Insomnia: Truths and Technicalities

May 6, 2016
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Almost everyone experiences the occasional sleepless night, and the average adult American carries a bit of sleep debt. These experiences, while exhausting and of concern, are nothing compared to chronic insomnia.

There are three broad types of true insomnia: sleep-onset insomnia, in which sleep takes an inordinate amount of time to arrive; sleep-maintenance insomnia, in which the sleeper wakes repeatedly throughout the night or has difficulty falling back to sleep after a waking; and early-wake insomnia, in which morning sometimes comes for the sleeper before the clock has acknowledged it. Each of these types can be transient (lasting just a few nights), short-term (lasting a couple of weeks), long-term (lasting months or years), or idiopathic (permanent, beginning in early childhood).

It’s hard to imagine the depths of exhaustion and stress experienced by the true insomniac. People who have experienced a sleepless night or two are prone to recommending the same few things. “Have you tried a good sleep routine?” they’ll ask. “Avoid screens in bed,” they’ll say. Journalling and tea are often recommended to those who haven’t slept in weeks. It can make an insomniac want to scream — if he or she had the energy to do so, anyway. Most insomniacs know the expert advice which works for average bad sleepers isn’t as helpful for chronic insomnia.

Many insomniacs discover that nothing works reliably to bring about consistent sleep. What works one night, or even one month, may abruptly stop working. Drugs are habituating and can become less effective over time; herbs are almost laughably useless to someone who can’t fall asleep even after five nights awake. Sleep science is in its infancy; the newest research suggests that sleep variations such as insomnia have so many determinant factors that the true cure may be unique to each sufferer.

If you experience insomnia, the best thing you can do is discuss it with a medical professional as soon as possible. Sleep deprivation is dangerous in myriad ways, from long-term health effects to simple dangers such as driving while sleep-deprived. Medical advice can help you find the best way to treat your insomnia and mitigate the factors causing it. And in the meantime, try not to scream when your friends suggest a hot cup of tea.

Roosevelt Brewing Company Continually in Progress

March 24, 2016

You can find a lively crowd at The Roosevelt Brewing Company any night it’s open. The brewpub, open since 2012, is a popular place in Portales. Justin Cole’s ever-changing roster of small-batch beers, combined with chef Tyne Sansom’s innovative menu, beguile residents of our small town. The addition of local musicians, comedians, and artists doesn’t hurt, either.

The brewery has faced challenges, though you wouldn’t know it to read the first report of its opening in the Portales News-Tribune. Community leaders in that article spoke specifically and excitedly of the economic benefits the brewery would bring to Portales. Just two years later, however, those same community leaders would vote to deny Cole’s request to sell his brews at the annual Peanut Valley Festival.

In the time since that vote, the brewing company has overcome a citywide water outage that temporarily shuttered other local businesses, turned down the potential benefits of a new state law allowing home delivery of alcohol — which seems to somehow balance the Peanut Valley Festival disappointment – and become the center of Portales’s nightlife.

The brewpub is particularly packed on holidays, when it’s often impossible even to make a reservation. Patrons call to book their tables weeks in advance, thanks in large part to Sansom’s one-of-a-kind holiday menus and specialty cupcakes. A hallmark of the brewpub is its constant innovation; beers, menus, cupcakes, and promotions rotate quickly, so that customers are always returning for the next big thing.

“You just get what I call FOMO,” Jessica Anders, a 24-year-old administrative assistant, told me. “Fear of missing out. I try to get in to the pub every week just so I can taste every cupcake!”

This innovative spirit is likely the driving force behind Roosevelt Brewing Company’s rapid rise to success, despite the difficulty Cole experienced in establishing it. The same flexibility and willingness to think creatively that creates the pub’s novel atmosphere is seen in the ways Cole has responded to challenges during its establishment. Water’s out? That’s fine – he’ll use distilled. No seller’s permit at a festival? That’s great – but don’t expect him to pay for delivery privileges later!

