To Sleep Perchance to CreambyMudak©
"You look horrible!"
Beverly chuckled upon hearing Janie say those words. She thought about saying something witty in response to this comment, but the most she could come up with was, "Yeah, I know."
Janie cracked a slight smile. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean --"
"No. You're right." Beverly took a sip from her coffee. "I certainly feel horrible."
"Still not sleeping, huh?"
"Nope." Beverly thought about how her sleepless nights also hurt her ability to keep up a conversation.
Janie leaned over the cubicle wall that separated their desks and whispered, "How long's it been now?"
"Ya know, I got no sense of time anymore. Two weeks? A month? Longer? It feels like forever."
"Maybe you should see a doctor."
"I did. Two or three days ago. He prescribed me something that was supposed to help me relax. All it did was give me a headache. So I was up late last night, couldn't sleep, put on the TV and started channel surfing. Ended up watching kids shows in Spanish. Did you know that the Spanish word for 'smurf' is 'pitufo'?"
Janie chuckled and said, "Um... No."
Beverly yawned and added, "Yup. And the Spanish word for 'absosmurfly' would be 'absopitufamente'."
Janie let the conversation come to a stop before she added, "Ya know... My brother was having trouble sleeping not long ago, and he... well, he found out about some clinic that has some way of helping people get a good night's sleep. Do, uh... Do you want me to call him and find out their number?"
Beverly rubbed her eyes. "I, uh... Sure. Why not?"
Janie raised her index finger as she sat back down in her own seat, put her headset on, and pressed a few buttons on her telephone.
Beverly tried to listen to what Janie was saying on the phone, but her voice turned into a monotonous droning. As a distraction, Beverly squinted at her computer monitor to read an e-mail from her boss, groaning silently. Rubbing her temples, she shook her head and decided that her boss could wait.
She leaned back in her chair, ignoring the squeaking noise that it emitted. She squinted at the fluorescent lights above her.
Just as Beverly began to comfortable in her chair, Janie stood up. With a slapping noise, Janie placed a sticky note over Beverly's monitor. "Call them!"
"Wh - what?"
"The sleep clinic my brother goes to. He can't say enough good things about this place. Call them and set up an appointment."
Beverly tried to think of an objection. How had Janie's brother heard about this place? How bad was his insomnia? Was it anything like what she was dealing with? What do they do at this sleep clinic that her doctor couldn't help with? Beverly scowled but said nothing of her reservations.
Janie sensed Beverly's hesitation. "Look. My brother's wife complained about his snoring. She threatened to kick him out and his boss recommended this place. He went to the clinic and they said he had sleep apnea. They did something and he's sleeping fine now. I don't quite understand what they do there, but... Just call them!"
Feeling the pressure of her neighbor's gaze, Beverly sighed and picked up her own headset. "All right. I'll... I'll call."
Beverly dialed the number and flinched as the sound of the phone ringing through her headset. After a couple of rings, a woman's voice spoke, "Thank you for calling the Somnos Sleep Clinic. How may I help you?"
"Yeah, um... I... I've been having trouble sleeping for a while now and..."
"Are you saying you have insomnia?"
"Yes. I haven't slept in I don't know how long. A friend of mine..."
"How soon would you like to come in?"
"I'm sorry. I guess I need to explain how we work, don't I?"
"Um... I guess."
"Our founder, Conor Dunleavy, was a graduate student when he discovered an electronic means of performing a neural stimulation that is an effective cure for just about every sleep disorder out there."
"Um... Neural stimulation?"
"Sorry. It's kind of complicated to explain, but we use radio waves to help you fall asleep and then keep the sleep steady, consistent, and restful for the entire night."
Beverly still didn't understand this explanation, but she figured this was just her lack of sleep that kept her from truly grasping it. "Oh, um. All right, I guess."
"You said you're suffering from insomnia? Could you please describe what happens when you try to fall asleep?"
"Um. Well, I go to bed. Usually between about 10 and 11 o'clock at night. I usually just lie there for what feels like forever. Maybe I'll shift my position to get more comfortable, but it's always the same thing. By midnight or 1 am, I realize I'm nowhere near ready to fall asleep, so I get up and try to do something to help me get some sleep. I'll usually either surf the net or see what's on late night TV. Either way, I don't get any sleep and then it's time to go to work and, well..."
