Dream and the nightmare

What insomniacs lose in sleep, they often gain in sympathy. The remedies they are offered are legion.

From painting castor oil on their eyelids to counting sheep or swallowing sleeping pills, you could say they are spoilt for choice. Not so the one who cannot wake up and shine with the rising sun.

Such a person falls victim to all sorts of jibes and even infamy.


Decades ago, my father was one among a handful of eminent doctors. His services were much sought after with the result that he spent much of his day and even a good part of the night attending to his patients.

 In his little Morris Minor car, run by his fiercely loyal driver, he would go far flung places to reach out to the ailing. Deprived of sleep, he would doze in the car confident in the knowledge that the driver would wake him up at the appropriate time.

This did not go unnoticed and gave rise to rumours that the good doctor hit the bottle to keep his spirits up. In course of time, these whispers reached his ears, but with characteristic humour, he brushed them off with, ‘Let sleeping dogs lie.’

This did not stop him from urging his children to be up and doing at the crack of dawn. If we overslept, he would stir us awake with a small sprinkling of cold water or a gentle tickle of jokes.

Among girls it is common to paint in a moustache or a beard. Boys, on the other hand, meticulously shave half of these off. It is said that in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, pranksters went so far as to take an automobile apart and then reassemble it in a student’s room.

What is more, this tactic has been repeated many times in other places. An English visitor to Hollywood woke up in horror to find a gangplow in his room!

A certain self-help manual offers hints for gaining a good night’s rest. One bit of advice asks you to darken the room, lie flat on your bed and feel with every fibre of your body the comfort that stretching yourself out brings.

The calm, the coziness and warmth are guaranteed to take you right into the Land of Nod. Alas this manoeuvre fulfills all expectations, but in the wrong order. Its charms work on you not when you hit the sack, but when you are required
to get out of it.

Sleepyheads have, it would seem, just one recourse. It is the alarm, which gives a jumpstart to your day. Available now are models that are kinder to human frailty.

There are those equipped with the snooze option that gives you breaks and multiple waking calls. They are meant to bring you gently and by degrees to consciousness.

But the problem still remains far from resolved. For the insomniac sleep continues to be a dream come true while the sleepyhead finds waking up a nightmare!

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