Insomnia is described as a sleep disorder that makes it hard to fall asleep and/or stay asleep as long as desired. I’ve often wondered whether I should label myself with this “disorder,” or if I’m just a guy who doesn’t like to go to bed early and likes to sleep in when possible, which, according to the New Yorker, is a physiological disposition rather than a sign of laziness or amorality: http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/moral-mornings. Whatever you call it, I’ve always been in a kind of war with sleep; even when I feel tired, I’ll lie in bed for hours sometimes before finally nodding off. As far back as elementary school, I would be a little zombie in class because I’d stayed up all of the previous night reading a novel. In college a typical weeknight consisted of studying at the library till 2:00 am, then lying in bed thinking about life, the universe and everything for a couple more hours– this wasn’t ideal for my 9:00 am classes, but I managed somehow. As I’ve gotten older, I find that while my ability to function on 3 or 4 hours of sleep has diminished, my resistance to going to bed early remains. Recently I even wrote a punk song about this (it’s not really autobiographical, but I think you’ll see the connection): https://soundcloud.com/3-rivers-music/02-sleep
For the last week or so I’ve had the opposite problem– I simply can’t stay awake, no matter what I try. It started last Monday, when I went to the Hospital for Anterior Cruciate Ligament replacement and meniscus repair surgery. This was a surgery that I opted for and not a matter of life and death, although any time your body is cut open there can of course be deadly consequences. But my only real fear was, again, sleep related– the thought of being forced to go to sleep instantly, according to someone else’s arbitrary schedule (through anesthesia) really freaked me out, which makes me wonder if my insomnia thing is as much philosophical as constitutional. Anyway, I did get knocked out, and the surgeons drilled several small holes in my knee, including one for inserting a really nice digital camera. With this artificial eye they found a gloppy nub where my ACL used to be (right in the center of everything– it connects the femur to the tibia), along with a couple of “purple worm” bits (disconnected ACL parts) here and there– one well above my kneecap, another off to the side. They ground up and sucked out these useless leftovers, and then flossed in a new ACL (well, new to me– it was donated by a generous dead person), and screwed it to the bones. Then, after a couple of sutures for the torn meniscus, and a little tape and glue, I woke up in a daze in the recovery room, ready to take a nap.
I’ve spent most days and nights since then lying in bed, thinking about what I might do next, until I notice that I’m sleeping. Between the surgery, the anesthesia, and especially the narcotic painkillers, I’ve been stuck in a state of omni-somnia, and my few waking hours feel fleeting and unreal. I’ve been told that a lot of sleep at this time is a good thing, allowing the body to heal properly, which sounds logical to me. But as much as being able to walk again without crutches (five weeks from now), I’m looking forward to my usual stubborn resistance to sleep’s maneuvers; my constant struggle against the loss of consciousness, freedom, and control that sleep, like death, imposes on the body.