Thursday, March 03, 2005

Infernal Insomnia

People sometimes ask what I'm reading. Well, nobody really ever wonders, but maybe someday someone will.

These days, I'm reading Dante's Inferno. Well, actually, I'm listening to Dante's Inferno on tape at night, as I lie abed. Okay. Right. I'm sleeping through Dante's Inferno.

Chronic depression means never having to say you had a great night's sleep. The classic symptom is early morning waking. Going to sleep at night? No problem. It's about 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning, when you wake up and can't go back to sleep, that you begin walking the dragons.

Books on tape to the rescue!

I stick a boom box next to the bed with a tape in it. When I wake up, I just reach down and turn it on.

Most of the time, I fall back asleep within a minute or two. The tape plays itself through and the player shuts off. When I wake back up, I reach down, flip the tape, and turn it back on.

On really bad weeks, I can listen to the same minute or two, per side, half a dozen times.

I can invent Just So stories about why it works -- "It hearkens back to being read to as a child." "It gives me something to focus upon, so I don't ruminate." "It's a placebo." -- but I have no real data to support any of these hypotheses. It just works.

I don't have to turn the light on, the way I would with a book, or turn off a hissing TV. I lie there, in the dark, with my eyes closed, resting. And if all else fails, and I really can't get back to sleep, I've read a good book.

Because my local branch library has zillions of books on tape, it's also free.

Addendum:

John McMullen sends these pointers, for the more poetically and/or geekily inclined, to a monovocalic
sonnett about Dante's Inferno
, and a discussion of the writing of the sonnet.

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