Hidden Costs of Returning to School

March 4, 2016


Amie Griffith takes a break from her 10-hour day of work and classes on ENMU’s Portales campus.

What happens when a college student takes a long break from post-secondary education? Amie Griffith, a 2009 ENMU graduate, is finding out the hard way. Griffith, a 32-year-old Development Director at ENMU’s affiliated broadcast center, KENW, returned to Eastern last year in pursuit of her Master’s degree in Communication. She is part of a groundswell of students who interrupt tertiary education to focus on life in the “real world” — students who may find their return to formal schooling contains unpleasant surprises.

Griffith speaks with irritation of these surprises, which often come in the form of hidden financial burdens. “Even though my tuition is covered by KENW, I still end up spending all kinds of money I hadn’t expected to,” she told me. “You have to pay a fee for internet classes — and that’s another surprise, now all the classes are online — and books cost so much more than they used to. A lot of teachers make you buy directly from the bookstore, too, so you can’t really save money by going to Amazon.” Were these costs not explained to her when she applied to the graduate school? “No, not at all,” she says. “I was just told to fill out a tuition waiver, then next thing I knew, I got a bill!” This experience is something to consider for students who are confident that their employers will foot the bill for continued education.

For traditional, first-time undergraduates, the first (and biggest) hurdle is financing. The U.S. Department of Education estimates 80-85% of first-time undergraduate students now receive some form of financial aid, which means this hurdle is often cleared by scholarships and loans. A returning student like Griffith may find this is no longer the case — as an independent adult, the means test by which financial aid is awarded now applies solely to the student (rather than the student’s parents), and a working student may find her income is too high to receive much aid.

Although Griffith’s focus was on the financial aspects of returning to school, other changes to the landscape confront students who have taken a lengthy hiatus. The rising popularity of distance learning is one such change; while online classes offer unprecedented flexibility, they can also strand students in the educational weeds, with no way out when they get stuck. Kirsten Peterson, a recent graduate of ENMU’s Master’s of Communication program, told me frankly that she felt lost in many of her classes. “If I emailed a question I never knew when, or if, my professor would answer,” she said. “I have a hard time learning by just reading along, so I had a lot of questions, and I was just stuck. I was used to going to class every day and interacting with everyone in person, so it was really surprising to me that now everything is on the computer.” This question of timely interaction and assistance is compounded when both professor and student have external obligations pressing on their time.

There are solutions to these and other problems, of course. In next week’s installment we’ll take advice for nontraditional students from college advising departments, examine post-graduate financial aid options, and consider ways to arrange a full life to create room for education. While you consider the information here, you may find the following links helpful:


“Is an MBA Right for Me?”

“My Experience Going Back to School, 10 Years Later”

“Why I Went Back to College”

How does it feel when you’re out on your own?*

September 4, 2009

We interrupt this extended hiatus to bring you…

… Connor’s first day of school. As you can see, he was totally ready:

I, however, was less prepared for the separation. I chose to deal with it by staying awake worrying for the entire night before, leading me to make this face at ass o’clock this morning:

He loved it, of course. Can’t wait ’til Tuesday.

*The GooGoo Dolls

Hello time bomb, I’m ready to go off.*

May 27, 2009

I know, I know. I haven’t been updating. And I’m going to continue in that vein, because I am trying hard to focus on stuff outside of my head. There was big drama a week and a half ago, and while not all of it was directly caused by me, you could say fairly that the underlying cause of it was the depression that’s been swallowing me slowly since some time in October.

I’m trying to repair the damage — to my marriage, my relationship with my kid, my home, and myself. I need to get out of my headspace for a while and focus on reality. I have spent months obsessing and analyzing and thinking and seething and resenting and despairing, and I don’t know how to fix it except to push it away and get on with life as if it’s not there.

I’ll be back around when it’s safe for me to do this thinking thing, this words thing. In the meantime, I’m almost always on Twitter if you feel a burning need to keep up.

