I can always wheeze, but no zzzzzzs

March 29, 1998

Terry Talbert

Now I lay me down to toss and turn. I pray the Lord won't let me crash and burn. If I should sleep before I wake, it will be a minor miracle.

I know. I know. Not exactly a slick, rhyming verse. But that's what happens with sleep deprivation. Your mind gets fuzzy.

I have been unable to sleep the past few days mostly because I haven't been able to breathe. Breathing makes a difference when it comes to sleep, I've found.


I haven't been able to breathe because I have a cold that has rendered my nostrils useless. It's my first full-blown cold in some time. It coincided with the first beautiful day of spring and continues through the first beautiful weekend of spring that I just happen to have off.

Sometimes life is putrid.

Anyway, back to sleep. Because I couldn't, the other night I was channel surfing when I ran across an interesting seminar being held by the Sleep Institute in conjunction with National Sleep Week.

It was so boring I almost got drowsy, but then I listened to the part about boredom having nothing to do with sleepiness, and I perked back up.

This sleep expert said among other things that neither boredom nor hot rooms after big meals cause you to get sleepy. Teacher lectures don't make you want to nod off. Nothing makes you sleepy except lack of sleep, he said. That made me want to curl up in a ball and make zzzzzs. Of course, I couldn't breathe, so that was out of the question. I could make wheeze, but no zzzzzzs.

Ever feel like that? Like you were going to collapse if you didn't sleep? Like you were going to die right on the spot if you couldn't lay down and pass out?

The experts at the Sleep Institute didn't address the issue of exhaustion complicated by the inability to breathe, and its effect on sleep. I resented that. (Sleep deprivation makes you resentful).

They kept talking instead about our misconceptions. Rolling down the car window will not wake you up if you're driving drowsy, they said.

If it's 10 degrees out it wakes you up, I thought.

Actually, I said it out loud, which is something you do when you live alone and have something very important to say. It doesn't matter that you already know what you're going to say. You say it anyway. Hearing your own voice is an affirmation that you're really there.

Turning my attention deficit back to sheep, I found myself annoyed that the sleep expert didn't talk about counting them, and whether that can help you go to sleep. Actually, I was hoping he'd talk about counting butterflies. Sometimes I try that just for the heck of it. If they didn't flit around so erratically, it would be considerably easier.

I looked at the clock. It was 2 a.m. As I continued to watch the sleep seminar, I noticed some of the people in the audience were yawning. That made me angry. If I couldn't sleep, they couldn't. (Lack of sleep fills you with uncontrollable rage. If I'd been able to inhale I would have screamed at them to WAKE UP.)

The sleep experts droned on, pointing at charts with little pointy sticks, and talking about brain wave patterns. My brain had no waves at that moment. It was like a flat lake at dawn.

I blocked out the expert's annoying voice and found my tired mind drifting. I thought for a moment about hiring Roto-Rooter to ream out my nostrils. I thought idly about removing my nose from my face altogether, since it had become absolutely useless. The thought "for decorative purposes only" went through my mind.

At about 3 a.m. the sleep seminar had finally succeeded in making me drowsy. (Of course, the experts would contest that).

I laid down with a sigh, said my little prayer and waited for sleep to fall over me like a warm blanket on a cold night.

I'm still waiting.


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