May 15, 2024

Six Coping Tips for Insomniacs (Did You Hear Me? Wake Up!)

¡Coma esta usted?

By Ed Goldman

Many readers know that Lewis Carroll—author of “Alice in Wonderland” and its sequel “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There”was in reality a man named Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a math teacher at Oxford’s Christ Church College. And many assume that because he also wrote “Lewis Carroll’s Guide for Insomniacs” (which has just been reissued by Notting Hill Editions) he was one himself.]

Apparently not. He just enjoyed staying up ’til all hours concocting stories and poems and games (one of which was a precursor of Scrabble, my own favorite since childhood, when I knew far fewer words and so reliably lost to my older brothers).

Edgy Cartoon

Callous in Wonderland

Anyway, as someone prone to occasional insomnia—and knowing I’m not alone in this—I thought I’d offer six coping tips of my own to restless readers.

  1. If you’re not sure how to handle your insomnia—see a doctor? take pills?—don’t make a rash decision. Think it over. Sleep on it.
  2. Read “Beowulf” knowing you’re never ever going to be tested on it again—nor will St. Peter give you a pop quiz on the damn thing before letting you enter through the Pearly Gates into Heaven. With that pressure removed, I promise that just a few pages in, you’ll be semi-comatose.
  3. Forget the traditional “counting sheep” which consists of imagining one sheep after another jumping over a split-rail fence. This isn’t remotely relaxing. Instead, why not think of how many common expressions include sheep, like: (a) a sheep in wolf’s clothing; (b) acting sheepish; (c) black sheep of the family; and (d) “autant vaut bien battu que mal battu” (roughly, you might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb). Note: It could be prudent to have a French translator stay up with you. If nothing else, he or she can probably whip up a lovely souffle at 3 a.m.
Looking for a Great Gift?
  1. Plot the perfect murder. I’m going to assume that none of my readers actually wishes to murder anyone—and to further assume (and hope) they don’t think Ido. But once you know you have no intention of following through on this admittedly gruesome premise, it’s amazing how cozy you’ll feel thinking up ways to do someone in as long as you realize how many elements of your plans will trip you up and lead to your arrest, conviction and, in California, afford you a long life of three squares a day in one of those gated communities the state is famous for. Perhaps it would be better to plot the perfect insult line.
  2. Think of all the odious  tasks you had to do when you were younger and no longer have to, such as pass a typing test, do 50 pushups (or even two chin-ups), take a driver training course, experience your first hangover, know who plays third base for a team you haven’t followed in years, show your i.d. to get served in a bar, meet a blind date for the first and last time, and rewind a VHS tape before returning it to the rental store. Then take a deep, cleansing breath: this will either help you fall right asleep or calm your labor pains. 
  3. Work out the crossword puzzles in the Monday New York Times or Wall Street Journal, the occasional “for beginners” one in the New Yorker or just about any in an airline magazine (sample clue for each: “She played Mary in ‘The Mary Tyler Moore Show'”). You’ll feel so much smarter than you did an hour earlier that you can expect endorphins, tryptophan or your handful of Advil P.M.s to kick in and send you straight to Wonderland or, if you take too many of those Advil P.M.s, straight to the E.R.— where, I’m sure if you ask, they’ll give you something to help you get to sleep.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).