“THE LAST REFUGE OF THE INSOMINIAC IS A SENSE OF SUPERIORITY TO THE SLEEPING WORLD” – Leonard Cohen, song writer
A friend of mine complained, recently, that as he neared the age of 60 he was suffering more and more from insomnia. His new habit was to wake up at 3 a.m. with slim hope of returning to sleep. I reminded him, as he was retired, he could take naps to make up for his loss. My suggestion gave him little consolation for his idea of a normal cycle was fixed.
As I am 15 years older than my friend, I admit my sleep habits have changed since my youth; but instead of fighting the alteration, I turn a broken cycle into a benefit. When I awake at 3 a.m., I switch on my bedside lamp, listen to the quiet that surrounds me and bury myself in the illusion that while others have escaped into their dream worlds, the real one is all mine. I become at once emperor and guardian of the planet and from this exalted position, I reach for the ever-present book on my night stand and read until the Sandman pays me a second call. This interval of consciousness, when I am free from the paralysis of sleep, has become as welcome as the afternoon nap in which I also luxuriate. Escaping the circadian rhythm to create an endogenous one is preferable to worrying about why my pattern of rest deviates from the norm.
Did my insomniac friend but know it, he holds his affliction in common with some of the most accomplished thinkers in human history — Napoleon, Churchill, Newton, Edison, Lincoln and Ben Franklin among them, not to mention literary giants like Proust, Dickens, Fitzgerald and Shakespeare. Who then is to say what is normal or if normal is desirable? We needn’t think like lemmings on the subject. Sometimes it’s okay to sleep outside the box springs.