Former New York magazine contributor Morrisroe (Mapplethorpe: A Biography, 1995) considers her insidious condition.
The author is one of the millions of Americans who suffer from insomnia, but it didn’t cause her real alarm until 2006, when, “after a particularly bad night” she went in search of coffee and was almost run over by a taxi. This wakeup call, coupled with her fear of relying too heavily on sleeping pills, caused her to seek professional help. Morrisroe’s quest began with an overnight stay at a sleep laboratory, where she was hooked up to an EEG machine for diagnosis. Then she visited a sleep therapist, but the treatment plan—drugs combined with cognitive behavioral therapy—didn’t work for her. Though her hopes for an easy cure were dashed, her interest in the nature of sleep was awakened. She learns that there are “more than eighty recognized sleep disorders,” conducts research on the invention of the EEG machine, wonders how early man slept and investigates the pharmaceutical industry. The dangerous side effects of drugs and the aggressive marketing of them make the author worry that, “[j]ust as Botox moved from Hollywood to the suburban mall, people may one day tweak their brains as nonchalantly as they now freeze their foreheads.” During her journey, Morrisroe was enticed by luxury mattresses that can cost as much as $60,000 and visited “the world’s largest igloo,” at the Icehotel in arctic Sweden. On a whim she sampled a course on the practice of Qigong (a Chinese meditation/exercise system), which proved to be a life-changer. To her great surprise, through meditation she not only achieved peaceful sleep at last, but experienced a spiritual awakening.
A weird, wonderful journey in search of a good night’s sleep.