Counting sheep is for chumps. When I can’t sleep I engage in fun activities: tossing, turning, kicking, getting up, lying back down, pounding the pillow, cursing like a Tarantino badass. It’s almost aerobic and so I don’t feel quite as horrible that I didn’t fall asleep until 5:36 a.m.
Wrong. It’s always crummy. I’ve had so many sleepless nights, I’m ready to press a pistol to my groggy noggin. Then, then, perhaps I’ll catch a few winks. But with my luck, no.
Why is insomnia so vexing? Partly because it’s so seemingly controllable. For instance, I won’t touch caffeine after 1 p.m. and even then the sandman, that skulking rascal, that creepy home intruder, will fail me badly.
I can yawn all day, reading and writing, taking a brisk walk, watching some Netflix, and still I’m like Linda Blair in her jumpy two-poster bed, bloodshot eyes glaring at the ceiling, arms spread Christlike, mouth a satanic rictus, steam billowing from that hideous maw. (OK, that last bit is slightly embellished.)
I am possessed, but not by the devil. I am bedeviled by churning thoughts, junk my brain can’t turn off, even when — and this is true — I’ve taken a full eight Benadryl antihistamine pills, which are famous for their soporific powers. I know people who can take half a Benadryl and sleep through the next three days. Yet the stuff won’t pierce my impervious wakefulness.
Occasionally a Clonazepam or two works wonders. That is rare. And when I do nod off, I’m haunted by uncomfortably vivid dreams quivering with cameos by my late parents, old co-workers, deadlines, writing, weird travel, ex-girlfriends and a random monstrosity, like Marjorie Taylor Greene. I can’t remember the last time I had a truly pleasant dream. In that case, maybe sleep-deprivation is a blessing, not a pillow-punching curse.
Nope. I’d trade a long night of exasperating insomnia — which entails a full bleary-eyed day of feeling like the cranky undead — for a good snooze with bad dreams. Insomnia, after all, is a waking nightmare.
What am I on about? I’ve been sleeping pretty soundly lately, though the other night required pills and pejoratives to achieve a solid snooze. At one point, I kicked the comforter off the bed, bolted up and tried to read, fuming. It was well past 3 a.m. I read two pages, doused the lights, tossed, turned, eventually falling asleep around 6:30. I was a positive joy to be around that day.
I can’t sleep on trains or planes, a bad look for this inveterate traveler. Once upon a time, equipped with an eye mask, ear plugs and the occasional jacket thrown over my head, I could zonk out on a red-eye flight. No more. For reasons unknown, I’m now Malcolm McDowell in “A Clockwork Orange,” eyelids cranked open with medieval clamps.
It’s all so tiresome, literally. I’d prefer eyes wide shut, to name-check another Kubrick film. For now it’s a battle, a nightly crap-shoot, will I snooze or lose? Let me sleep on it. Please.