"I completely understand. If I may say so, insomnia is Dr. Dunleavy's specialty. Let me see when we have open. Give me a sec..."
Beverly glanced up at Janie and mouthed the words, "They want to make an appointment."
Janie smiled broadly and gave Beverly a "thumbs up" sign.
The receptionist came back on the phone and said, "All right! We've got --"
"Wait a sec," Beverly interrupted. "I, uh... I don't have a whole lot of money or anything."
"That's not something to worry about. Your first appointment is completely free of charge. And we accept most major insurance plans. The only reason not to come is because you don't want to improve your sleep patterns. You do want to get a good night's sleep, don't you?"
"Well, of course I do. It's just --"
"Then it's settled. We have an opening tomorrow night. Can you come in?"
"Um. I..." Beverly glanced over at Janie, who was nodding vigorously. "I, uh... I need to know how to get there."
"That's not a problem. Just give me your e-mail address and I'll send you a confirmation of your appointment and directions to our office. All we ask of you is that you bring a bag with pajamas and your usual nighttime toiletries. And that you arrive no later than 8:30 pm."
"What time would I get out the following morning?"
Beverly paused for a minute. "I... I guess that'll be all right."
"Great! Let me just take your information down and I'll email you the confirmation."
Beverly proceeded to answer questions about her full name, address, age, and history of sleep disorders.
Janie looked up at the sound of Beverly hanging up the phone. "Well?"
"I've got an appointment tomorrow night."
"Well, we'll see what happens."
The following night, Beverly drove to the Somnos Sleep Clinic. The building reminded her a little bit of the office where she worked as an intern in college. She looked up at the water tower that rose above the parking lot and chuckled. "Here's hoping we don't get an earthquake," she said to her reflection in her rear view mirror as she parked her car.
Retrieving her overnight bag from the trunk of her car, she slowly walked into the building. She made a note of the tasteful, yet somewhat boring decorations as she strode up to the receptionist's window. "You must be Beverly," the receptionist said the moment Beverly was close enough to hear.
"I spoke with you yesterday. It's so good to see you could make it. If you could just fill these out, we'll be with you in a moment."
The receptionist slid a clipboard with a pen and a couple of forms underneath the window. Beverly took the papers and the clipboard over to a seat in the corner of the waiting room and began to complete the paperwork.
The forms started out somewhat innocuous: it asked for her name, address, and insurance information. From there, it started asking about medical history, past surgeries and extended-duration hospitalizations.
She paused to recall the timing of when she had had her wisdom teeth extracted and, during that pause, a woman wearing sunglasses and an overcoat, strode into the clinic, an overnight bag swinging from her shoulder.
The receptionist cheerfully said, "It's good to see you back here, Melissa."
"It's good to be back. I'm not running late, am I?"
"Not at all. Just go right back. You'll be in room number 3 tonight."
Melissa walked through a door in the back of the waiting room.
Beverly mused that, if Melissa was any indication, then the enthusiasm of the patients was a plus for this clinic. She was seventeen when her wisdom teeth were removed and she figured that would be good enough for the form.
After that, Beverly filled in a free-form section that described her current complaints regarding her issues with her sleep. Below that was a series of questions that felt like they were becoming too personal:
*Which of the following do you consider a source of stress in your life? Check all that apply. *
The options were listed in two columns below the question:
-- Lack of job
-- Current romantic relationship
-- Lack of current romantic relationship
-- Sex life
-- Lack of sex life
-- Health worries
-- Family issues
-- Political issues
-- Legal issues
The blank lines next to the issues pertaining to family, politics, legalities, and "other" implied that Beverly would need to elaborate on the specifics if she chose them.
Beverly checked "Job" and "Lack of current romantic relationship." She decided against checking "Lack of sex life" as a source of stress; she figured that the lack of the romantic relationship implied that she wasn't getting laid with any regularity.
The next question also struck her as somewhat unusual: *Do you consider yourself politically liberal, conservative, or moderate?* She checked the box next to the word 'moderate.'