Time to let reality sink in.

*Matthew Good Band

Hobbies. Kind of.

May 15, 2009

I'm trying out Plinky this week, because I just noticed that it's been two full weeks eleven days (I can’t count, hurp derp) since I updated. I'm sort of butting heads with writer's block right now, so I figured I'd let someone else come up with topics and I'd just ramble on and add some pictures. Uh, enjoy!

I don't really ever de-stress, as it were. I do a few things seasonally to shut my brain down for a while, but I've never been any good at relaxing.

During spring and summer, of course, I garden. I garden pretty much unceasingly, dawn to dusk, even though there's not all that much to actually do in my few pots or the garden box. Sometimes, "gardening" looks a lot like "sitting on a chair outside, sipping a soda and gazing at the plants." I grow mainly tomatoes, because the smell and feel of them triggers a sort of sense memory of happiness — my great-grandmother grew tons of tomatoes, and I spent entire summers in her back yard, with nothing to do but be a kid. (I also grow them because they taste good, of course.) I guess I really shut my brain down by sniffing and fondling a few plants each summer, but I call it gardening in order to come across as slightly sane.

In fall and winter it's harder. I cook often in the cooler months, and I enjoy it enough to edit a food blog and talk kitchen tools and herbs for hours, but it's not really a de-stressor. It's a distraction, maybe, and sometimes it's a comfort — but really it's a way to pass the time and nourish my family until the sun gets stronger and the leaves turn green. It's a way to feel competent, too; I'm so often overwhelmed by raising a kid and keeping a house and paying the bills that it's nice to have one normal thing I can manage. But it's not particularly relaxing.

The closest I come to relaxing in the house is when I read. I read pretty much all the time (all the time that I'm not actively raising the kid or washing the dishes, anyway), and I figured out years ago that it's a defense mechanism. I read things online, I read library books, I read newspapers, I read magazine clippings. I read cereal boxes and shampoo bottles and the packaging from Connor's toys. I read like breathing, and between that and my garden I do all right. Even if I don't ever actually relax.

Big Box of Garden!

May 4, 2009

So, that happened. I thought the big box was a lost cause, but my mom totally saved it at the last minute (meaning yesterday) by providing good soil and cow poop to fill it up. I planted this afternoon, and I’ll be adding more tomatoes next week — as well as planting cucumbers in a huge plastic tub, as I did last year. This is going to be awesome; if you want to keep up, this year’s garden album is here, and I seem to write/photograph garden stuff a lot on Twitter.

Damn, I’m excited. Last year’s paltry little container garden went from this to this with a side of this; this year’s garden has 32 cubic feet of high-quality amended soil in which to spread. My goal is to grow a 5-ft tomato plant and/or harvest over 200 tomatoes by summer’s end. Oh, and to spend every single summer morning with dirt under my fingernails. Mmmm.

As an aside, how cool is it that last year’s planting and this year’s planting occurred exactly a year and a day apart? And also, how lame is it that my grass is patchy, my old pots are scattered about, and Connor’s “baby” playset is still lurking dustily about? Sigh. Next step: cleaning up my damn yard.

Coming to rest. [Updated.]

May 2, 2009

Having my great-grandmother’s desk, with the same lamp that’s always sat atop it, and her small Diarmuid Harrington sketch of the Golden Gate Bridge hanging above — it feels like a tiny corner of home, right in my living room.

ETA: I took a picture. Lo, I am functional!

My great-aunt and some family friends brought me my great-grandmother’s desk and file cabinet today. Once I got everything set up, it made a very nice and homey “office” in the corner of our living room. Almost everything in this photo (desk, file cabinet, framed print on the wall, monitor, lamp, some tchotchkes) was my great-grandmother’s, and I may never leave this space again. It even smells like Gram’s house.

There’s also a set of extremely old decorative plates that will be filling the empty spaces behind my chair, but those have to wait for Michael’s arrival. Man wields hammer; woman flutters lashes! This is how things work, for I am very lazy.

