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On Sleeping Disorders

by guest author Danny Tiemens

Sleeping disorders are the WORST. We all know it (even if we haven’t yet, thankfully, had to actually experience them). People all the way back in history have bemoaned the trials and tribulations of sleeping disorders. Many have conquered problems and developed tricks or habits for sound sleep patterns. Rare sleeping disorders are written about and made part of fine films. And artists, poets, and musicians had sometimes unusual relationships with their nighttime habits.

E. G. Brown admonishes and denounces Morpheus, the god of dreams/sleep in a raging poem. The poet Rosetti combats—unwittingly—insomnia, after paying tribute to his deceased beloved, Lizzie. Surrealist painter Salvador Dali designs a technique for sleeping in very short chunks of time at a time. Einstein and Tesler sleep very little. River Phoenix’s character, Mike, in My Own Private Idaho, suffers from narcolepsy. Michael Richards’ character, Kramer, tries to pull off the Leonardo DaVinci tradition—of sleep 15 minutes every four hours. In The Haunting, Liam Neeson plays Dr. David Marrow, who attempts to come up with a theory for sleeping disorders. And Al Pacino is the epitome of insomnia in the movie by the same name.

The depiction of sleeping disorders in art and film goes on, suggesting more than a curious preoccupation with such illnesses or disorders as narcolepsy (sudden bouts of falling fast asleep in any location at any time of day), insomnia (inability to sleep), and sleep apnea (obstructed breathing patterns that waken the sleeper incessantly). In addition, serious studies and ongoing clinics and research devote much to what are called parasomnias (problems that occur during sleep), such as bruxism (teeth-grinding); head-banging; and what Frank Costanza on Seinfeild calls “the Jimmy-legs,” the restless limbs, moving limbs, or occasional lunges and lurches of the limbs during deep sleep and/or during the initial stages of falling asleep.

A few tricks are offered for the one who has mild insomnia. For example, he/she is warned not to stay in bed for anything besides, well, in this case, sleeping. That is, don’t work in bed, watch TV for hours from the bed, etc., as sleeping brains don’t register it now as a place to sleep but to stay alert and active. Of course, there’s the natural tryptophan solution—hence the jokes and traditions of eating turkey, drinking warm milk, or eating bananas even. And my sister and I have this newly-discovered habit (we recently discovered, that is, that we both do it…and we live 3,000 miles apart): when we are tossing and turning and restless and unable to sleep, we relocate by sleeping with our heads at the foot of the bed and our feet where I restless heads just were. It works for us, but of course, anyone with much more serious sleeping disorders will consult a family physician, general practitioner, or sleep specialist instead.

The most striking of sayings I found years ago when I was collecting quotes for a friend. It is an ancient sentiment (I think Egyptian or Chinese) that goes something like this:
The three greatest ills of man--To be in bed and sleep not; To want for one who comes not; To try to please and please not. May your greatest ills be less than sleeping frustrations.



“Sleep is like the unicorn - it is rumored to exist, but I doubt I will see any”

~~ Anonymous

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