Sleep No More

By Daniel Scheffler

I was a sleeper, Mother used to say.

She would proudly tell me that I slept through the night my entire childhood, taking extended naps at any time of the day with very little encouragement.

Oh, how things changed, Mother! Somewhere along the line, I lost the knack for shut eye, and for the last six months, my eyes never shut once. Not once, I tell you! Well, perhaps once or twice, the top and bottom lids actually touched for more than the obligatory split second, but in my state of , I couldn’t differentiate between states.

. In-som-nia-a. Innn-soooom-niii-aaaa. I mouthed the word constantly— to worried friends, to extended family, to the dog, to the pharmacist with his insincere side smile—and over and over to myself. It sounded the way it felt; like hell. And I was right there, fully awake and sitting straight up in my seat.

Forget the silly stories of counting sheep (I ran out of numbers I could handle) and drinking endless Sleepy Time teas. I was never going to again. It left me in a dark mood, and I wished for Mother—not my own dearest Mummy but Mother Death! I longed for her inevitable visit.

She did not come, and I was forced to look for solutions. Google recommended a sleep clinic in Cape Town that included a handy website assessment. Who was I to argue with Mother Google? I drove myself right over to the clinic with no appointment and probably not enough in my weekender bag. I was checked in by someone that looked like a classic nurse at this Sleep Clinic in the midst of Constantia forests and suburbia. She wasn’t even ironic about it – white coat, strange heat gear and some horn-rimmed glasses. I requested to be put to sleep if not forever then at least for a while, “Sleeping Beauty” style.

It’s a professional establishment and after a thorough assessment, my various doctors in starched coats gave me the diagnosis: acute insomnia I already knew. I had to sign endless indemnity forms but since they promised me help, I signed happily and waited for the best. Sleep, and sleep some more, were the only options for me even if they had to put me to sleep with a needle in my arm. My usual enmity to drugs was arm wrestled and defeated.

The calm came before the sleep, a gentle sense that everything was going to be totally ok. As I watched the world slip away from me and waited for the awakened state to mutate into something I had forgotten all about, I understood the famed Scotsman who spoke of “Innocent sleep, Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care.”

What may have been a week (or month, but not years) later the urge to open my eyes woke me. I later learned that a mere two days had passed. And yet, as I woke up, I was ready for another nap, and a few minutes later, that is exactly what I did—I had a nap just because I could. Perhaps this was not a cure, but if the napping was anything to go on we were in business. You would have recognized your sweet babe, dear Mother!

Life was visible, yet again. Blood was red and under my skin, air was inside me, taste was in my mouth, the world had been inverted and was now the right way around. Oh, Mother, how I had forgotten what that was like!

Once color came back, the other senses wanted to follow, they want to be as much part of the experience. I wanted to eat too much, drink gallons of water, spray oodles of perfume and touch my skin over and over. The simplicity of being awake, after having slept, finally, slept!

Once I’d slept, I knew it would come again. It was no longer out of reach. It was mine again. Sleep was no longer the enemy – it was now my lover, my friend, my mother. And now it was time to go home.

Tags:  Delusional Insomnia Personal Essay Sleep Sleeplessness

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