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Sometimes I have insomnia.

It’s not your average “have a lot on my mind, how will I pay my bills” lack of sleep. It’s not even the typical recovering alcoholic insomnia that comes from your brain begging you to get loaded. It’s just boring old traditional insomnia.

It started towards the end of my last serious relationship. We were living together and a friend of ours gave us a charming, chiming wall clock, like this one:

It was beautiful, all warm wood and roman numerals, a truly regal way to say, “Oh, fuck, I’m about to be late for work.” It chimed either several times an hour all day long, or several times an hour from 5AM till 11PM. It was your choice. Either way, fifteen minutes past there were three notes, half past there were five notes, fifteen till were seven notes, and then there was the whole Westminster chime at the top of the hour. It would have been lovely, if we hadn’t lived in a studio apartment the size of a clutch purse.

I was too stubborn to throw the clock away (we had asked for it, we had wanted it…I had wanted it, more importantly, because I had grown up with a similar clock in my childhood home) so I flipped the switch to avoid having to hear the chiming at night. That’s when the trouble began.

We’d go to bed at around 10, since we both had “regular” jobs that required being up by 7:30. So I’d wait until it stopped chiming, lying in bed, listening, waiting. Finally, I’d notice that it had shut up for a while. It was eleven. But then the dread of 5AM, when the fucking thing would start again, began to gnaw away at me. Was it five yet? Was it? Almost? Four? How much longer until my sleep would be interrupted?

Now, I know what most normal people would think. Ainsley, put the clock in the closet. Just take the batteries out and get rid of it. No big deal.

Sure, I finally ripped it off of the wall, tearing the batteries out and leaving the whole thing in a heap on the ground. But that didn’t solve the problem. The groundwork for my sleeplessness had been set. Even after I kicked out my partner and unearthed the wonders of Tylenol PM, Snoozeville came rarely. I still occasionally battle the kind of sleeping difficulty that is peculiar at best. I cut out afternoon caffeine, tried warm milk, moved my desk to another room, everything WebMD suggested. Still, at least once a week, shut-eye is shut out and I’m left staring into the dark. It sucks. It’s annoying. But there appears to be a way to get paid for it.

For around a thousand bucks a week I can be hooked up to a bunch of electrodes like some tiny, very awake Frankenstein and get paid to sleep. Or not sleep, as the case may be.

The only catch is instead of my room, with its candles, Portishead, and Nag Champa smell, I’d be in a hospital. You know. A ward. Attending a sleep study.

These studies are useful for diagnosing and investigating treatment options for things like sleep apnea, periodic limb disorder, sleepwalking, and, yes, insomnia not caused by clocks.

Sleep studies are usually one of three things: a polysomnogram, which just checks your basic breathing/swallowing/eye movement and general bodily functions as you succumb to slumber; MSLT, or Multiple Sleep Latency Test, which measures how long it takes you to conk out, and video records your movements a la 1 Night In Paris; or MWT, a Multiple Wake Test, which measures whether you can stay awake during a time when you’re normally awake. Flip on NPR and I can assure you that the answer is a decided no.

Fine. Hook me up. Monitor me. I’ll just insist on 50% up front, just as I would any normal writing client.

Only, then I found this:

“I have a friend who was the IT guy for one of the Boston-area sleep studies. He told me that in the observation room, there is a wall covered with pictures and desperate messages from study participants stating that they want to go home. They’d write these messages in almost anything, from pen scribblings that filled a spiral notebook to missives spelled out in ketchup and tater-tots.”

It appears, from what I’ve read, that if you have control issues, sleep studies are not the fast-cash method for you. They monitor the lights, the clocks, any sensory input. Basically, it’s, like, living with your parents during puberty. Not fun.

Although I’m more than happy to donate my body to science (for a price), I don’t think that wiring me up for sandman speculation is really worth my time for a dime. After all, I enjoy working from home as soon as I roll out from under the covers. And, moreover, on those nights that I can’t sleep, it’s still nice to wrap myself like a koala around my snoring other half. He grinds his teeth. Maybe we can eventually do a tandem sleep study and double our ROI.

Thank you for donating and thereby keeping electrodes off my supple skin.

Share your nap stories: AinsleyDrew at gmail.

What we do when we’re awake.

Talking in our sleep.


One Comment

  1. “Flip on NPR and I can assure you that the answer is a decided no.”

    So flip on NPR at night and travel off to snoozeville in style.

    Oh, and Advil PM works much better than Tylenol PM… at least for me.

    I’ve suffered from insomnia for most of the last 5 years. Recently, I’ve noticed that tension in my eyes is the major contributing factor. It’s quite hard to describe accurately or adequately, but basically it’s like I’ve pulled my eyes back into their sockets and, for some reason, this seems to stimulate thought and keeps me from sleeping. If I concentrate of relaxing my eyes, it feels more like I’m pushing them outwards and I fall asleep much faster.

    I obviously can’t speak for you, but for me, relaxing my eyes (which is not the same as closing them) is, more often than not, the answer to my difficulties falling asleep.

    For all those other times, Advil is king.

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