Hello Midnight: An Insomniacs Literary Bedside Companion

Overview

in the wee hours

For people to whom sleep comes easily, the night is a welcoming place. For those who hold no visa for the state of REM, minutes pass like hours. The brain of the insomniac defies sleep with endless musings and ramblings, recriminations and replayed conversations.

Here, then, is a mini-Baedeker for the dream-deprived, designed to divert your gaze from the leering glare of the digital clock with...

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Overview

in the wee hours

For people to whom sleep comes easily, the night is a welcoming place. For those who hold no visa for the state of REM, minutes pass like hours. The brain of the insomniac defies sleep with endless musings and ramblings, recriminations and replayed conversations.

Here, then, is a mini-Baedeker for the dream-deprived, designed to divert your gaze from the leering glare of the digital clock with soothing diversions and charming distractions, including:

  • Pithy reflections on insomnia from thinkers and writers ranging from Job, Dorothy Parker, and Marcel Proust to Shakespeare, Bob Dylan, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Leadbelly
  • Eye-opening facts about famous insomniacs, including Marilyn Monroe's explanation of her relentless wakefulness
  • 85 topics of regret, remorse, resentment, and recrimination, from the age-old question "What if everything my mother told me turns out to be true?" to the timeless favorite "Why did I have unprotected sex with my personal trainer?"
  • A tongue-in-cheek guide to sleeping aids, from herbs and pharmaceuticals to sex and Wagner
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684848341
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 12/1/2000
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 7.13 (w) x 7.13 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Contents

Eyes Wide Open
An Introduction

Nights of the Living Dead
An Epidemic with No Vaccine

Pillow Pride and Prejudice
The Few, the Proud, the Sleepless

Wool Gathering
1,345 Sheep and Still Counting ...

To Sleep, Perchance to Die
The Fine Line Between a Little Snooze and the Big Sleep

Behind Twitching Eyes
The Mystical State of REM

The Hour of the Wolf
It's Dark, It's Cold, and Nobody Loves You

An Hour of One's Own
Exploiting the Midnight Hour

The Chronometer Within
Rock Around the Clock-at Your Own Peril

The World Between
You're Naked, You're Late, and You Can't Find That Door

The City That Never Sleeps
The Bronx Is Up and the Battery's Down

Forever Wakeful?
True Stories and Tall Tales

Why Worry Today When You Can Worry Tonight?
Eighty-five Topics of Regret, Remorse, Resentment and Recrimination

Pseudoinsomnia
Almost as Brutal as the Real Thing

The Waking Nightmare
Voices, Visions, and Other Distractions

Rocket Fuel
Tempest in a Coffee Pot

The Enemy of Sleep
When the Brain Works Overtime

Dead Men Waking
Maladies from the Fatal to the Merely Frightful

Sleep Hygiene: The Brutal Truth
Sage Advice and Sad Reality

0ne Sleeps, the Other Doesn't
And Other Grounds for Divorce

The Loneliest Club on Earth
Confederacy of the Comatose

Things to Do When the Sun Don't Shine
Channeling Your Wee-Hour Energy

The Curse of the Water Nymph andOther Harrowing Tales
Revenge Strategies with a Twist

Soporifics, from A to Z
A Potpourri of Ways to Seduce Sleep

SIeep-Related Organizations

On the Internet

Suggested Reading

Acknowledgments

Picture Credits

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First Chapter

Eyes Wide Open: An Introduction
Five billion people go through the cycle of sleep and wakefulness every day, and relatively few of them know the joy of being fully rested and fully alert all day long.

— William Dement


Dr. Dement, the father of modern sleep research, also asserted that "there were no sleep disorders before 1970," by which he meant that there were plenty of troubled sleepers, but little medical interest in their plight. In all of The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud's six-hundred-plus-page opus, for example, the subject of insomnia receives only a couple of passing footnotes.

Scientific concern about sleeplessness may be recent (the American Medical Association didn't recognize sleep medicine as a specialty until 1996), but there is nothing new about the condition — or its symptoms of dread, longing, reverie, and resignation. As we researched this book, one thing became clear: For better or worse, humankind is evolving into a community of the waking wounded, for whom a good night's sleep can be as elusive as a winning lottery ticket.

Cultural theorist Maurice Blanchot argues that insomnia is actually the last frontier of imagination and individual freedom. By defying sleep, he asserts, we resist the expectation that we will wake up rested, alert, and productive members of the social order. Indeed, there is evidence on these pages that insomnia may help transform some people into imaginative iconoclasts. But still, it is far more likely to spawn anxiety, despair, and distraction.

In our current culture of wakefulness, the enemies of sleep lurk everywhere. Outside, there is a Greek chorus of car alarms and boom boxes, a neighbor's muffled footsteps, the barking of a lonely dog, the distant laughter of midnight revelers (all of whom are having more fun than you); inside, there is the internal racket of your brain as it plays deejay to your top twenty fears, regrets, slights, and mortifications. As all insomniacs know, three in the morning sparks the dark side of the imagination, which hovers over past, present, and future terrors like a vulture scoping out its carrion.

For those who drop off to sleep with the toothpaste still fresh in their mouths, all of this is alien. Indeed, the world is divided into those who sleep well and everyone else — which happens to be the genesis of this book. After three wakeful nights, driven to distraction by jet lag, a premature midlife crisis, and the decibel level of a Manhattan summer, Deborah Bishop sat bemoaning her malady in an East Village bar with David Levy, a New Yorker who has no trouble sleeping in the city that doesn't. She clutched her hair, he rolled his eyes — and together they decided to tackle the topic from both sides.

For those of you seeking a cure, bookstore shelves groan with self-help guides, drugstores beckon with bottles full of hope, and sleep clinics seduce with the latest medical advances. This collection of facts, insights, quips, and laments offers something different: Amusement. Distraction. A reason to divert your gaze (or that of a sleepless friend) from the leer of the bedside clock. And the pleasure of knowing that, in your wide-eyed state, you're in very good company, a member of a club that includes geniuses, statesmen, musicians, movie stars, authors, scientists, wits, and one of your humble authors.

Deborah Bishop
David Asher Levy
November 1999

Copyright © 2001 by Deborah Bishop and David Levy

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