At the end of Book I and the beginning of Book II of the Iliad, Homer paints a picture familiar enough to any sufferer of sleep disorders. (I had my annual follow-up appointment today with the sleep therapist). Book I ends with the Olympian gods going to bed after a splendid feast, each one to his or her own room (built for each god by the cleverly skilled Hephaistos). Zeus too retired to his own bed, where, we are told, he was accustomed to sleep soundly. But Book II begins on a jarring note. While everyone else - both the Olympian gods and the earthbound mortals - slept soundly the whole night long, Zeus could not sleep, for Homer has him pondering how to rig the next battle and so shower Achilles with glory.
I can picture Zeus tossing and turning - perhaps even (as a sleep therapist would surely advise him to) getting up out of bed and doing something else for a while. It's a scene I can easily identify with, although of course my preoccupations and anxieties are admittedly much more modest, much less world-historically significant than those of Zeus. In fact, for the most part, anxiety is only rarely a contributing factor to my poor sleep patterns! Anxiety is, in any case, a fact of life. Even Saint Paul acknowledged his many sleepless nights and the daily pressure upon him of his anxiety for all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:27-28).
I have been burdened with variations on the theme of sleeplessness - of greater or lesser severity - on and off for years. Finally, in February 2003, I was duly diagnosed with a sleep disorder. that was almost 10 years ago, and I have used a CPAP machine ever since. (So do many others, as I have since discovered!) It can be a nuisance at times - especially having to pack it whenever I travel and take it through airport security. But I have grown quite accustomed to it and the various styles of masks I have tried over the years. The machine is supposed to deal with the physical dimension of the disorder, but insomnia has multiple dimensions. An steady night of deep sleep remains a somewhat elusive goal. So, when I say my prayers each night before bed, I never fail to include a Hail Mary for a safe, restful, and uninterrupted night's sleep!
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