Before I go, I have something to say

To Sleep, Perchance to . . . Sleep

My daughter used to do the cutest thing. Before she could even speak English, she would sit in her car seat babbling away, holding a spirited conversation with the world as it whizzed by outside the car windows, sounding for all the world like some commentator on Fox News. Then before you knew it there would be dead silence, and I would see, in the rearview mirror, that she’d fallen fast asleep. It was as if she had to get all those opinions out before she could drop off to dreamland.

If only it were that easy for me these days. Like any wife, I love talking in bed, whether it’s romantic pillow talk or a rant about What Went Wrong at the Grocery Store Today, but it doesn’t necessarily clear my brain for rest. In fact, I’ve been besieged lately with the world’s worst case of insomnia. I know why, and I hate to bore you with the details. Let’s just say it’s related to those cursed daily migraines I mentioned a few issues back, and a new medication I’m using that works like a charm against the pain but, wouldn’t you know it, causes its own interesting clutch of what the pharmacy labels Adverse Events, a.k.a. side effects. Now, when a side effect involves no sleep, I would prefer to name it a Main Event, but that’s just me calling a spade a spade. And I gotta tell you, this spade has dug a pretty big hole in my nights. Not to mention my days.

My husband, who is a musician when he’s not doing his day job, once wrote a song called “Up All Night.” It’s a cute number with a chorus that goes, “Up all night, mind racin’, feet pacin’, up all night, tried countin’ sheep, but I can’t sleep. I’m up all night, I’m not blue nor in a funk, I just can’t stay in my bunk, mullin’ it over, thinkin’ it through, trying’ to find something else to do. I’m up all night.” It’s catchy when set to music; I just never thought I’d be living it. It’s much less appealing when you’re acting it out. You could say I am definitely “blue and in a funk” about this turn of events.

For one thing, I do not count sheep or try to find something else to do. The only thing I want to do is, well, sleep. The term “tossing and turning” has taken on new meaning. As I turn myself over for the twenty-seventh time, I’m reminded of a chicken on a rotisserie. A friend tells me a saying: “She was as cool as the other side of the pillow.” Believe me, after turning the pillow over five times, the other side is neither cool nor inviting. All you want to do is throw that pillow across the room or out the window.

I’ve read the articles about what is called proper sleep hygiene, which imply that if you just wash your hands before bedding down, you’ll sleep fine. But no, that’s not what it means. The rules are, no TV, no computer, no vigorous exercise an hour before bed. Relax. Do yoga. Take a warm bath, which will, conversely, cool down your core, which is what you need. Warm feet, cool core. I actually did all that one night when I was desperately tired. A little yoga, my favorite music (only the most mellow songs from John Mellencamp’s incomparable new CD), thinking happy thoughts just before bed. I got under the covers, expecting to drop off like a baby. And you know what happened? Five minutes later, the Bad Fairy of Foot Cramps attacked and would not let go. For half an hour! It was awful! What did I do to deserve THAT?

Finally, I broke down and called my doctor, begging for sleeping pills. I knew just what I wanted, having gone through a much milder form of insomnia years ago. But he gave me bad news. My current insurance company won’t cover these particular magic pills. He prescribed something else, which I tried, and, big surprise, didn’t work. Well, they sort of worked, but instead of no sleep, I got two hours, tops. So I called the insurance company myself, thinking surely there must be some mistake, and surely I could sweet talk them into changing their mind. All they needed was to hear the desperation in my sleep-deprived voice.

But no. The clerk on the phone informed me that before they would cover the magic pills, I would first have to “fail” (her actual word) on four other sleep medications. Whose names, had I been in a jovial mood, would have sent me into gales of laughter – Ambien (which means “walk,” for heaven’s sake), Halcion, Sonata, and Restoril (does it make you rest, or make you ill?) Only if I “failed” all of these – and she did not say how long I had to take them, whether for one tossing-and-turning night or a month of sheer, um, heck – could I get covered for Ambien CR, which was what I wanted, what I used to take, what I knew in my exhausted heart would work. She even had the audacity to inform me that “studies” have shown that this drug has been shown to provide only fifteen additional minutes of sleep.

Well, lady, I wanted to say but did not, I’m a medical librarian, and I’ll just see about your so-called studies. In the meantime, it’s one more thing to stew about while I’m Up. All. Night. As for you, dear readers? Sweet dreams! Enjoy them if you’ve got them!

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