I have insomnia. I don’t mean occasionally having difficulty falling asleep – I mean severe chronic insomnia. In recent years it has become worse. During my last few years at work it was so bad I would sneak out into the parking lot and try to nap in my car. A futile act of desperation; napping is also sleep – I can’t nap either.
I have suffered through this all my life. I can still recall as a youngster my mother putting me down for a nap. She would nap; I would lie in my bed and make tents out of the covers and play quietly. When I was a Boy Scout, I recall being on camp outs where I would be wide awake most of the night hearing the other kids sound asleep. By the end of the camp out I would be exhausted.
High School was hell for me. It was always so difficult for me to sleep that I would go to bed before my parents. I was probably the only teenager in the country who would get up and ask my parents to turn the TV down. But to no avail – the next morning in class I would be sitting at my desk drowsy, my eyelids heavy, my head nodding off, jerking me awake as I caught myself. My high school grades were lousy; it was a miracle that I was accepted to college.
My wife, like most people I know, goes to sleep moments after putting her head on the pillow. It annoys me to no end. I try not to glance at the clock, but torment myself nonetheless: 1:22 AM, 2:43 AM, 3:06 AM and I am still not asleep. I am so drowsy and tired, but being tired and drowsy does not equate to being able to fall asleep. I believe that some “software switch” in my brain is broken. I fall asleep when I reach the point of sleep deprivation when the body can no longer remain awake. Then, my body having sensed the minimum amount of sleep I need to survive, my brain wakes me again. I go through the day with a sleep deprivation “hangover”. It is hell.
I turned to the Medical Establishment for help. I have been to psychiatrists, psychologists, and even a physician who specializes in Sleep Medicine. The latter put me through a sleep study. But sleep studies are designed to detect Sleep Apnea. Like the Saturday Night Live routine about the Greek restaurant where, no matter what you order, they give you a Cheeseburger; they are only trying to answer one question, do you Apnea: yes or no. They gave me a sedative so I would actually sleep. In the morning they showed me how my body wakes dozens of time a night without my knowing. I felt like I slept great and just wanted to keep getting the sedative. Instead they ordered a CPAP machine for me.
I spent hundreds of dollars on this CPAP machine. It was like having a vacuum cleaner hose attached to my face. It takes me hours to fall asleep, now I had this uncomfortable contraption on me. It worked – to the extent that the device wouldn’t allow me to sleep. It now lies in the closet gathering dust.
The physicians and psychologist have had me try just about everything; Blue-Blocker glasses, Alpha-Wave generators, Melatonin, and all kinds of behavior modification techniques – you name it. I am actually one of the few people on whom the knock-out sleep drug Ambian doesn’t even work.
One psychologist even suggested that I “…just think happy thoughts”. I canceled my next appointment.
After a year of intensive medical intervention I have resigned myself to the fact that I was born with this condition and it is incurable. I sometimes fall into some very unhappy thoughts about seeking permanent sleep, but those quickly disburse. But I confess; were it possible to sell my soul to the Devil, I would trade it in a heartbeat to be able to sleep like a normal person. I am so tired.