Forum — From the August 2013 issue

Insomnia

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If only sleep could be hoarded, accumulated, and traded; if only you could store it up for a rainy day or borrow it from friends or buy it on the street in little glassine bags. You don’t miss your water till your well runs dry, says the old song, and only those of us who have trouble sleeping recognize how delicious and how crucial sleep is — “sore labor’s bath, / balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,” says insomniac Macbeth, appreciatively, longingly. Consciousness is something we all need reprieve from, regularly.

Sleep deprivation is torture when it’s inflicted from outside; it’s insomnia when you’re wound up in such a way that you can’t wind down enough at night. I’ve been that person, intermittently, for decades. It seems common among writers in particular, as though whatever’s turned on in our minds won’t turn off.

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is a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine. Her article “The Separating Sickness” appeared in the June issue.

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  • Robert

    This was a really great article. I have had this experience of being up late and going through the same thought process constantly. Nice to know F. Scott Fitzgerald did too! Although I’ve never read one of his books. I really liked how the author focused in on how so many “successful” people don’t get enough sleep on purpose, and how companies never try to advertise to people while they’re asleep……because they can’t! how sleep is this whole other netherworld of life that is so special. There is something very incomplete and narcissistic about a lack of respect for our inner worlds and unknown parts of ourselves that is not respected by our society enough, that I think the author highlighted very well.

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