To Sleep Perchance to Dream

Updated: Jan 2

Insomnia can take a terrible toll


Jack Russel yawning
Jack Russel gets his Yawn on; Tropical Depression Pamela Lewis

Eating isn't the only thing that children do that I can't. Sleeping is another activity that eludes me. It has been about ten years since I last slept well. As a child, my sleep was never normal. I would get up and walk around for a bit, hang out with our dog and end up in a spare bedroom. Not exactly what every child does, but I didn't wake up exhausted. It was after I had an extremely stressful conversation that my sleep hygiene fell off the map and insomnia became a legitimate issue. The timing and the content of this discussion were awful. I can usually predict what individuals will do in specific situations so it's very difficult to surprise me. So challenging that I have usually predicted situational outcomes months before they occur. I'm not bragging, I would much rather live life unpredictably. However, these conversations about my future were out of the blue.


Chocolate lab looks directly into camera while yawning: Pamela Lewis Tropical Depression
Chocolate lab takes a deep inhale; Pamela Lewis Tropical Depression

You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube after it has already been squeezed out. Likewise, there was no going back to life pre-discussion. To be told what my responsibilities will be for the future, that no one would be around to help me, I would have to move, and that I needed to prepare. Not being able to sleep for more than 90 minutes consecutively is considered preparation then I'm about as prepared as an Olympic athlete trying to win the gold. Sleep is one of those insidious activities that the longer one goes without it, the more difficult it becomes to achieve it. That is what makes insomnia particlulary evil. Several hours before I tuck myself in I start trying to get psyched for my 52 winks. My ramping down routine is identical nightly so as to not shock my body by introducing it to anything new.


Throughout the years I have taken Tryptophan, which is blamed for turkey-tiredness post-Thanksgiving and it didn't do anything. Then I went insane with exercise, which made me look great, but I still couldn't get recuperative sleep. I have tried over the counter and prescribed medications, that both had bad side effects like rambling incoherently. I'm sure friends would say I'm still doing that, but I'm not. I also took the gargantuan step of only sleeping with one pillow to improve my neck alignment. I even tried sleeping on my back which is basically as hard as pretending I'm left-handed when I'm right-handed. I used to like to cocoon myself with several hundred pillows under my head like Princess and the Pea.


I've taken Melatonin and similar to Benedryl, the amount I have to take increases every few days as my mind tells my body to go fuck itself. Most recently I took a sleep study which confirmed I have sleep apnea. It also confirmed that I snore like an oncoming locomotive train and my legs are practicing to become an Irish dancer. Within two weeks I had a Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) machine sent to my apartment. I anticipated that I would sleep like the dead my first night using my CPAP machine. So much so that I planned my first night using the CPAP would be on a Friday evening, so I could sleep in. Nope, never happened. Wearing a mask over my nose with barely flexible hoses isn't easy. I kept finding the mask on the floor because I was apparently ripping it off my face.


German shepherd mix yawning on a couch with eyes closed; Pamela Lewis Tropical Depression
Mixed breed dog takes a huge yawn while sitting on a couch; Pamela Lewis Tropical Depression

My latest attempt at sleep was to get a medical marijuana card, which I didn't want. Hawaii has a very small list of conditions that a patient must have to obtain the card. This meant lying because insomnia isn't considered pot-worthy. I was so paranoid about smoking in my apartment that I had to announce to each family living on my cul-de-sac that I'm not a drug addict. Instead, I would just like to sleep at some point. I could have smoked a person in my apartment and no one would have cared. I couldn't take edibles because I wasn't able to drive the next morning. I have vaped two different "flavors" and they each made me gag and I have also tried the tinctures. That said, I was able to relax my body, but my mind as usual had its agenda.


The only things I haven't tried to get sleep is a weighted blanket, black-out curtains, lowering the room temperature, and rescuing a dog. No joke, I sleep very well when I have a four-legged furry, dog whose feet smell like Fritos laying next to me. When it comes to sleep I can also be a cat person. When cats purr and knead their paws into my chest it renders me unconscious. If any cats are reading this, let me clarify. If your going to jump on my chest at 3 am could you try to avoid stomping on my nipples...thanks.


Older golden retriever has a yawn, eyes closed; Pamela Lewis Tropical Depression
Older golden retriever yawning; Pamela Lewis Tropical Depression

Studies have proven that getting recuperative sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your body and mind. Without adequate sleep, my reaction time is super slow and my memory just doesn't work. Without adequate sleep my memory just doesn't work...kidding, I know I repeated that sentence. If I don't inject humor into my situation then I would cry all the time. It's difficult to imagine that if I had the brain capacity that I did ten years ago, I could have cured many diseases. Psyche. I'm sure my inability to do math would have gotten in the way of science being in my future regardless of sleep.


If you have any practical advice on acquiring sleep, please share.


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