Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Counting Sheep

Around five years ago, as I approached 40, I started having an increased problem with falling asleep.  Not quite insomnia, I think, but I would sometimes lie there on the edge of sleep for quite a while (often 20–30 minutes, occasionally an hour or more, and a few times, genuine “I’m not going to sleep, am I?” insomnia).

I assume that this was primarily biological, part of the aging process, but I was having some issues with my relationship at the time — which ended in late 2007 — which sometimes kept my mind whirling.  I’ve also recently seen some news stories that the glow from electronics can have a sleep effect, and around that time, I was trying to find a clock radio to replace one that had died; I went through three before I found one that didn’t keep me away from the glow, so that may have had an effect as well.  Hmm, I was also in the middle of an unhappy period at work then.  Man, it all piles up, doesn’t it?


Trying to find something that would help (other than drinking myself to sleep), I resorted to counting sheep, something which I had also pooh-poohed before.  But when you’re desperate, you’ll try anything.  So I imagined up a setting with a pasture and a fence for the sheep to jump over, but something very cartoony and almost a stage setting with cutouts of trees and clouds, a lot like one of those late 50s/early 60s Bugs Bunny cartoons.  (Wish I could find a pic.)

Out trotted the first sheep — white and puffy, very cartoony, little blinky eyes.  He trotted over to the fence, jumped it, and trotted off stage.

The next sheep trotted on, jumped, trotted off.

The next one trotted on, jumped, didn’t quite clear the fence, scrambled over, and trotted off.

This continued on for several more sheep, each having progressively more difficulty getting over the fence.  Some tripping over it, some squeezing between the bars, etc.  Still not sleeping, I rolled over, from my right shoulder to my left.

Suddenly the stage flipped 90 degrees in my head!  The next sheep plummeted from the right side, smashed into the fence, and bounced over and fell off to the left side of the stage!  And another and another followed it!

Fuck.  I think I got up and had some cocoa with peppermint schnapps in it at that point.

These days, no cartoon sheep die to put me to sleep.  Instead, I start at 100 and count my breaths backward to 1.  Usually somewhere in the 80s, I’m off.  Sometimes I come back to awareness that I’ve stopped counting and I pick up again where I think I left off.  If I make it to 1, I roll over and start back at 100; if I make it to 1 a second time, I give up, get up, and do something else to shut my brain down.

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