“The last refuge of the insomniac is a sense of superiority to the sleeping world.” – Leonard Cohen
I have some strengths, but sleeping is not one of them. I suck at sleeping, and while I wish I could still channel the smug sense of superiority to which dear Mr. Cohen refers in the above quote, unfortunately for me, it dissolved into pure bitterness around age 35.
I’m a week into my latest bout of insomnia. Not sleeping is a false boon. I have tons of extra time to devote to writing, but my brain isn’t functioning, so the work is crap. To avoid destroying my books, I instead use the time to read (at about a 9% comprehension rate) and to wander around the internet, which is a foolish thing for someone with misanthropic tendencies to do. Nothing says, “People are idiots!” quite as convincingly and consistently as the World Wide Web.
It doesn’t help that I live in a house full of skilled sleepers. At this moment, there are three geriatric pets within a twenty-foot radius of me, and they are all snoring. They sleep approximately 23 hours per day. And my husband is Super Sleeper Extraordinaire. He can say, “I’m gonna take a quick nap,” then fall asleep immediately and awaken ten minutes later, refreshed and happy. I don’t think I’ve napped since infancy.
A few years ago, after a month of sleeplessness, I wrote the following helpful list.
Signs You Could Use Some Sleep:
(1) You begin questioning your right to exist. As you lie awake in bed for the third, twelfth, or twenty-fifth night in a row, you find yourself wondering: How is this evolutionarily possible? How, after thousands of years of mutation and development, am I one of the fittest of my species, worthy of survival? I can’t even perform a basic life function. You decide that you only exist because of some flaw that slipped through the cracks of human adaptation, and therefore feel even better about your decision to abstain from breeding, as the evolutionary error will die with you.
(2) Your perception of the world becomes far too interesting. Lots of things start happening, particularly in your peripheral vision, that are not actually happening. You may be found waving imaginary bugs out of your face or having an extreme startle reflex for no reason. Driving a car at this point is probably not a good idea.
(3) Your motor functioning goes to crap. You don’t know if it’s because your brain and body are no longer on speaking terms or your spatial abilities have just gone on vacation. What you do know is that you drop half the things you try to pick up and knock over the other half.
(4) You start saying bizarre things. The pathway between your brain and your mouth has apparently been severed, so you think certain words but say other words. For example, about a week ago I started saying suicide instead of insomnia (e.g., “My suicide is really starting to piss me off”).
Granted, when I wrote that list, I hadn’t slept for 30 days. Now I’m only on day 7. So at least I have all that fun stuff to look forward to.
But someday, I will sleep, just like a normal, functioning human. It will be glorious. I will feel like this.
Until then, I will tell myself that I’ll sleep when I’m dead. I’ll work to resurrect the arrogance of the chronic insomniac, staring down her nose at all the sleepers of the world and thinking, Sleep? Pshaw. Sleep is for suckers. And for the sake of my stories, I will leave them be until the Sandman comes. They don’t need any input from this impaired brain.