It’s 5 a.m. and I’m enraged. 

It’s the worst kind of rage, too, because there’s nowhere to direct it. 

Should I be infuriated at the bed beneath me? Should I rant and fume at the night itself, with its untrustworthy dark that will soon give way to creeping dawn? 

I could focus my wrath on the morning traffic sounds outside or the regular creaks and groans of the old house around me, but that would serve only as a temporary outlet. 

The real war, its battlefield a turmoil of thrashing and kicking and pillow punching, is a war waged within. 

Insomnia is a devilish kind of enemy. The more you battle it, the stronger it becomes. Ranting against that faceless foe only sets your heart to angry thumping and as your blood pressure soars, the chasm separating you from the land of nod becomes greater still.  


But look at me talking about my own problems when I know very well that plenty of you bag-eyed souls suffer as well. According to a study I mostly just made up in my head — I’m too tired to Google — somewhere between 10% and 30% of the human population suffers insomnia on a regular basis. 

Every night as I pace the cold floors, in the bargaining phase in which I’m willing to make all sorts of ill-advised trades in exchange for sleep, I take comfort in the fact that many of you are pacing, too. We are like a brotherhood of nerve-tattered souls shunned from the enchanted cloud world of sleep others enter so easily. 

Together we agonize in the wee hours, making bargains with the sleep gods while those around us snore and mumble and drool in their beds as if to taunt us. We come to despise those weasels who sleep so easily to the point where sometimes we fantasize about shaving their heads in the middle of the night just for the reward of petty revenge! 

Or maybe that’s just me. Let’s forget I said that for now in case shaving fantasies are not a common side effect of sleeplessness. I don’t want to come off as WEIRD all up in here. 

I’ve suffered insomnia on and off throughout my life going back as far as I can remember. The only surefire, can’t-miss solution to the problem that I’ve found is alcohol, and yet using liquor to sleep is a Faustian bargain at best — booze will put you to sleep for 14 hours, sure, but you’ll wake up feeling like you haven’t slept at all, and with the side bonus of occasionally waking up someplace where you don’t belong. 

We’ve all been there so don’t go looking all wide-eyed and innocent. Let’s just move on and say nothing further of those embarrassing escapades. 


And here, a responsible journalist would attempt to impart some useful formulas for attaining sleep when sleep becomes an elusive animal that hates you for some reason. 

But I’m not Dear Abby or Doctor Whatever-That-Guy’s-Name-Is who dispenses medical advice through a weekly newspaper column. I’m just a fellow pillow-puncher, like you, so I know that you’ve tried all the humdrum remedies that are offered up in a billion online articles written by people who have never struggled to sleep a single night in their snoozy lives. 

We’ve all tried counting sheep. Or chickens or . . . I dunno, alpacas. Whatever your favorite farm animal happens to be, you’ve tried counting them in order to trick your brain into slumbering. But when your mind is furious with the inability to sleep, your very thoughts become unmanageable. They become treacherous and unpredictable, and so counting animals becomes a dangerous exercise. 

In the carnivalesque ephemera of your roiling half dreams, those chickens or sheep or alpacas will turn on you. They will come to represent your every fear, your every niggling resentment, your every source of anxiety now magnified to a thousand times its actual size. Now you are not only wide awake, but you can never enjoy the barnyard again, and that’s just one more thing to worry about as the first hint of daylight comes stealing around the window blinds. 

We’ve all tried running ourselves to near death on the treadmill just before bedtime. 

We’ve all tried the melatonin. The Benadryl. The over-the-counter this or that, which all seem to employ a maddening excess of Zs in their brand names. “Sleep Eazzzzze,” it says on the box, but all those gel tabs did was leave you wide awake yet too groggy and confused to run from the farm animals now haunting your sleepless thoughts. 


We’ve all tried the warm milk. The Valerian. The whatever was in that suppository my brother gave me but which I now think was just a practical joke. 

Some of us have turned to the dubious offerings of Big Pharma. Ambien. Lunesta. Belsomra. For some, those meds work like magic, though they come with their own sets of problems. For others, like myself, the prescription stuff provides mere glimpses of sleep. They’ll give me two hours of mumbling and drooling, sure enough, but those two hours of weird sleep will be followed by an even more infuriating wakefulness that leaves me bitter and eyeing the electric razor, ready to start shaving heads. 

My current sleep regiment includes some kind of tea concoction with a whole bunch of natural stuff in it. Valerian, lemon balm and a bunch of other stuff I wouldn’t recognize if I fell face first into a mound of it. 

This is followed by the application, on the underside of the foot, of a mysterious liquid I’m told contains vetiver, Roman chamomile and bergamot; ingredients that are, as far as I know, from off-planet sources. “Foot juice,” I call this weird brew, because I’m too muddle-headed to come up with something more creative than that. 

Sometimes I’ll follow these witchy potions with a tablet of some weak-ass meds my doctor prescribed. Sometimes an off-brand Benadryl will join the party. 

Sometimes I sleep, often I don’t, but at least I take solace in the fact that the underside of my foot smells delightful. 


I also bought a new bed. And a weighted blanket. And about five different white noise machines. Coming up next: a 10-pound sledge hammer for the ultimate solution. 

If that doesn’t work, at least I can use it to fend off the alpacas. 

When you have trouble accessing sleep on the reg, you end up searching endlessly for the perfect panacea that you remain convinced is out there. Eye of a newt? Graveyard moss? The sweat off the brow of a spotted lizard found only in a particular corner of the Amazon basin? 

Grind it all up into a tea, my sleepless friend, and give it a go. 

So desperate are you for one good night of uncomplicated repose, you remain open to all ideas. And this leaves one susceptible for outlandish ideas, such as that “sleep suppository,” which was probably just ground-up Alka-Seltzer stuffed into a capsule. 

I still have one left if you’d like to try it. 

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