Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Insomnia: A Guidebook (12/8/05)

I suffered fairly severe insomnia for one semester of college. I couldn’t get to sleep until about 4 am just about every morning and had early classes so I’d have to get up at 7. It’s hit me off and on since then but not for too long at a time. The worst since then was probably after I split with my ex. I ended up taking sleeping pills for awhile but it wasn’t nearly as long as a semester.

Lately has been the longest since that semester. The last 3 weeks it’s been bothering me. Here’s what it’s like for those of you that are fortunate to not have suffered from it: You’re tired. Really tired. So you should be able to sleep, right? Oh, but no. You lay down. You turn off the lights. You wait for sleep to come but in the meantime your mind starts to wander. You think of all the things that are worrying you in any way and can’t stop thinking about them. And because of that sleep won’t come.

There are a couple of tricks that usually work, which are why insomnia has gone away for me for so long. First trick I have is to read. It makes my eyes tired. (Because I’m supposed to wear reading glasses but never do but that’s another story.) But then sometimes you put the book down when you get tired enough and think you’ll fall asleep now but as soon as you close your eyes and start to relax the thoughts come back. Your mind gets so busy that no matter how tired your eyes are you can’t pass out.

Next trick: Leave the TV on. Has to be the right channel though. Has to be a show that you can listen to but don’t have to watch. This one is a really good trick because if you find the right show you can have your eyes closed and keep your brain occupied with something other than the thoughts until—hopefully—you drift off to sleep. The only thing that used to impede this trick was if a commercial happened too soon.

I find good channels to fulfill this need to be A&E, History Channel, Discovery Channel, and best of all, Court TV (as long as they aren’t playing Cops). During the bad semester I saw the entire series of “Homicide: Life on the Streets” when it played from 2-3 am on Court TV. Then they stopped playing that and played “The Profiler” which I enjoyed at first but then it got tedious. Now Court TV shows all true crime dramas, which work very well too.

If you are having a really unfortunate night and are up until after 5:30, you are S.O.L. because 5:30-6:00 am is the dead half hour. Court TV starts infomercials at 5:30 (the latest of all the channels at least) and you are stuck with nothing but news channels. Unless . . . the best is if you are still up at 6 am then on the History Channel educational TV comes on and there are no commercials (because I’m not sure if I mentioned this before but commercials are when your mind can start to wander again and you lose all sleep tendencies, which basically gives you a 10-12 minute window at best on any channel to fall asleep), AND. It’s boring. But not too boring. And you can totally listen to it with your eyes closed.

And if for some reason you are still up at 7 am, then A&E has their educational TV hour. And if you are still up at 8 am, you are probably screwed because it’s about time to get up for the day anyway. So it’s now 1:30 am and I’m feeling the sleepies pulling down the corners of my eyes but I know they are just teasing. Nevertheless, I’m going to try to sleep.

With Court TV on. In case the sleep doesn’t come.

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