I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately — like the past 15 years or so. Last night I woke up an estimated 11 times, and each time the lyrics from “Me and Julio down by the school yard” were pulsating through my brain or ear or wherever they pulsate. It was like being at a marathon Paul Simon concert.
“The mama looked down and spit on the ground
Every time my name gets mentioned
The papa say, “Oh, if I get that boy
I’m gonna stick him in the house of detention.”
A week before, my sleep was troubled by “Moonlight Sonata,” otherwise known as Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor “Quasi una fantasia,” which to my philistine mind, is one of the most depressing classical pieces I’ve ever heard. It makes me want to call my doctor and beg for a prescription for some mood-altering medication. Or if my health insurance doesn’t cover a prescription, I’ll have to jump out of bed and head for Rye Playland or Saturday Night Live.
But when you’re suffering from ear worms and insomnia, Moonlight Sonata is probably better to listen to than the Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” which is one of my favorite songs at wedding receptions, but not at 3 o’clock in the morning.
While I’m lying awake, I’m tormented by many things that cross my mind. Monumental issues like:
* Will I ever get all those assignments done in time at work?
* How am I going to save for retirement?
* Why am I hyperventilating?
* Why didn’t I respond to that insult from (pick one) a) my coworker b) my client c) the woman who wouldn’t shut up in the quiet car of the train or d) that obnoxious waiter?
I can think of no better use of insomnia than to brood over an insult. That’s why insomnia was invented.
Every morning, my wife and I ask each other the same question and it’s not, “Are we still married?” It’s “How did you sleep last night?” The answer is generally as depressing as the answer to “How much interest am I earning on this savings account?”
When I put my head on the pillow at 8 p.m. — because I have to get up at 4:30 a.m. — I always vow to get a better night’s sleep than the night before. Then, I turn on my fitness/sleep tracker and drift off into dreamland … until approximately 2:13 when I wake up and can’t get back to sleep for another 67 or so minutes. The crazy thing is that in the morning, the sleep tracker claims I got about 90 percent of my 8-hour target.
I often wonder what happened to the good old days as a kid when I put my head on the pillow, shut my eyes and then opened them to a brand new day and the sun was shining. What really scares me is I’ve read that too little sleep shrinks your brain and various other body parts. That can’t be a good thing.
During those hours of tossing and turning, I do a lot of agonizing over my personal problems. I should have listened to my mother’s advice. She had a small sign on the door of her bedroom that said, “Give your problems to God — he’s going to be up all night anyway.” The problem is I’m up right along with him.
My only consolation is, as they say in 12 Step programs, “You are not alone.” More than 60 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders. Experts say that chronic sleeplessness usually affects women and those over 65 and that as you age, sleep problems develop for many reasons, including stress, medical ailments, and changes in your metabolism.
Unfortunately, even young people are getting less sleep, but the causes are tied to the use of electronic devices, such as mobile phones and iPads. A study of teenagers in Norway found that those who had screen time of more than 4 hours a day were 3.5 times more likely to sleep less than five hours. My average is better than that.
Even our dog has problems sleeping. The other night she was wandering the second floor. Maybe she was hungry, or it might have been a full moon because coyotes were howling in the woods.
When I got up to go to the bathroom, she followed me and started licking my toes. Then, my wife got up because she was hungry and went downstairs to have a bowl of cereal, and the dog followed her for a late-night snack. I was so inspired by this display of communal insomnia that I was tempted to join them and play my Paul Simon’s Greatest Hits album.
“See you, me and Julio down by the school yard …”
Contact Joe Pisani at joefpisani [at] yahoo.com.