The next question asked, *If you were to die today, would you go to heaven, hell, or somewhere else? Explain your answer.*
She looked up at the receptionist when she saw this question. The receptionist was typing something into her computer. The truth was, she hadn't really thought about it since she was a little girl. She didn't care if the doctor thought it was a cop-out, but she decided to answer this question by writing "That depends upon your definitions of heaven and hell."
*How long has it been since the last time you had sexual relations with another person?*
Beverly really didn't feel comfortable answering questions like this. They already knew that she wasn't in a romantic relationship; did she need to go into the details of her current needs? She stood up and strode cautiously over to the receptionist, who looked up as Beverly approached the window.
"There's ... some questions here that I, um, would rather not answer."
"That's all right. You can skip any questions you don't like."
She eyeballed the remainder of the questions and decided she didn't want to go into any details about her masturbation habits, homosexual encounters, or past drug use. She was fine saying that she doesn't take any illegal drugs now, but they had no right to ask about which drugs she had experimented with more than ten years before.
"Here you go, then." Beverly put the clipboard down on the counter somewhat harder than she had meant to do.
"You hold on to it until Dr. Dunleavy comes in. I'll let him know you're ready."
She sat back down and began thumbing through a seven-month old newsmagazine. She mused that reading old news articles effectively accomplished two things: first, for those articles about matters that actually interested her when they happened, she decided that she already knew more than what was reported in the magazine. Second, for those articles about matters she didn't care about initially, her sense of apathy had not waned any in the time that followed.
She quickly found her way to a review of a disaster movie. She chuckled as she read the closing paragraphs of the review: "At one point, someone looks up at the mountain and asks his neighbor, 'Is it going to blow?' You bet. And so will the volcano."
"Is something funny?"
Beverly jumped at the sound of a man's voice behind her. "Oh! Um... Nothing. I was just..."
"Just waiting for me to show up. Good evening. My name's Dr. Conor Dunleavy. Research that I performed in graduate school led me to open this clinic a little bit over a year ago now. I trust you're comfortable."
"Yes. Thank you very much." She absentmindedly ran her hand over the handle of her luggage.
"May I see your paperwork?"
"What? Oh, um.. Sure." She handed the clipboard to the doctor and watched as he quickly flipped through some of the pages she had filled out.
"Mmm hmmmmm... All right." He looked up and put the clipboard down to the side. Smiling warmly, he leaned closer to her and said, "Beverly, I'm not going to ask you to go into any more detail about those matters on the questionnaire that you chose not to answer. But I want you to understand that, once you go through that door, you will not be leaving here until the morning. So did those questions on the form make you uncomfortable?"
"Uncomfortable? I just don't want my sexual history that, um, visible, even if it is within your own files."
"That seems fair. Now I have to warn you of one thing, Beverly. This isn't in the paperwork and I certainly won't write this down. But it might be reason enough for you to decide you don't want to take advantage of my services here." He leaned in conspiratorially, and, in a tone just louder than a whisper, told her, "A lot of my clients report that they have very vivid, very sexual, very erotic dreams. I guess, by the loosest definitions of the word, this can be a side-effect of the treatment."
Beverly, who was feeling simultaneously exhausted and anxious to see if this trial would actually work, took a moment to process this information.
"Yes. I'm not entirely sure why it happens, but too many people have told me this to doubt that it's related to my treatment. I sometimes wonder if some of my repeat customers are just faking their sleep-related issues just to be hooked up to one of my machines. Knowing that this could happen with you, you have two choices. First, you can come back with me and I'll help you sleep again." He gestured towards the door through which Melissa had walked when she first came in. "Or you can take your bag, go home, and we go our separate ways, never to see each other again in a setting like this."
Beverly considered the doctor's comments and said, finally, "All right, doctor. You can count me in."
"Great! Let's get started." The doctor held the door open and gestured for Beverly to walk through.
Dr. Dunleavy escorted Beverly to a small room in the middle of a long, dimly lit corridor. Beverly stepped into the room and assessed it: a comfortable-looking bed without a headboard or footrests. Nightstands on either side of the bed. A small desk lamp on one of the nightstands. A couple of plants on the windowsill. A small sink in the corner of the room.