Also, please to ignore the stain under my desk (pre-schooler perils) and the unsightly jumble of cords behind my chair. (Now that I think of it, the blue carpet isn’t any better — but that at least is not my fault.) I spent two hours today swapping desks, another hour organizing, and two hours filing. It’s time for something fruity, cold, and a little bit alcoholic. I am clearly far too busy to Photoshop.

A dreamer’s eyes are always open wide.*

April 28, 2009

I forgot to mention this in all the (not-)smoking talk, but one of our cats killed my seedlings. It was a great tragedy, and I’m fairly sure he did it on purpose. The sequence of events went something like this:

12:30 PM: I put the seedlings outside in a nice sunny patch for some good ol’ UV rays.
12:31 PM: The cat saunters over, eyes the seedlings, and smirks at me.
12:32 PM: The cat backs up to my seedlings, sprays them vigorously with urine, then kicks them off their perch, sending soil and broken leaves and snapped roots flying.
1 week later: I am still crying.

So, that happened. I’ve decided that come hell, high water, or angry cats, I will be buying starter plants tomorrow. And planting them. Some of them, anyway — my square-foot garden is also a bust, because I was not able to procure the free compost I needed to fill the box and complete my soil mix. (DUDES! Unable to procure FREE compost! I epitomize pathetic!)

I’ll be container gardening again this year, and I am woefully underprepared; the containers have all been scrubbed and sterilized, but I only bought two medium bags of soil, which is just enough to fill up one big container. Maybe one big container and one herb pot, if I plant shallowly and carefully.

I’m a little frustrated and spluttery about all this still. I had a garden for barely four months last year, but I have missed my plants all winter. As spring heats up and the sun comes out to play I’ve begun to physically long for those damn plants, as if they are errant lovers or prodigal children. If all I manage this year is a tomato plant and some basil, I will be heartily disappointed (not to mention heartily encouraged to spend the rest of my life in bed, as gardening has been The Thing I Promised Myself to get out of these damn doldrums). I could begin planting later, once I’ve procured more soil and whatnot, but I am dubious about the results — our summers are too hot for fruits to ripen, and all I’d end up with would be a bunch of green tomatoes and some sadly spindled herbs.

In sum, ugh. Still not smoking hardly at all — I seem to have turned out to be a social smoker with my physical dependency broken; I smoke a cigarette or two when there’s a large gathering, but am otherwise content to abstain. I missed was too lazy to take my Chantix two days in a row, and remained stalwart. I am expecting my medal ANY DAY NOW.

* Nine Days.

Your mama warned you there’d be days like these.*

April 22, 2009

Hello! It has been 69 hours since my last cigarette! Excuse my one-track mind, but I am going nuts!

Day one was easy. Day two was okay. Today has been hellish. I might even smoke a cigarette tonight while we barbecue, because look, I am only human. A cigarette every three days — or after dinner every night, even — is not that bad.


I’m kind of afraid that if I smoke one, I will go right back to smoking a pack or more a day, even though that is in no way logical. I think I have Chantix, AA, and Puritanism all mixed up in my head. Ugh! I caught myself sniffing at Michael furtively this evening, gathering the residue of his cigarette into my poor deprived brain like some sort of lunatic. (Yes, I have mandated that nobody smoke around me, which means Michael is sneaking cigarettes at the mailbox and I am ignoring it so I can sneak whiffs of stale smoke from his clothes. Quitting may turn out to be a filthier habit than smoking ever was.)

Anyway, that fear is the only thing that’s kept me from smoking today. Well, that fear and BubbleShooter, which I have played for something like 10 hours since 8:00 this morning. Also, I think I ate everything in the house, and can only be relieved that most of it was vegetables.

Help! Alternatively, reassure my week and feeble brain that it’s all right if I have a cigarette tonight, but only one. And say that last part really, really sternly.

* The Rembrandts