I know a cure for insomnia - get plenty of sleep. W. C. Fields.


Insomnia can be beyond a joke at times for sufferers like myself. It is one of lifes most easily misunderstood illnesses.


As Insomnia means having a chronic inability to sleep, many assume that Insomniacs just stay up all night, working, reading and watching TV to their hearts content. In reality, the insomniac feels extremely tired and lethargic, but s/he cannot sleep even though craving it. The biggest problem is that while the body slumps out and wants to rest, the mind becomes hyperactive, reeling through thoughts and reflections on all manner of things. It keeps you awake.


Any study of torture will show that sleep-deprivation is a major method for ill-treating captives. Insomniacs inflict that kind of living hell on themselves.


You end up lying in bed, staring at the ceiling. You take catnaps, sleeping for a few minutes then suddenly getting jarred back to wakefulness by the slightest sound. You notice things that others fail to hear distant traffic, trains shunting in railway yards, cats fighting half a mile away. You think hours must have passed by but often it has been mere minutes. Time gets distorted so the night seems to last forever. You get restless and move about a lot a nightmare for anyone sharing rooms, tents or worse, a bed, with you.


During waking hours, insomniacs can still be lethargic, and often need a rest in the afternoon handy if you have the opportunity for a siesta, in countries like Spain, but not in countries like Britain where lunch breaks are often very short in many workplaces.


Some desperate insomniacs try to take Valium, or sleeping pills to induce sleep, which can get addictive, and potentially dangerous. Most insomniacs avoid stimulants like Amil-nitrate or Red Bull like the plague. Getting drunk helps, but in strict health terms, it isnt recommended. I find it is the method I sometimes resort to though.


Total absence of sleep is impossible. Most insomniacs do sleep in fits and starts, but probably get half or less of the eight hours recommended slumber most people enjoy. After weeks of such a state, insomniacs will hit a crash-out point where they need to sleep this is when they will end up falling asleep at a party, or having to leave a social function early. When such sleep does hit, it hits hard waking up a sleeping-crash insomniac is very difficult.


Once waking from this state, often in the early hours of the morning, the Insomniac finds the entire viscous cycle beginning again.


People suffer Insomnia for various reasons. In my case, I used to be obsessed as a child with staying up late to watch horror movies, or listen to late night shock-DJs who would swear and rant at their callers. In striving to stay up late, I smashed my natural body clock. Now I want to reacquaint myself with sensible sleep arrangements, I find that I cannot achieve it. Also, my time in a religious cult, The Divine Light Mission (see BRAINWASHED) between 1981 and 1985 was characterized by an obligation to meditate late at night and early in the morning. I was taught not to think, so my mind became increasingly restless. It has never shut up since.


Sometimes, I get so little sleep in a given night that I wonder if I actually got any, though people assure me that my snoring is extremely bad. I actually suffer from Sleep Apnea, which causes my breathing to build up in a loud snoring crescendo and then cut off like a death rattle, which freaks out anyone within earshot. Some friends have woken me to check if I am still alive. The brief periods of sleep I gain, are deep and intense, as is the snoring that they induce. They often end violently with my snapping back to wakefulness.


Lack of sleep often causes me to get no dreamtime either, so I have very few dreams, which I can recall or discuss. Id rather like to have dreams, as they can be a good inspiration for poetry.


Arthur Chappell