Exhausted as I was last night, I got suckered into watching the last half hour of the 20/20 special about Charlie Sheen, Hollywood’s bad boy extraordinaire du jour. He rambled on and on about his Adonis-like exploits, raged about his employers at CBS and boasted of his Hugh Hefner-style existence living with two goddesses.
From my modest suburban existence, I certainly can’t relate to Sheen’s hard partying lifestyle. Nor can I understand his bizarre antics. For all his bravado, it’s probable that Sheen suffers from mental illness, someone to be pitied, rather than scorned or ridiculed, though most people were probably apt to do the latter. And in fact, there was a mental health expert on the show who discussed the possibility that Sheen has bipolar disorder, a mental illness characterized by exhilarating bouts of mania and stifling periods of depression.
But in the midst of his incomprehensible tirades, Sheen said he suffers from chronic insomnia. In fact, he admitted that he doesn’t sleep, that he grabs catnaps on couches, in cars, and wherever he can. He even blamed some of his bad behavior on Ambien, the sleep drug that’s been linked to everything from night eating to suicidal thoughts.
I certainly can’t understand much of his life, but when he talks about insomnia, I can feel his pain. The long nights spent staring at the ceiling, watching the clock. The anxiety over how I will get through the next day.
Like Sheen, I’ve used Ambien. I hated it. The pill caused strange dreams, and I stopped it immediately — before I got too rowdy at a PTA meeting. I’ve also tried melatonin, diphenhydramine, yoga, meditation and white noise. Sometimes, they work. Sometimes, they don’t.
Usually, what works best is natural exhaustion, the kind you get from a long day spent working in the yard or hiking up a mountain. Going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every day works, too, as does a relaxing bedtime routine, a day without caffeine and a comfortable mattress.
One thing I know: staying up too late to watch a human train wreck isn’t conducive to sound sleep. But it sure was good entertainment.