Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Confessions Of An Insomniac
More of my electrodes
I haven’t slept since college, by which I mean I haven’t slept well since college. I developed insomnia in school because I was staying up late studying and writing papers and basically trained my body not to recognize tiredness. When it finally came time to go to sleep, I had difficulty shutting down my mind. It would take me an hour to doze off and when you’re only getting five hours of sleep, there’s no time for that nonsense. It’s been six years since graduation and it’s still an issue. I've tried visualization exercises, yoga, CDs projecting the sounds of the jungle or whale songs, nothing worked.
Eventually I went to a sleep disorder clinic and a doctor prescribed me sleeping pills which were a godsend until my body started building up a tolerance. Suddenly one pill was no longer taking care of business. I could’ve popped an Ambien and put in a full day’s work. In addition to having trouble falling asleep, I also started having problems staying asleep. Even after taking a sleeping pill I’d wake up as many as 10 times a night. They kept increasing my dosage and now it takes two-and-a-half sleeping pills every night for me to get a full night’s rest. It’s approximately the same amount used to tranquilize those bears that occasionally burst out of the forest to terrorize suburban neighborhoods.
Though my sleep specialist says that two-and-a-half sleeping pills isn’t really harmful (you’d have to take 40 times the regular dosage to OD on Ambien), they had me stay overnight at the sleep disorder center last Friday so they could study me try to figure out what the problem is. Appropriately, the sleep center is located inside Bellevue hospital, home to New York’s premiere insane asylum. Courtney Love was carted off to Bellevue a few years ago during one of her breakdowns. John Lennon assassin Mark David Chapman spent some time there. Yep, just me and the crazies chillin on a Friday night.
I arrived at 8:30 p.m. dressed in a t-shirt and boxers. A medical technician immediately went to work attaching approximately 30 electrodes to my head and face. Sensors were also strapped to my stomach and chest to monitor my breathing throughout the night. The technician placed one strap above my breasts and one strap below. “It’s like a boob tourniquet,” I observed. He laughed politely. By the time he got through with me, I resembled Sandra Bullock at the end of Speed when Dennis Hopper straps a bomb to her chest and then makes her get on the subway. (I've always wondered, does anyone even ride the subway system in L.A.? Isn’t that kind of dangerous with all those potential earthquakes? These are some of the things that keep me up at night.)
I lay down in the sleep center’s research bed, which was surprisingly comfortable. The technician was in the back room monitoring my heart rate and brain waves and watching me on video. He wished me good night over the loudspeaker. About five minutes later I said out loud, “Um, hello? Sir? Can I please have a glass of water?” He rushed into the room with a paper cup and held back the wires so I could imbibe without electrocuting my face. Then a few minutes later, “Okay, I’m sorry to bother you again but is there any way I can get another blanket?” I felt like a kid again. Remember when you were little and just shouted out your requests to your parents? “I want to get up now!” you’d scream. “Getupgetupgetupgetup!!!!” until someone would come running into the room and lift you out of your crib.
Like any classic overachiever, as I was trying to drift off I started worrying that I wasn't going to deliver the goods. What if I, like, failed the test by sleeping soundly through the night??? Luckily, I had a horrible, fitful sleep. I tossed and turned all night. Several times I accidentally yanked out one of the wires and the technician came in and woke me up so he could reconnect me. I had bizarre dreams that kittens had become a new food delicacy and not just any kittens but mini-kittens. People were frying them up and eating them like shrimp except they were somehow still alive. “Look how cute!” we’d say before popping them, still wriggling, into our mouths. In my dream I saved one of these mini-kittens from certain death and took it home to adopt it but my boyfriend freaked out because he’s allergic. “You know what dander does to me!” said Dream Boyfriend.
At 5:45 a.m. on Saturday my minder woke me up by announcing over the loud speaker, “You can leave, Ms.Hancock. We have all the data we need.” As they peeled off the electrodes, I wondered if that’s what death will be like – a voice from above booming out, “You can go, Ms. Hancock. We have everything we need from you.” I stumbled out of the hospital a few minutes later in my boxers, t-shirt and flip-flips. My hair was sticking out wildly from all the gel used to make the electrodes adhere to my head. At home I donned a shower cap to keep the gel from getting all over my pillows, put on a sleep mask and passed out again looking rather insane.
Posted by Noelle Hancock