To Sleep: Perchance to Dream…


Detail from Klimt's "Sleeping Woman"

I think my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays is Hamlet. I love the young emo-lad, disheveled by angst. I love Ophelia, the scorned lover who spouts gorgeously befuddling poetry before she descends into madness and floats beautifully downstream to her death, flowers tangled in her hair.

The play, brimming with gratuitous drama, is full of itself to such a perfectly Shakespearean degree. The fact that the play runs FOUR HOURS is itself a celebration of indulgence.

What’s not to love about Hamlet, feast of maudlin navel-gazing that it is?

T.S. Eliot, 19th century literary critic and curmudgeon extraordinaire, hated Hamlet. He called the play an “artistic failure” because it lacks “objective correlative.” Hamlet’s overwrought despair, Eliot felt, was not supported by the play itself, the other characters, or their circumstances.

T.S. Eliot. Maybe he was just envious of Shakespeare. Eliot's work didn't get the ladies (or men) the way Shakespeare's did.

I’ve always disagreed with Eliot on this point. There is a strong objective correlative in Hamlet, and it’s this: the guy desperately wants to sleep. He mentions it throughout the play, and when he dies at the end, finally descending into the rest he desires, his BFF, Horatio sighs with relief, “Goodnight, sweet Prince.”

The makers of Nightmare on Elm Street are with me on this one. The writers reference Hamlet throughout the film to parallel its tormented teens’ sleep deprivation.

I wouldn’t say I’m as distraught or sleep-deprived as Hamlet or Freddie Krueger’s prey, but I can say I empathize with them.

The ONE thing I can do to help my waning white cell count is to sleep during the day. Easier said than done, I find. Some people have no problem napping.

How do you all do it?

Sleep eludes me while the sun is up. I can turn off Bravo or put my book down or stash the iPhone (really, I can) but I just can’t fall all the way asleep, try as I might.

I need to start catching some daytime zzzz, but I’m as wakeful as the Prince of Denmark. So if you have any ideas, please share.

Meanwhile, I guess I could put down the iPhone right now and take this opportunity in the chemo chair to snooze while the Taxol is flowing.

Nighty night,


  1. Mari’s avatar

    You need an eye mask!

  2. Jon’s avatar

    Jen, I would refer you – and not for the first time – to the ancient Chinese ‘Two Hats’ cure. In essence, a treatment for colds, but always worth a try whatever the ailment: Place a hat on the bedpost at the foot of your bed. Sit on bed. Drink whisky until you can see two hats, then sleep… (and sweat out cold).

  3. Kristin Sherman’s avatar

    One of my best talents is napping. I take a nap almost every day. Only for 10-20 minutes, but I wake bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. How? I don’t know exactly, but I’ve worked on it. I turn on white noise. I lay on my back, with a pillow under my knees. I turn off all phones (very important). I don’t think much. I have a blanket, and maybe a fan. Usually it’s the couch (no reminders of bedtime insomnia). And the narcotic of sleep comes. It’s only for a few minutes, and I don’t care if I actually sleep, so I don’t miss anything.

  4. Jennifer’s avatar

    Kristin, that’s awesome. I think those are called “disco naps” no? I’m going to start practicing tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’m going to try your method.

  5. Jennifer’s avatar

    Oh yes, Jon. I remember you telling me about the “Two Hats” cure in Granada, when I had a cold. I also remember telling Dennis about it. It was one of the many things that made him like you right away.

  6. Jennifer’s avatar

    I do! I have two, but they’re too tight and squeeze my eyeballs.

  7. Cathy’s avatar

    I just love it when you wax literary. And I, too, am not one who possesses the gift of nap. I always marvel at my friends who do, though. Even on the extremely rare occasions that I’m able to fall asleep, I wake up feeling so groggy that the rest of the day is a wash. One thing I am guilty of is drinking lots of caffeine, so that might be the culprit. I’ve noticed that you are a fan of hot beverages, as well. I’d tell you to abstain, but that would make me a hypocrite. As a matter of fact, I think I hear the kettle whistling right now…

  8. Dan Gray’s avatar

    I think the key is to not decide that you simply must sleep or else else the whole event is a failure. I read once that just being completely relaxed with your eyes closed gives you 70 or 80% of the benefits of sleep. I use the same method if I am having a hard time falling asleep at night. My suggestions are as follows…

    1. Set the time aside to just relax and maybe fall asleep.
    2. Put on some white noise (I use my fan).
    3. Cover your eyes so the light of day doesn’t get in. (I use a T-shirt and drape it over my eyes).
    4. Just let go and think about how great it feels to take this time to relax and maybe even sleep.

    One thing I also do is set my alarm, because I have heard that after 45 minutes of sleep, you enter into the REM faze which lasts until 1 hour 30 minutes. If you wake up during the REM faze you may feel all weird and groggy. Before the REM faze or after the REM faze and you wake up refreshed. So if I want a little nap I will set the alarm for 45 or 50 minutes out. If I am completely zonked and know that I will just continue sleeping for over one and a half hours, I don’t even bother. By the way, these numbers work for me, but after doing a quick search on the internet, I found that everyone’s REM phase happens at a different time. So the key is to experiment and figure out what times work for you.

    Hopefully these suggestions will help you with your siestas..

  9. Sidney’s avatar

    Jen, even just a disco nap / Southern belle snooze can be restorative. Or try some brandy. Scarlett would have.

    And I love Klimt. Nice choice.

  10. Amy’s avatar

    This entry reads like an assignment for Hinman’s class. Which is one of the reasons why I love it.

  11. Jennifer’s avatar

    Cathy, you’re right. I have to cut out the caffeine after a tiny cup in the am. So far, the napping has been pretty good, and I don’t feel groggy.

    Dan, thank you for your steps!! And yes, I think I have been napping under 45 min because I haven’t woken up groggy. And I love thinking of them as siestas, foreign and vacationy.

    Thanks, Sid.

    Amy, yes. I wish I had a way to send this to Hinman…


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>