Sleepless in Suburbia

Sleep deprivation is bad enough for anybody.  For those going to bed with autoimmune diseases, being denied sleep can be nothing less than dangerous.  I have a proved  record as an excellent sleeper, perhaps at my best when I am unconscious.   Sleep is a marvelous tool of denial, a comfortable hiding place from the demons that stalk me by day.

So imagine my frustration.

My ability to fall dead asleep when my head hits the pillow is up there with the best of them.  If sleep becomes an Olympic sport, the starter’s gun will sound and soft snores echo through the bedroom.  But my rhythms are changing, I guess, along with everything else in my body.  I suppose that should not surprise me.

Sometime between 2:30 and 3:30 on these dark and frigid mornings, my marvelous journey into the night comes to an abrupt halt.  The alarm might be the clarion call to the bathroom or nothing at all.  But I am awake.  When that dread status registers, my mind jumpstarts itself, and my unquiet mind begins the race.

Hell freezes over.  I am awake for hours, a departure from a long history of sleep that satisfies.  I never would dream about my physical challenges.  Never.  It was like life in Disney World, a delightful though artificial reality.  Now I lie in the chill, toss and turn and consider my life through the prism of darkness.

And I wake up tired.  What a surprise.

The Urologist says my bladder and prostate are pretty normal.  I am not feeling guilty about more than my occasional rendezvous with Ben and Jerry.  This narrows the cause of my late night sleeplessness to one probable cause.  My tolerance for ambiguity is ebbing.

I have lived my entire adult life wondering what is around the corner.  Is it baring its teeth and waiting for me?  For decades, I was remarkably glib about the possibilities.  Say it ain’t so worked for me.  The longer that passed for a winning strategy, the more I took it for granted.  I was winning.

Now I have turned that street corner and what do you know?  The monster has been inside of me all along.  And there is no stopping it now.  If it is angry, I cannot calm it down.   I do not know how hungry it is, but the thing is in charge.  Will the stem cell therapy put an end to the beast?  At three in the morning, I am not inclined to think so.

I wonder why I am having trouble sleeping?


11 Responses to Sleepless in Suburbia

  1. Carla January 23, 2014 at 10:00 am #

    I’ve come to know and have grown quite fond of 3:00 am. We haven’t always been friends though. She started out as an intruder As you articulate so well in your entry “Sleepless in Suburbia”

    Since 3:00 am decided she’s not going anywhere, I’ve decided to make use of her. I read, write, meditate, attend to my thoughts….all luxuries when you have 3 kids 8 and under (smile) The thoughts that paid me a visit as I entertained 3:00 am went something like this:

    Are my plans & dreams on hold as the weapon against the enemy MS is being constructed or are they completely dead? What is the right question to ask? And what the heck is the answer? Perhaps time will tell…time…

    • Richard M. Cohen January 24, 2014 at 7:17 am #


      When Meredith was on Today, I was up at three with her. I wrote most of my second book in the middle of the night. Now I am older and having trouble with the exhaustion. Kids are long gone, so I mostly toss and turn in my torture chamber.
      Try Sonesta.


      • Carla January 26, 2014 at 4:07 am #


        Thank you, I will investigate Sonesta. May you find rest.


  2. Kate Aquilino January 23, 2014 at 4:47 pm #

    I am well acquainted with 3 am from years with the MS hug. That’s when I listened to The Year of Magical Thinking over and over. Nothing like someone else’s trouble to put mine in perspective. Now, I listen to something I think I found on the Internet. A chant of St. Francis. Make me an instrument, Lord, of Thy Peace. Also, Thomas Moore’s Care of the Soul and his other books. Very relaxing therapist voice. I’m sure you have noticed no one makes it out of this life alive. Hope for the best.

    • Richard M. Cohen January 24, 2014 at 7:08 am #


      You are too smart much too literate for me.At that hour, I am too tired to read a comic book. I am trying a prescription drug, Sonesta. I keep it next to the bed with water and get 3 or 4 more hours of sleep. Started yesterday. So far, so good.


      • Kate Aquilino January 24, 2014 at 5:04 pm #

        I’m not reading. I’m listening and sleeping and listening and sleeping. K

  3. Geof January 24, 2014 at 11:29 am #

    Maybe I am just early in the game, but I joke that I am fine with whatever my wife wants on TV. I’ve never seen a second commercial. For a while with my first relapses coinciding with a lot of work stress, I had trouble sleeping. That was when I discovered counting down from 100 with each breath. When I can tell that isn’t going to cut it because my mind is too active, I count down by 2.5. For some reason the fraction is just enough of a distraction to force my mind to think on it, but because every other number is a multiple of 5, it is easy enough to allow me to sleep.

    Yes, I know I am a nerd using fractions to go to sleep, but somehow I manage to not think about that until I am awake.

    • Richard M. Cohen January 24, 2014 at 8:47 pm #

      You can count better than I.


  4. Leigh January 24, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    You are all so eloquent! My journey: I was diagnosed in 1983. Put on first med (Avonex) in 1999. I started using cane in 2007. Have since progressed to secondary progressive ms. Now of course use all the helpful devices. Do I get frustrated? (yes) do I hope for the best outcome for Richard? (yes I do) do I use still use Avonex? (hell no-drug was worse than the disease) look forward to following you on your journey.

    • Richard M. Cohen January 24, 2014 at 8:51 pm #


      I gave up those horrible drugs years ago. They did nothing but ruin my quality of life. Keep on truckin. Maybe we will outrun the freaking disease.


  5. Nicole January 26, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

    I take a prescription considerably stronger to rest. On the other hand I also take a pill to keep moving during the daytime hours. I have a virtual pharmacy over here. I imagine you are limited in what you can take? Still sending good vibes your way.