The Price of a Night’s Sleep

by Brian on December 7, 2006

in A Parent in Israel,Just For Fun,The Old Country

You know the old saying “time is money?” Well, how much would you say time spent sleeping is worth? As I found out on a recent family vacation: exactly $119 plus tax.

We were driving down the California coast from San Francisco to San Diego, stopping for the night at inexpensive motels. Our first night was in Monterey and I had picked a shabby but inexpensive Days Inn not far from the city’s fabled Fisherman’s Wharf and its lively restaurant and entertainment district. We picked up the key from the dour clerk in the motel’s perfunctory lobby.

In order to keep our costs low, we all cramped into a single room with two queen beds and a rollaway. How do you fit five people into three beds? Boys with boys, girls with girls. That meant that instead of my wife Jody and I sharing a bed, Jody shared with thirteen-year-old Merav while I had a choice between either fifteen-year-old Amir or eight-year-old Aviv.

Given that Amir is over six feet tall, I opted for the much shorter and (I thought) manageable little Aviv.

Unfortunately, as I soon discovered, Aviv is also a night kicker and a squirmer and a won’t-stay-on-his-side-of-the-bed kind of restless sleeper. Not long after I had crawled into bed (several hours after Aviv had already fallen asleep) then – ouch! – Aviv whacked me in the face with his arm as he flailed in deep REM. A few minutes later and – yow! – his leg was
in my groin.

He was also, by this point, hogging at least two-thirds of the bed. I tried to move him back to “his side” but he
kept squirming his way towards me.

Now, I’m not a good sleeper to start with. I’ve written previously about my ongoing battle against chronic insomnia. In that post I reported that I was starting to lick my sleeping difficulties with a cocktail of sleeping pills and behavioral techniques. Many meds later, that’s still mostly true, but I’m very finicky about my sleeping conditions. And getting whacked in the face very three minutes simply wasn’t very conducive.

I knew I had to somehow separate myself from Aviv. But how? First I pulled the bedspread and the blanket off of the two of us and wrapped one around Aviv and the other around my own body, creating a sort of double cocoon. No luck:  he quickly kicked that free.

Next, I went into the bathroom and took out all of the towels there in an attempt to create a fence between us. He got
through that too. I briefly considered putting Aviv on the floor on the pillow cushion from the big armchair that sat in the corner. But that seemed too cruel – after all, he wasn’t doing anything on purpose. And he’d probably fall off, wake up and cry and as a result I’d wind up staying awake worrying about when he’d be falling off.

Sleeping in the armchair myself was out of the question: I can’t sleep on planes, why would it be any better in a shabby motel in Monterey?

Mind you, that all of this maneuvering, both mental and physical, was being undertaken under the influence of a very strong sleeping pill, which, while not enough to allow me to sleep between beatings, still put me into an extra irritable haze.

I resolved not to sleep at all. I’d pull an all nighter and finish my book. It was now 2:00 AM. Only four hours until the sun came up and I could go for a run to pump a little much needed adrenaline into my system. But that plan ultimately
seemed foolish. We had a busy day planned with a trip to the Monterey Aquarium made famous in the Sharon Stone/Albert Brooks film “The Muse,” followed by a three hour drive down the coast to our next stop near Hearst Castle.

My groggy mind raced through alternatives. Maybe we could cram another rollaway bed into the already tight room. Or maybe I could bed down in a spare room in the motel. Yes, that was the ticket. I pulled on my jeans and a sweatshirt and headed to the lobby.

It was locked. A sign said to call the following number for help. As I imagined waking up the proprietor of this dingy place in the middle of the night, I thought better of this approach.

Earlier in the evening, I had taken a stroll with the kids downtown and we had stopped in at another hotel to ask directions. The desk staff at the Casa Munras was positively chipper and told me that they prided themselves on their excellent customer service.

I got in the car. The light in the lobby of this second hotel was thankfully still on. I explained my plight to the man at the desk and asked as plaintively as I could that, as it was now 2:30 AM, could he possibly sell me a room for just a few hours at a discounted rate? To the desk man’s credit, he took me at my word rather than making the obvious assumption that I was up to some nefarious nighttime activity.

His cheapest room with a single bed ran $119 for the night plus various taxes, leading to a grand total of $139. While he wouldn’t give me a break on the price, he graciously offered to upgrade me to a king at no extra cost. It was an awful lot of money for so little time. I considered sleeping in my car, or maybe heading down to the beach.

In the end I took it. The bed in the new room was downy and delicious. I was ready to crash immediately. But first, I wrote a note out for Jody telling her where I was, drove back to the Days Inn and slipped the note under the door, before returning to the Casa Munras. It was now 3:00 AM. I took another sleeping pill and gratefully climbed into bed….alone.

I awoke at 8:30 AM with no idea where I was but feeling remarkably refreshed. As soon as I remembered the night’s events, I called Jody on the phone. She assumed I’d gone out for an early morning run…a long one but not impossibly so. She hadn’t even seen my note! I ate the continental breakfast at the new hotel – why not it was paid for – then came “home” to pack up for the day’s drive.

I felt calm and rested, my decision seemed validated, a bargain even. Because at the end of the day – or in the middle of the
night –  there’s no price on a good night’s sleep.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anonymous December 10, 2006 at 3:08 am

Hi Brian, I too have suffered for decades from the kind of insomnia you describe, including all the alternative medical treatments that didn't work.
I finally have made headway wich a combination of:
– trazodone (which you have to take with food, so I have a bit of a snack before I go to bed)
– lamictal (new drug for a variety of anxiety-related syndromes, ADD, depression…. gives me more “slack,” more control over my tendency to ruminate and catastrophize)
– temazepam as a backup for nights when the others don't work and REALLY need to get up the next morning. (But I get habituated to benzodiazipines very fast so I never use it more than 3 nights in a row.)
– valerian, an herb which really does relax you. It's very subtle but it helps.
– L-theanine, an amino acid which also helps relax, it's very popular in Japan)
I don't know if you can get this in Israel, but there is a sleep formula I get in health-food stores called “Fatigued to Fantastic: Revitalizing Sleep Formula.” Everything in it is benign and it helps relax me.
I take some of these right when I get into bed and then I read a bit and then fall asleep.
My psych says to combat depression (which is usually a component of insomnia) get outside for for at least 1/2 hour before 2 PM, 30 min. brisk walk every day, increase Omega-3 fatty acids to 1200 mg/day (these help your brain process stuff), avoid aspartame (a non-caloric sweetener found in zero-calorie sodas.
crazymeds.org is a great community site about psychoactive medical drugs. Irreverent, lots of personal anecdotes, and distills medical knowledge aobut the drugs.

2 Anonymous December 15, 2006 at 9:27 am

Hmmm, why not just have Amir switch to the bed and move Aviv to the cot?

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