There are a lot of things that I’m really good at. Sleeping, unfortunately, is not one of them. In fact, I may be the worst sleeper in the world.
The clinical term for my condition is insomnia. I prefer to call it Extreme Sleep Deprivation Torture. Let me tell you, depriving prisoners of sleep at Guantanamo was probably FAR less humane than any of the other unsanctioned methods that were used there. I’d take waterboarding any day if it meant I could get a good night’s sleep. Seriously. Bring it on, just give me a cure for insomnia afterward.
People who can sleep easily don’t understand just how crippling insomnia is. My favorite movie, Fight Club, describes it best.
When people tell me to get a good night’s sleep for something, I want to punch them in the face. Don’t you realize I’d LOVE to get a good night’s sleep? You might as well tell me to outrun an airplane. It doesn’t matter how much I want it, for me, sleep isn’t happening.
I’ve been an insomniac for as long as I can remember. When I was a little kid and I couldn’t sleep (aka every single night of my childhood), I would sneak downstairs after my mother went to bed and watch Letterman with my dad. And when I was little, he was still on at 12:30, but that didn’t matter because I was awake. Dad would let me watch through the Top Ten list with him, then I had to go to bed. And on nights when I made a second trip downstairs because I still couldn’t sleep, he would threaten to sing to me if I didn’t get in bed.
Yes, threaten was the right word when it came to my family’s singing. So off I would go to bed with a flashlight and a book, because sleep just wasn’t happening.
But no one ever thought to take me to a doctor, because in my family, you didn’t go to a doctor unless you had a severed limb. If it was still hanging on by a thread, you were expected to walk it off. So trouble sleeping wasn’t exactly a doctor-worthy problem. Although if I had gnawed my own arm off because I couldn’t sleep, I probably could have gone to the doctor, but I would have had to get all the way through the arm, so it wasn’t worth the effort.
I never really knew that I was expected to actually sleep for a full night until I got to college and had a roommate, who let me know just how bizarre my sleep patterns were. Then I got worried. What was wrong with me?
My grandmother had the solution (or so she thought). She gave me Ambien. No, she’s not a doctor. But she somehow has more pills than a pharmacy. Literally. If the police ever raided her house, she’d be in some trouble. Then again, she probably wouldn’t. She can talk her way out of anything. And if any of the cops were Jewish, she’d try to marry me off to them.
But I digress.
So she gave me Ambien and I thought, “Great! Here’s the answer! I’ll be cured.”
Three days later, when I hadn’t sleep a wink, I gave my grandma the rest of her pills back. And I at least managed a couple hours of sleep without the Ambien. Apparently I’m so sleep-dysfunctional that the most commonly prescribed sleep aid in the country keeps me as awake as six shots of espresso would for a normal person. No thank you.
Years later, a doctor (and I use the term “doctor” loosely here… he had a prescription pad and an office, but I’m pretty sure REAL doctors don’t give out as much dangerous medication as he gave me without even asking any questions about my sleep problems) gave me a prescription for Halcion. Which was AMAZING. I slept like I’d never slept before. It was the happiest time in my life.
Until I realized that it was basically like taking roofies every night.
I started having to take the pills earlier and earlier to go to bed at the same time every night, and I wasn’t remembering anything that happened after taking the pills. I’d talk to friends and they’d remind me that we had already had the same conversation. Only I couldn’t remember it. Not even a little, like when you blackout drunk and remember what happened when people remind you. Nothing. Then I woke up one morning with a shopping bag next to my bed and didn’t remember going out. So it was time to stop taking the Halcion.
Since then, I’ve tried every non-prescription remedy on the planet. I have a white noise machine and a sleep mask. I’ve taken melatonin and valerian. Not much helps.
So when I’m lying in bed unable to sleep, I do what everyone in my position does: plot world domination.
Yes, I’m serious. You see, that’s the one and only benefit to being an insomniac. I might be a zombie for large portions of the day, but when I lie down, I’m wide awake and therefore have a LOT more time to plan how I will conquer the world than you do.
Someday, when you least expect it, my fellow non-sleepers and I will rise up while you sleepers are wasting away precious hours in bed. And be warned, we don’t like you. In fact, we hate you. Because you have the one thing we want more than anything else in the world. Sleep.
Next time you wonder why I’m cranky, do me a favor: stay awake for two full days and nights. Then see how happy you are when people tell you that they were so tired that they fell asleep super early the night before. If you at least TRY to put yourself in our shoes, we might spare you when the sleep revolution comes. But if you’re sleeping when we come for you, don’t hold your breath.