Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sleeping Problems

I’m one of those lucky people who have had problems sleeping pretty much my entire life. I thank my mom’s side, a long line of Jew anxiety that makes falling and staying asleep an epic nightly challenge. Most people have only one sleep issue, but I have several - and I also have a blog where I can regale you with the intricacies of each one!

Falling Asleep

I didn’t realize until college how different I was from most people. Sure, I knew my dad could fall asleep watching TV on the couch, but he’s a dad! All dads have that special power! So when it would take me anywhere from twenty minutes to two hours to nod off, I chalked it up to one of those things people just have to deal with. Then I went to college, where you live amongst like 40 people your age, and if you’re lucky enough to become friends with some of them, as I was, you become knowledgeable about each others’ sleep patterns. Sometimes you even take group naps. It happens. Anyway, it was around this time that I discovered that most people fall asleep - wait for it - right away. I was astonished! Because it takes me fuckin forever.

Sometimes I clutch my clock in fear and frustration.

I can’t seem to help but scroll through the entire day in my head, think about everything I have to do the next day, wonder if I forgot anything I was supposed to do this week, make a mental shopping list, think about what I’ll wear tomorrow, squint at a dark form in the corner and wonder if it’s always been there or someone has snuck in to attack me, throw one leg out of the covers, flip my pillow over, think about the emails I sent that day and how they’ll be received (was I funny yet professional?), put the leg back under the covers, wonder why the dark figure in the corner waiting to attack me is standing super still instead of just getting it over with…you get the idea. It’s exhausting. Only not exhausting enough to fall asleep, apparently. It sucks, and the more you think about how you need to fall asleep, the less likely you are to do it. The next morning, there’s not enough coffee in the world.


When I was little, I had a short list of huge fears. Spiders, a fire in my house, and being kidnapped. This last one trumped all others, and I had nightmares on the subject almost constantly. (I blame America’s Most Wanted for this one…it was really big at the time). I was also a pretty creative and imaginative kid, which supposedly makes your dreams more vivid - awesome if you’re dreaming about riding a unicorn to a magic pond at the end of a sweet rainbow. Less awesome if you are dreaming about someone dragging you away from a crowded marketplace and you’re too terrified to scream. I woke up hyperventilating once. Did I mention the Jew anxiety, folks?

Wake up, little child! Time to get kidnapped!

Now I know what you’re thinking - sure, lots of people had nightmares as kids! It’s super common. No big deal now, right? Right. Well. At the time of writing this post, I am 25 years old. And a half. Roughly once a week, I still have nightmares that cause me to wake up with a little gasp. I’m not really getting kidnapped anymore, but the post-apocalypse zombie world has been the prevailing genre for the last year or so. Usually I’m trying to hide somewhere or run upstairs faster than the attacking zombies, and just as one grabs for me, I wake up. Now I’ll admit, I‘m certainly never hyperventilating, and I can usually roll over and go back to sleep without much of an issue, but the waking itself is pretty inconvenient, and my poor subconscious just can’t seem to get away from those zombies. It blows.

Total Inability to Nap

I know this can kind of be grouped with the first category of general insomnia, but it’s so annoying that I felt I had to hate it in its own paragraph. Napping, from what I hear, is a sacred ritual in which one can catch up from sleep lost the night before. One merely lies down in the middle of the day, and falls asleep for awhile! They then wake up and continue about their business, going to bed later that night as usual. HAH.

So, first of all, my body is somehow not designed to fall asleep during any sort of daylight hours. Even if I’m in a pitch black room, it still knows. It knows there’s light outside and that it’s not normal bedtime! This is the case even if I’m completely exhausted, usually thanks to not sleeping the night before (see above re: inability to fall asleep). I can be about to nod off all day, drag my ass through until it’s an appropriate time to nap, then lie there and suddenly be incapable of sweet blissful sleep. Why, God? Why? I knew I was different on this one from the get go - my sister could be a professional napper, and spent many of her high school years practicing for the Napolympics. I hear they’re in Fiji next year.

Fuckin' show off.

On the very, VERY rare occasion that I do fall asleep during the day, it completely ruins my life to the point where I wish I hadn’t slept at all. First of all, whether I’m asleep for twenty minutes or two hours, I wake up basically incapable of human thought. I am so thoroughly confused about what time and day it is, why it’s light or dark out, where I am, etc. I am useless for at least another hour after napping, which kind of defeats the purpose most people use it for (getting some quick power sleep so they can burn through the rest of their day). Second, I can pretty much kiss falling asleep that night goodbye. Why Joanna, you fell asleep from 5:10 - 5:30 pm today? Seems like you’re good for the next 24 hours! Fuck you, body! I had twenty minutes and you keep me up til 3 am? What do you want from me? WHAT DO YOU WANT!?

Sigh. I know I’m not alone, and my sleep problems are probably not as bad as many people out there…but since I don’t care about them, I’m going to feel sorry for myself and write about it on my blog. The end.


  1. For years - and I mean YEARS - I fell asleep fairly easy. With provisions - ones that would happen in every dream I had. First, throughout every episode, my left eye was closed. I couldn't see out of it no matter what. I would spend the entire dream attempting to open it without any success. Extremely frustrating and scary sometimes. Second, my dreams were always in a shade of red - like a red filter had been placed over my "good" eye. Again, very aggravating and mysterious to say the least. After about 50 years of this, I began to really think about the source of this strange phenomena. And believe it or not, I came up with the most plausible explanation. You see, when I was about 6 years old, my brother and I were having some fun thrashing about in a pile of leaves in our front yard. Somehow, some way, a ball peen hammer was hidden in the pile and - you guessed it - I ran into it and received a rather messy cut above my LEFT EYE (significant clue here). I immediately got up and headed for our house with blood blanketing the left side of my face. My mother threw the front door open, saw my bloodied face and nearly fainted on the spot. Surprisingly, after a thorough cleaning, it turned out to be a small gash that required a simple butterfly bandage (I think the doctor chuckled as he applied it). After many years, I realized my dream handicap was grounded in this event. I still remember walking toward my house with my left eye covered in blood and my right eye squinted as if I half-expected it to get hit as well. Everything was red - pure red. Mystery solved. From that day on, I could see out of that eye in my dreams - and they were now if full bore color. I guess I proved self-analysis is a lot cheaper some times - and a lot more rewarding.

  2. I do fondly recall the hammer story from your youth. It's bizarre that something you chuckle about now apparently had such a profound impact on your subconscious! Would you like to share anything about my past? Say, a botched kidnapping attempt that I have blocked out?

  3. Uncle Fred and "The Hammer" were the reason for Dad's nightmares. I was probably the reason you, Jo, have nightmares to this day. Do you think perhaps the Zombie game we would play had anything to do with it? You know, the one where I would play dead and you would poke me and then I would scare the crap out of you and Em by jumping up? Or maybe your fear of kidnapping stemmed from when Mom left us with strangers (albeit nice strangers) for an hour in line for the haunted house? Food for thought....and thanks for the accolades on my Napolympics success.

  4. A friend of mine told me to remove the wall clock inside my room so as not to get conscious of the time while trying to sleep. Removed my working desk at the bedroom and make it as a sanctuary for resting and sleeping. Most importantly, I clear my mind and think about sleeping as well as making it a habit not to do work beyond 11 pm. It just works for me.

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