Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Can anyone spot the sleeping undergraduate in this pic?
As yet another rosy-cheeked dawn kisses the eastern sky outside ol' Adjunct Proff's window (without the aforementioned Adjunct Proff being successful at wresting [pun intended] a single hour of sleep from the previous raven-hued night), my thoughts turn towards that bug-eyed monster called Insomnia.  What is it?  --why do I have it?  --have any famous people from history suffered from it also?  --what can I do to stop it? --but most importantly: is there a delivery service in all of Massachusetts' Merrimack Valley that can score me some hot pastrami on a kaiser roll with spicy brown mustard, mayo, jarlsberg cheese, grilled onions, a side of fries, and a nice, hot cup of chamomile tea with milk and honey? --at 4 a.m.?  Failing that, is there a loyal reader out there who will hit ol' Adjunct P in the head with a crowbar so that he can have a couple hours' unconsciousness before facing whatever fresh new Hell today has in store?  Somebody?  Anybody?  Bueller?
You could also hit me with a sandwich this big-
it'd probably have the same effect as a crowbar.

The earliest written record of anybody not having insomnia (and thereby confirming that there was insomnia) comes down to us from the Epic of Gilgamesh, that kooky moldy-oldie that also treated mankind to the first recorded threat of the Zombie Apocalypse (see my post OH NO! Zombies Ate My History Homework!  for more on those zany Akkadians), and is none other than the title character, Gilgamesh himself.  In Tablet XI (the Gilgamesh poet wasn't really big on chapters --or paper, for that matter!), the Sumerian equivalent of Noah, a dude called Utnapishtim (the same dude who survived the flood, built an ark, re-populated the entire world and who, with his old-lady, were just chillin' at the End of the World and groovin' on the fact that they were immortal), challenges Gilgamesh to stay awake for an entire week.  If he can stay awake, he's a god; if not, he's just a human being like you and me.  You can guess the result: big-G falls right to sleep and sleeps for an entire week (to be fair, he had had a rough couple of days before that).
I am a Sumerian God!
I never sleep! -or fart!

Why did the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians and such all want their gods and goddesses to have insomnia?  It's because they wanted to feel like the bunch of hooligans that created them, the Earth, the sky, that miserable little yippy-dog that lives next door to me --that their gods were always on the clock, around the clock, looking out for their creation and protecting them.  And since nobody mortal --not even the semi-divine King Gilgamesh of Uruk --could stay awake all the time, insomnia was seen as a super-power of the gods.  Wow.  I wonder: were chronic insomniacs like me seen as semi-divine beings back then?  That would be almost worth it...

And it wasn't just the Mesopotamians who liked their deities wide awake.  Argos was a Greek giant who had a hundred eyes.  He needed them because Greek heroes were constantly trying to sneak up on him while 30-40 of his eyes were asleep so they (the heroes, not his eyes) could kill him.  Apparently he had pissed-off the Greek Heroes' Union Local #733 by killing so many Greek Heroes, and not all of them in self defense.

The Hebrews and Christians had these things called Angels, a.k.a. Watchers who, well, watched stuff in Heaven and, well, elsewhere.  They were supposedly wide awake all the time.  And the most powerful bunch of Angels, the Seraphim, supposedly surround God 24/7 and praise Him 24/7 for all eternity --I presume that they are awake during all this praising, unless there is a condition among the angelic called "sleep-praising."
That is one seriously bad-ass bunch of angels, Mr. Botticini!
I assume the Virgin is there because it's her assumption.
As for people you've probably heard of who suffered from this god-like affliction of insomnia, there was Sir Isaac Newton (of course he did!  Newton was such a hypochondriac that this was probably his only legitimate disease!)  Sir Isaac, or Figgy to his chums from prep school days, reportedly went all of 1693 without sleeping.  Needless to say, this depressed Figgy --that, and nobody was believing that he had invented differential calculus, and everybody was believing that kraut Leibnitz had.  Sir Winston Churchill suffered from it --he was having troubles with a different kraut.  And speaking of great looking celebrities, Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson both had such a terrible time getting to sleep that they were literally killed by their prescription sleep medication.
I don't think they ever slept together.
Ok you wide-awake, semi-divine Adjunct Proff, so what causes insomnia?  The biggest (and most mind-bogglingly unspecific) cause is stress --the psychological kind, not the force on the airframe of a Boeing 777 at take-off.  Here is a link to the world famous and completely expensive Mayo Clinic if you want to read up on other things the doctors at the Mayo think cause insomnia:

I suggest reading this late at night or early in the morning, especially if you can't sleep.  There's nothing better on nights like that than reading about why you can't go to sleep so that you can worry a lot about it.

So <YAWN!> there you have it: the complete and exhaustive <YAWN!> [pun not intended] history of insomnia, some <YAWN!> famous people who have had it, and some really... expensive... ideas as to what causes... Z-zzz-Z, ZZZ zzzzzzzzzzz... 


  1. ROFL, beautiful. Being a deity, you must now wield your power to induce fear among students and colleagues everywhere. Just don't fall asleep at the podium.

    1. Will do, Suzanne! And thanks for following! You have officially doubled my readership :-)))))