In “Macbeth,” Shakespeare refers to “Sleep that knits up the ravel’d sleave of care.”
As one who recently endured a sleepless night, I can appreciate the Bard’s descriptive tribute to that priceless gift of slumber.
Let us explore the mechanics of chasing sleep when sleep won’t come. Each of you exercises your own sleep-inducing tactics. A few of mine are:
▪ Trying to remember the name of the squadron captain who was my boss during my World War II stint in New Guinea.
▪ Reciting, in order of birth, the full names of my 14 siblings and then repeating the process from youngest to eldest.
▪ Mentally singing my favorite hymn, “How Great Thou Art” and frequently, a favorite country music ballad, “Shenandoah.”
I long to see you,
Away you rolling river …
▪ I frequently recall my most unfavorite teacher, Miss Hinshaw, who taught first grade. Too large to leave her desk, she disciplined her students with a long, slender fishing pole that almost reached across the room.
▪ I think about the disaster of disorder on my desk and vow to address it on the morrow.
And so it goes until Aurora finally drivers her chariot across the sky and I dress and stagger in to breakfast.
You may have your own solutions to insomnia. A friend doesn’t consider the time wasted.
“I play golf,” he said. “Sometimes I mentally play all of the four courses I’ve memorized.”
“Who usually wins? Or do you have a partner, some other insomniac out there at 3 a.m?” I asked. He assured me that his opponents sometimes win.
While once discussing insomnia with a nearby couple, the husband remarked, “No problem for me. I just crawl in bed and sleep all night. That’s probably because I have a clear conscience.”
“It’s probably because you have a short memory!” his wife quipped.
In Kiplinger magazine, writer Sandra Block reports that according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, driving with less than five hours of sleep is as risky as driving drunk.
Yet, according to the article, Thomas Edison slept only three hours a night, giving him extra hours to work on his inventions.
Even our new President says he needs only four hours of sleep. That leaves Mr. Trump plenty of time for tweeting or indulging in presidential duties, some of which are startling.
Ms. Block offers some anti-insomnia tips:
▪ Don’t nap late in the day, she advises: “A late day nap is like having a peanut butter-jelly sandwich just before going out to a steak dinner.”
▪ Exercise early in the day. Avoid snacks close to bedtime.
▪ Remove the bedside clock. It only increases your anxiety as it ticks away the sleepless minutes.
▪ Don’t check your cell phone at bedtime unless you worry about missing an emergency call.
I find that when sleep won’t come, it is an ideal time to count one’s blessings and give thanks.
When doing so, I frequently recall an anecdote I once read in playwright Neil Simon’s autobiography “Neil Simon Rewrites.” It described that rare feeling of incredible happiness most of us have experienced at least once.
Simon was walking his dog in the wee hours of the opening night on Broadway of “The Odd Couple.” The play’s reviews in the early editions were all raves.
“What I was thinking about was how did all this happen to me?” Simon wrote. “I had the most wonderful wife a man could want, two incredible children, the perfect dog, my health and a sonic boom of a hit that would eventually reverberate around the world.
“As I looked up at the heavens, I whispered to a nameless God whose existence I still had trouble accepting and thought, ‘If this is all the good and happiness I ever receive for the rest of my life, it will have been enough.’”
But upon returning to his apartment, Simon looked up at the sky again and whispered, “I’m not saying you should stop giving it to me. I just want you to know I appreciate it.”
Ah, how human, how human.
Each of you battles insomnia in your own way. It takes only one sleepless night to make you appreciate the curtain of slumber that releases us from the conscious world and its attendant concerns, routines and responsibilities.
Let’s not take the respite for granted.