Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sleep is highly under-rated

I haven't slept for seven years
I think I've forgotten what it's like to dream
But I know I used to close my eyes
and drift off into deep blue skies
At least, that's what I do remember...

To a Maddening Ghost, Sara Hickman, copyright 1993-2007, Sara Hickman/Sleeveless, LLC

Every once in awhile, you hear a song and it's so relevant, it stops you where you stand. The first time I heard the opening lines of this song, I literally got goosebumps and my breath caught in my throat. It was the first time in my life I heard someone describe insomnia so eloquently.

What do you know about insomnia? It's obvious we live in a sleep-deprived nation--just watch TV on any given evening and engaging commercials for Lunesta, Ambien, and Rozerem are ubiquitous. If only sleep itself would be present on such a regular basis.

I have endured bouts of insomnia from the time I was about 15 years old. They came on without warning and have dogged me ever since. When I had my pre-college physical, I remember the family doctor noting in my file, "Has chronic, episodic insomnia." My mother insisted I would outgrow it, but I never did.

If you have never had to make it through night after night of sleeplessness, you can't imagine how frustrating and depressing it actually is. I want to sleep, really, I do. If you say you can't sleep, almost anyone you talk to will have a quick remedy to recommend, and I can assure you that none of them are effective. My latest drug in the war on sleeplessnes is Ambien--Ambien in any strength and form. I feel like I'm collecting the whole set, and all of the bottles are lined up in the cabinet from mildest to strongest, regular on the left and CR (controlled release) on the right. They mock me, those little amber bottles from Walgreens. Hope springs eternal, though, so I keep taking the medication, usually to no avail.

One of the other medications I take, EMSAM, has "sleep disturbance" listed as its first possible side effect. No kidding. I was barely making friends with the sandman before EMSAM came into my life, and since I've been slapping those patches onto my body, sleep has become something I would dream about if I could ever achieve REM sleep.

Each night I lay me down to sleep
The Lord my soul I pray to keep
But as he watches over everyone
My night has only just begun
Staring at the ceiling...

Sometimes I think Sara Hickman is channeling me. Or I'm channeling her. To a Maddening Ghost is just one of many of Sara's songs that sound like they're based on my life. Sometimes it's spooky.

Sara says that her mind just won't stop and that's why she can't sleep. There are a lot of things you can do for that particular issue. My problem is strictly chemical, the result of neurotransmitter traffic that won't let the adenosine cross the intersection, so to speak. It's all about the brain, baby, and mine is not interested in getting any downtime. Sigh.

According to the National Institutes for Health, at least 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders each year. That means that although I'm not alone, it frightens me that there 40 million people out there wandering around in my same sleep-deprivation-induced stupor. The NIH has a few tips on sleep hygiene, and let me tell you, I am the poster girl for sleep readiness, but to no avail. I am getting by on about four hours of sleep per night; unfortunately, those four hours do not come in a row. Yawn.

Today I stopped at the bookstore on my way home from work. I passed the sale section and found a book with 20,000 keys to interpreting dreams. Although the book looked intriguing and I almost bought it, in the end, I shrugged my shoulders and thought, what's the point?

Last night, after trying in vain to fall asleep, I got out of bed and moved to the couch thinking that a change of venue might do the trick. I lay on the couch, listening to the sound of distant traffic on the highway (something I don't notice during the day), the shafts of light coming in from the street and the moon, and the clicking of my dog's nails as she came down the hall checking on my whereabouts. It was cool in the living room, and very still. I drifted off, nearly slipping into the dreamworld, when something touched my bare ankle and I bolted awake. My cat, who is obsessed with any lotion from Bath and Body Works, had stealthily made it onto the back of the couch and upon detecting the irresistible yumminess of coconut-lime-verbena lotion, decided that my ankle was the perfect midnight treat. Damn it.

I envy people who sleep well. I envy people who fall asleep quickly and wake up refreshed eight hours later. I yearn to know what it's like to sleep without trouble, without effort, without going into sensory deprivation via sleep mask, earplugs, and Breathe-Right nasal strip. Apparently, when I do sleep, I snore. What a fetching bedtime specimen I must be.

Every night, I brush my teeth, take my medication, and hope that this time, this night, things will be better. Usually they aren't and I find myself giving up and doing things like gardening at 5:00 in the morning because I'm bored.

Sometimes I think I can't take it another night, and I won't make it through another hazy day. It's wearing me down. I am worn down. Sara said it best:

Please let me rest in peace
Oh, I'm dying to

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