Chicago, IL

Dead Tired

Sherry McGuinn

Especially during these troubled times, insomnia is a nightmare for so many

“I’d kill for a good night’s sleep.”

How many times have you heard that? Or said it yourself?

It’s after two a.m., or thereabouts. I really don’t know as I’ve been roused from a Big Pharma-induced sleep, (Xanax, Seroquel), by the sound of my husband shuffling into the room like an extra from a George Romero movie.

The bed creaks…our shitty mattress emitting a sound like crackling bubble wrap as my exhausted husband crawls in next to me. I hold my breath for a few seconds, then…“You ok, babe?”

He doesn’t answer. Rather, lets out a sound very near to a whimper as he immediately gets back up again. I lift my head from the pillow, and in the gloom of our bedroom, dimly lit by a street lamp outside our home, see him slowly, almost painfully…make his way from the room. A light goes on in our home office and I lay back down, so frightened for the man I’ve been married to forever that I pull the covers over my head. So ashamed that I cannot help this man who I dearly love…and who is my very heart.

According to The Sleep Association, 50 to 70 million people in the U.S. suffer from a sleep disorder.

Insomnia is the most common specific sleep disorder, with short-term issues reported by about 30% of adults and chronic insomnia by 10%. My husband’s condition is acute and chronic.

What’s more, 4.7% of sufferers reported nodding off or falling asleep while driving at least once in the preceding month. “Drowsy driving” is responsible for 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 non-fatal injuries annually, in the United States.

And then, adding insult to serious injury, there’s Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), with 9 to 21% of women and 24 to 31% of men, afflicted. OSA is a condition that requires one to hook oneself self up to a contraption called a “CPAP” machine, which has at its core a long, elephantine tube that attaches to the face by way of a chin strap and mask. GOOD TIMES!

All of the above gadgetry is to help the sufferer breathe more easily during sleep — and lest you think I’m discounting it, I’m not, as a CPAP does work for many individuals living with OSA.

We had a CPAP machine. Unfortunately, it’s somewhere in our laundry room gathering serious dust as the trick here is, in order for a CPAP to help one’s quality of sleep, the afflicted individual has to actually be able to fall asleep And therein lies the proverbial rub.

I cannot pinpoint the exact day/week/year when, for us, nighttime turned into a nightmare. My husband was never what you’d call a “good sleeper,” but at some point, his condition became progressively worse. Scarily so. Just writing about it heightens my anxiety.

As a screenwriter, and possibly to self-soothe, I wrote a screenplay called “Dead Tired,” a female-driven thriller I liken to a vampire tale…without an actual vampire.

Soporifics. Oral and Otherwise

Elavil. Trazodone. Seroquel. Ambien. Lunesta. Xanax. Anti-depressants. Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors. You name it. All of these Big Pharma productions have had a place in our household at one time or another. Because, when you can’t sleep…really can’t sleep…you will do or try almost anything. And I don’t mean this in a disparaging way, as I know anyone who suffers from chronic insomnia will know exactly what I mean.

In order to help my husband — and at times, myself. I have explored more “natural” solutions to sleeplessness and the anxiety that goes with it. AKA, Melatonin. Passion Flower. Lavender and Chamomile Teas, (including the one with the sleepy bear on the front), etc., etc. Ad Nauseam. Sometimes these nostrums work. Other times, no go. It differs from night to night. A somnum crapshoot, to borrow from the Latin.

Again, as so many can attest to, when sleep eludes you, when you lie awake night after night, thoughts racing, heart fluttering — there is literally nothing you won’t try in order to achieve even a modicum of restful slumber. And my hubby and I have tried it all, short of performing a ritual sacrifice in our backyard. But, being that my husband and I are lifelong animal lovers, that particular tactic is out of the question.

I, too, suffer from racing thoughts, but luckily, stumbled upon a medicinal cocktail that works for me. I can’t say that it will work for me next year, or even, next month, but right now, it does the trick and I’m grateful for that.

What floors me, is that, when my husband had to go into the office every day (he now works mostly from home), he kept up his end and did an amazing job. I truly am proud of him for that, as I wouldn’t have that kind of focus…that fortitude.

Who, out there, is “sleepless in (fill in the city/state).” Do you, in fact, ever attain a good night’s rest? How often? How much? And if you’ve found something that works for you, please share. Essential oils, for example. They’re huge right now but I can’t really attest to their efficacy…yet. I do know that my husband loves it when I rub lavender oil into his tight shoulder and neck muscles, along with magnesium oil on his feet and chest, (a muscle relaxant). But who the hell wouldn’t love this?

By sharing, perhaps we can help one another get through this, or at the very least, explore just why sleep is so elusive to so many. if nothing else, it helps to not feel so isolated…so alone, when the night terrors kick in at 3 a.m.

On Valentine’s Day of 2018, I was laid off from my day gig of 14 years…over the phone. (Thanks, Epsilon!) I worry that the lack of my contribution to the household coffer contributes to my husband’s stress level, but he swears it doesn’t. He’s typically generous, that way. It certainly adds to mine, but I bust out a few Burpees and a Jillian Michaels DVD and I’m (almost) right, again.

The heroine of my screenplay, “Dead Tired,” Dani Knox, stumbled upon a solution to her sleepless nights. Unfortunately, it’s not something I can recommend. Good night, everyone. Sleep tight.

© Sherry McGuinn, 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Sherry McGuinn is a slightly-twisted, longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and numerous other publications. Sherry’s soon-to-be-ex-manager is currently NOT pitching her newest screenplay, a drama with dark, comedic overtones and inspired by a true story.

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Chicago, IL

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