We take it for granted: SLEEP. Until one day when insomnia strikes. For many, like my dear friend Jack, sleep deprivation and insomnia have become part of their life. Decades pass by and one rarely gets a potent nightly soul respite. Deep, undisturbed rest in Source is what allows us to move through life with sanity and ease.
I am amazed at the lucidity and clarity that Jack can still muster while dealing with an incapacitating sleep deprivation these last 16 years.
Jack told me a story, frustration pouring forth:
“When I was in the war (World War 2), me and my partner would be hunkered down in a foxhole bunker with the enemy all around. Each of us would sleep for a few hours then gently shake the other awake. I never had a hard time sleeping, even in that environment.” He signed heavily. “And look at me now.”
At age 77, shortly after his wife passed away, insomnia began to become a chronic issue for Jack. In the years since, Jack has tried a CPAP device for Sleep Apnea. These ‘Continuous Positive Airway Pressure’ devices have been helpful for many but Jack was also dealing with coughing attacks related to acid reflux which would wake him up as well. And then, on some nights, his own snoring would wake him up. He would hear himself snoring and think (while sleeping) “someone is snoring” and then realize it was himself and suddenly awaken fully.
Jack, like many others has tried numerous over the counter sleeping pills, melatonin and prescription medicines like Ambien with some success. Tired of the pill game, which has side effects all its own, Jack is now trying “Delta-Theta brainwave” sleep music –playing it all night.
These statistics, from one of the latest insomnia studies, speak volumes:
- People today sleep 20% less than they did 100 years ago.
- More than 30% of the population suffers from insomnia.
- One in three people suffer from some form of insomnia during their lifetime.
- More than half of Americans lose sleep due to stress and/or anxiety.
- Between 40% and 60% of people over the age of 60 suffer from insomnia.
- Approximately 10 million people in the U.S. use prescription sleep aids.
This morning on my way over to see Jack, I stopped by the post office. Stationed out front under an eave was my homeless, adopted soul buddy, Dennis. His camping gear was covered tightly by a large black trash bag. I have been dropping a few bucks to Dennis from time to time for a couple of years. In the last months, we have begun to get closer-sharing more than the 30 second “hello, thanks, and God-bless.”
The last time I saw him, a week ago, Dennis told me about his new tent with much delight. The upcoming rains would not cause no major disruption for him. We celebrated this together. He had a nice spot ‘in the wilderness’ to put his tent and life was good. Today when I saw him, he still had the same bright eyes, exuding the inner happiness that he carries with him as a life-preserver that no one can take away yet I sensed something else. Homelessness does not get him down and yet that does not mean being homeless is not challenging.
Dennis related a story about the night before last. He had told another homeless man about his spot and said that he could use a nearby place to put up a tent. At 2 am, now soaking wet and rain still downpouring, the man was complaining about the spot being a bad one. He began yelling and screaming for Dennis to come out and help him. He stood at the front of Dennis’s tent with a sword, blaming Dennis for everything. He was also high on crystal meth.
Dennis decided the best course was to take his stuff and give the man his tent rather than risk his life. As he told me:
“I can always get another tent.” After telling the story, Dennis, through tired eyes filled with gratitude said:
“I have to tell you I don’t sleep too well. You always have to be alert living this life.”
I remembered I had an old camping tent in my trunk, I told Dennis.
“Let me go see if it is there.” Handing him the tent a couple minutes later, I noted:
“It is not as good as your old one but I think it will keep you dry.” I said.
“Thanks so much Michael.” He gave me a huge hug. “I will make you a flute and you can give it to a dear friend of yours.”
Just then a little his, hispanic girl about aged seven, holding tightly to her mom’s hands, leaned into our energy field with great courage. She handed Dennis a 5 dollar bill. Dennis just looked at her with pure love and said:
“Aren’t you an angel!” The little girl and her mom lit up, eyes filled with joy as they scurried away. Dennis’s presence and their 5 dollar gift were exchanged in a grace-filled encounter.
Half an hour later, as I sat across from Jack. He said:
“Michael, I have to tell you: 15 years of sleep problems. It has been getting worse. I did not sleep at all last night….” I took Jack to the doctors to see if he could get a prescription sleep medication.
We got one.
I wish you great rest Jack and Dennis.
(A few days later I was driving with a caregiving client and saw a man who looked like Dennis. Suddenly the man went into some redwood trees near the side of the road. I saw my old maroon tent, passed down to at least half dozen people over the last 20 years. I walked over to the tent. It was Dennis and his ‘wilderness’ spot was right on the edge of town in a stealth little area. “Is it keeping you dry?” I asked. It indeed is, he opened the zipper to show his set up inside. We embraced and I dashed back to my car through the pouring rain.)