W Bruce Cameron: I often lie awake at night worrying about the ill effects of getting too little sleep. Recent news has reinforced my concern; for example, scientists have discovered that when laboratory mice are deprived of sleep for an extended period of time, the little rodents have trouble performing certain tasks, like running mazes and operating heavy machinery.
I’ve even read that not sleeping can cause you to gain weight, especially if you get out of bed in the middle of the night to eat a chocolate pie.
My problem is that my brain seems to come alive when I try to sleep, though it does a good job of being dormant whenever my editor calls to ask where my column is. Lying there, I wind up having an interior dialogue like this:
Me: OK, lights are out. Time to sleep.
Brain: Now would be a good time to worry about your credit-card bills.
Me: No! There’s nothing I can do about them right now.
Brain: I disagree. We can calculate how long it will take to pay them off, based on your current rate of debt reduction. I’m coming up with the winter of 2012.
Me: How is that supposed to help?
Brain: Our feet are itchy.
Brain: I’ve got a question. How do you explain the career of Ben Affleck?
Me: Just stop, OK? No more thoughts. Let’s try counting sheep.
Brain: Do you think the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would be OK with that? I mean, sheep don’t exist just for you to count them, you know. They have their own lives and worries, thank you very much. How’d you like it if someone made you into a sweater?
Me: Are you crazy? They’re not even real sheep!
Brain: Shhh! Listen!
Me: What is it?
Brain: I think I heard someone coming in the window carrying an ax.
Me: Oh, for heaven’s sake.
Brain: You should have asked Beverly Ballou to the Winter Dance.
Me: Wha- That was in seventh grade! Why are you thinking about that now?
Brain: I’m just saying. 60.
Me: You’re just saying 60?
Brain: I’m counting sheep, like you asked me to. I’m up to 60. Are you sleepy yet?
Me: Yes! Let’s go to sleep.
Brain: Beverly Ballou – you sure blew that opportunity. What a fool. We’ll regret that forever. Have you noticed how much hair you’ve lost lately?
Me: I have not!
Brain: OK, excuse me. The hair must be growing out of the shower drain, then. What are you worried about, anyway? Bald men are considered “very sexy” by focus groups composed primarily of bald men.
Me: I am not going bald.
Brain: Maybe you should get up and check in the mirror. Hey, what are the symptoms of the Ebola virus? I think we’ve got it.
Me: We’re not getting out of bed. We’re going to lie right here and go to sleep.
Brain: Oh yeah, right. Did you remember to turn off all the burners on the stove?
Me: Yes, I did.
Brain: Are you sure? I think I smell smoke. You cheated.
Me: I . . . huh?
Brain: High school algebra class. You looked over and saw Todd Smith’s answer for question No. 4. How can you live with yourself?
Me: I didn’t mean to!
Brain: It’s not too late to set the record straight. I’ll bet you we could track down our teacher. What was her name? Waters? Rivers? Something wet. Mrs. Drip Faucet? Mrs. Dribble Drink? Can you seriously not smell something burning? I can practically hear the flames.
When I get up to check the burners, I usually raid the refrigerator. (As long as I’m not sleeping, I figure, I might as well get a chocolate pie out of it.)
Write to Bruce at [email protected]