The Insomnia Games



I am not a competitive person. If I even so much as win at Scrabble, I’m inclined to leap over the board, hug the loser, and say I’m sorry. Yet, each morning, upon opening my eyes, I find myself engaged in a verbal duel.

I’m not exactly sure when this began. Perhaps it started on that critical birthday when one’s bladder decides to stop cooperating with one’s need for hydration.

I’m reminded of my former dogs. When they aged, I’d remove their water bowls no later than 5 p.m. to prevent them from awakening me in the middle of the night. I’m now considering rolling back happy hour.

Picture of a alarm clock

What’s referred to as “a good night’s sleep” has become elusive. My husband swears he hasn’t slept through the night since he was ten months old. His parents are both deceased so I cannot confirm this report, but I do know that a factor in my sleepus interruptus is the glow of his iPad at some ungodly hour.

As a result of this pernicious insomnia, we’ve become quite competitive, continually challenging each other as to who has had the worst night. A typical morning conversation might go something like this:

“How did you sleep?”
“Yeah, well, I slept worse.”
“I woke at 3 a.m. and haven’t slept since.”
“So? I woke at 2:50.”
“No, you didn’t. I saw you. You were sound asleep.”
“I was pretending.”
“So how come you were snoring?”
“I was imitating you.”
“I had to go to the bathroom three times.”
“I went four.”
“Yeah, well, I had leg cramps.”
“I know. I heard you marching around the bedroom.”
“No, you didn’t. You were sleeping.”

I’m sure competitive not-sleeping isn’t limited to us. At this stage of
life, sleep deprivation may be the latest status age-related deficit, edging
out contenders like number of body part replacements, knowing who the
best doctors are, and HDL scores.

Instead, we discuss the virtues of Ambien over Lunesta, or how
spraying lavender on your pillowcase is very soothing and will lull you
to dreamland. I tried that. It resulted in a damp pillowcase and an allergy

As for me, I’m tired and want to withdraw from the game. I’d gladly
relinquish the gold medal in exchange for a few nights of uninterrupted,
restful sleep. And when my husband laments in the morning about how
bad the night was, I’d gently pat his hand, commiserate, and try to refrain
from gloating.

After all, I’m not a competitive person.

Susan Goldfein’s newest book, How to Complain When There’s Nothing
to Complain About, is available at Read her blog at: Email Susan at


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