"This is the room where your insomnia will end. I'll leave you for a minute while you get changed into your sleepwear."
Before Beverly could respond, the doctor had left Beverly alone and closed the door.
After Beverly stepped out of her shoes, she threw her overnight bag onto the bed, opened it, and pulled out a pair of pink satin pajamas. She turned back to the door to confirm that it was, in fact, closed, before she got changed.
Not knowing how long she would have before the doctor returned, she quickly walked over to the sink and began to brush her teeth. As she was brushing her teeth, she heard a knock on her door.
"May I come in?"
She quickly spit out the frothy mixture of toothpaste, saliva, and the remnants of the food she had eaten throughout the day, and called, "Come in!"
Dr. Dunleavy wheeled a small machine into her room.
Beverly took a drink of water from a dixie cup and put her toothbrush down on the sink.
"Would you mind please putting this on?" He pulled a piece of fabric out of a small bag that he had brought into the room with the machine.
She took the fabric and stretched it between her hands for a minute, not entirely sure what to do with it.
"I'm sorry," the doctor said, smiling. "Please wear it like a headband. You see that darker square on the one side? Try and center that on your forehead roughly between your eyes."
She quickly put on the headband and adjusted it so that the square was over her forehead.
Dr. Dunleavy lifted the machine off of his wheeled cart and onto one of the nightstands. "Is that comfortable? Too tight? Too loose?"
"It's ... a little tight but not too uncomfortable."
He reached forward and adjusted the headband with his thumbs.
"I guess. Thank you."
"Sleep is all about comfort. Now. Let me explain to you what's going to happen. After you lie down in bed, I'm going to turn this machine on. The machine will emit radio waves at a special frequency. You won't hear it, but it will get picked up by a specially designed microchip in your headband. That's where the dark spot is. As it receives the waves, it'll send a little pulse into your head, stimulating the part of your brain that regulates your need for sleep. I usually ask my patients to count backwards from ten, slowly." He paused before adding, with a chuckle, "I've never had anyone make it all the way to one.
"And then you'll sleep the rest of the night. When you wake up in the morning, you'll feel like your old self again. Your body and your mind will be fully rested."
"But I'm going to have dreams about sex," Beverly giggled.
"Most likely, yes. It's not a given but that does seem to be the rule. Pretty much everyone says that's a small price to pay for as restful a sleep as you can have."
"I ... I guess I agree with that. As long as I don't have to... you know... talk about the dreams in the morning."
"Tell you what. You'll only have to tell me about your dreams if they're not sexual. How's that sound?"
"All right, I guess."
"Great! Would you mind please getting into bed? Is it comfortable?"
"The mattress is soft enough, that's true, but could I please get another blanket? It's a little bit colder in here than I'd hoped."
"Sure!" He quickly retrieved a blanket from the bottom of his cart and spread it out above her body. "That better?"
"Yes. Thank you."
"All right. Unless you have any more questions, I'm going to turn on your machine."
"I think I'm good for now."
"Great. Now if you'll just lie back and put your hands by your sides."
Beverly felt a little bit nervous and a little bit skeptical that this headband would somehow help her fall asleep after the failure so many other supposed "cures" for her insomnia, but she recognized her own desperation and saw no harm in arguing or worrying about this point.
Dr. Dunleavy leaned over to the machine and pressed a couple of buttons. The machine made a dull whirring sound as it started up.
"Now. Can you count backwards, slowly, from ten?"
Beverly took a deep breath and softly muttered, "Ten."
She felt no different when she said "Nine" or "Eight."
When she said the number "Seven," however, she felt all of the tension slowly leave her lower back and her shoulders. She turned her head slightly but the sheer comfort of the situation made her decide to allow whatever was about to happen, to happen.
"Six." She suddenly felt like she needed to close her eyes and, once again, she did not fight the feeling she received in her body.
"Five." She felt a tiny bead of saliva slide out of her mouth and down her cheek. She felt no desire to move her hands to wipe her mouth.
"Four." Her body had become so relaxed, so calm, so tired, that she started to slur her speech with this number.