I love sleep. I never had trouble sleeping. It’s a gift. When I was in college I would board the bus, lean against the window, fall asleep, and wake up three minutes before my stop. On long-haul flights I am asleep even before the plane takes off. I suspect most of my work gets done in my sleep. (If your boss catches you snoozing at your desk, try this explanation: “I’m working”.) If I have a deadline looming, I take a short nap; when I wake up, the article has been worked out in my head and I just have to write it down (though there is no guarantee that it’s any good). The only time I cannot fall asleep is if I have to get up early for an important appointment: then I spend the whole night checking the clock to see how much time I have left. Without my nine hours of sleep I am useless; I spend the whole day plotting a nap.
Recently I had a bout of insomnia that just about drove me bonkers. I would go to bed at my usual time, 2 or 3 am, then spend the next four hours waiting to lose consciousness. It was exhausting. I tried counting backwards from 1000, listening to nature sounds, various non-pharmaceutical remedies, nothing worked. Maybe I should’ve just gotten up and read a book or watched DVDs, done something constructive until my systems shut down for the day, but I kept expecting to fall asleep any second. Then when I finally dropped off from sheer exhaustion, it wasn’t the deep, sticky, artificial death that I consider a good sleep. (My friend Carlo, a borderline narcoleptic, says death wouldn’t be so scary if there were some assurance that it was like sleeping.) I would wake up round noon, unsatisfied, and be in a zombie state the rest of the day. Oddly, I did not feel sleepy during the day, and I seemed to function “normally”, though I felt cheated (I want my sleep). This went on for about a month, and then last week my sleep came back. I’m still trying to figure out what happened.