time. Well, not ALL the time—only when I don’t sleep, which is roughly three nights out of seven. And boy, is it rough.
Insomnia, thy name is hell.
For almost 40 years I crawled into bed and passed out for exactly eight hours. If I went to bed at 11:15 p.m., I awoke promptly at 7:15 a.m. If I crashed at 2:01 a.m., I came to at 10:01 a.m. My internal clock was like a Rolex. I took a good night’s sleep for granted.
Then, overnight (pardon the pun), I began sleeping three hours--sometimes four, sometimes less than two, but in general, three hours a night. Take it from me, that will make you crazy.
After a few weeks, I was laughing at funerals and crying at red lights. I whipped up a lot of fudge at 2 a.m. During one endless night, I braided my long hair into 47 plaits and began sanding the kitchen cabinets. True story.
Finally I went to my family doctor, who prescribed a mild sedative. It worked beautifully for years, until it didn’t. The GP prescribed another mild sedative, to be cut in half and taken with the original sedative every night. This too worked for years, but now it seems to be on the wane. (I tried Ambien one time, the lowest dose available. I swallowed it in the den and five minutes later fell out on the floor. I awoke refreshed, but the carpet burn was embarrassing.)
So I stick with my tiny pills. When I do sleep, I sleep well. But when I don’t, which is becoming the norm, it’s horrible.
My husband blames my tossing and turning on hormones, or lack thereof. Apparently he believes that many women of my, uuummm, “vintage” are weeping, not sleeping and screaming hysterically if dirty socks are left on top of, instead of in, the laundry hamper.
The thing is, having insomnia when you’re married is a whole different ballgame. About all I can do is read or wander the house wringing my hands like a frizzy-haired haint. I don’t get online because it makes me even more alert, and there are only so many times you can Google “four-minute fudge” anyway.
If I were to light candles and break out the wine, or start hanging wallpaper, Widdle would be up like a shot. And believe me, you do not want to be the reason Widdle gets up like a shot at 3 a.m.
So mostly I read in bed, using one of the tiny battery-powered book lights Widdle bought for me. Some nights even that disturbs him, so I give up and go into the guest room, where the mattress is slightly firmer than a sidewalk. After 30 minutes I’m squirming and more awake than ever.
Then I get hot under the heavy comforter and start to sweat, so I have to get up and tie my hair back. I crawl back in bed but start thinking about beloved dogs that died too soon, or how I don’t give enough to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and I start sobbing until the book falls to the floor with a thud… and Widdle wakes up anyway.
Just another night on the edge. Sweet dreams, y’all.
Julie R. Smith, who often writes incoherent columns when she can’t sleep, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.