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Rose's new book, The Stranger in My Mirror and Other Reflections is available by special order from most book stores, or on the web at and

Insomnia: More Hazardous Than You Think

by Rose Madeline Mula


Anyone who is cursed with insomnia and spends night after restless night tensely trying to fall asleep has heard all the advice: Don't eat a heavy dinner. Avoid caffeine. No late evening exercise. Relax and unwind before going to bed. Once tucked in, if you're not asleep within twenty minutes, get up and go to another room. Read something boring (maybe this essay), sip a glass of warm milk, count your blessings, count some sheep, but don't count your money (unless your name is Bill Gates or you've recently won the lottery). And above all, don't turn on the TV (unless your name is Bill Gates or you've recently won the lottery) because not only will it keep you awake, it will keep you broke.

Think about it. The pickings are slim at 2:00 AM; so as you channel surf, you're in great danger of being sucked into watching a home shopping show or a product infomercial. Bad. You're exhausted, your defenses are down, you're vulnerable. And, unfortunately, your phone and credit card are handy. This is a recipe for disaster. Take it from me.

During my many sleepless nights, I have purchased a variety of products that I'm certain my daytime self would have resisted — in fact, would often have ridiculed — including three food choppers. Why three you may ask? Because No. 1 mangled instead of chopped, and No. 2 chopped adequately, but required an advanced engineering degree to figure out how to disassemble it for cleaning. I was sure No. 3, a simple two-piece job that performed beautifully on camera, was my dream chopper. It turned out to be a nightmare. (It suddenly occurs to me that someone who has a "dream chopper" needs to get a life.)

My next nocturnal disastrous purchase was a treadmill. Bad enough to buy a treadmill without trying it out; but worse, because of my semi-somnolent state during the demonstrator's pitch, I did not heed three of the most dreaded words in the English language: "Some Assembly Required." The contraption arrived in seventeen pieces, plus a plastic bag containing 47 screws in various sizes, 21 bolts, 18 wing nuts, 55 washers, and an illegible miniscule assembly diagram. And I still didn't have that advanced engineering degree. It was marginally cheaper to return the whole mess than to enroll at M.I.T.

These experiences cooled my pre-dawn impulse buying, but only temporarily. I'm embarrassed to disclose my other follies. I'll just say that they included some (though, thankfully, not all) of the following:

  • Diet pills guaranteed to burn off a gazillion calories.
  • Torso trimmers, thigh toners, tummy tamers, tush tighteners.
  • Exercise videos, including one (I swear) that simply demonstrates walking.
  • Hair growing products.
  • Hair removal products.
  • Wrinkle creams that promise to make Grandma Moses (even though she's dead) look like a 20-year-old Elizabeth Taylor's air brushed photos.
  • A diamond ring the size of the one Richard once gave to the afore-mentioned once-lovely Liz. And such a bargain! (Call now! Only nine left!)
  • A portable oven that cooks frozen foods faster than a microwave. (Why???)
  • A turbo cooker that bakes, boils, broils, braises, grills, fries, steams and stews.
  • Food processors, dehydraters, juicers.
  • Amazing cleaners that will make everything in your home sparkle, with very little help from you.
  • A magnetic bracelet that miraculously abolishes all aches and pains. (Cheaper than a trip to Lourdes, and no need to update your passport.)
  • An air purifier that annihilates pollen, animal dander and invisible dust mites as horrifying as Godzilla (have you seen those pictures?!) that have supposedly infested your bedding and everything else in your home.

Where are you going to find room for all these products, you might ask? Easy. Once you get rid of all those dust mites, you'll have ample space.

These are just a sampling of the offerings on late-night TV. All are extolled by an enthusiastic, glib demonstrator in front of an audience that obviously has been prepped to applaud wildly and "Oooh!" "Aaah!" or "Gasp!" at appropriate intervals. And all the products are available for a limited time at an "incredible" price always preceded by "ONLY" as in: "This amazing gizmo/ doohickey/ thingamabob can be yours for just four easy payments of ONLY $999 each!" Plus shipping and handling, of course — a charge which in many cases could cover the cost of mailing the iceberg that sank the Titanic. And if you order within the next 30 minutes (i.e., before you wake up enough to realize what an idiot you are), they will include an ice crusher to reduce that iceberg to manageable chunks for your next cocktail party.

Okay, so I may have succumbed to some of this hype, but I'm not completely hopeless. One unique product I passed up was a Lionel train alarm clock consisting of a miniature town complete with trees, buildings and people. At the preset wake-up time, the train rumbles through the town, engines chugging, whistles whistling, and bells ringing. I can't say I wasn't tempted. However, I had shredded all my credit cards during a rare fit of sanity a few minutes before the ad aired.

Now I'm afraid I had been too impulsive. How can I get along without a credit card? Well, I'll worry about that tomorrow. I really should turn off the TV now and try to get some sleep. No! Wait! They're just announcing a phone number I can call to get a new credit card that offers an interest rate of ONLY 39%! And if I act immediately, I'll get a free trip to Timbucktoo. All I'll have to pay for is hotel, food, ground transportation, and sightseeing (which shouldn't cost much — how many sights are there to see in Timbucktoo?). And, oh yes, there is a small supplemental charge for airfare if I actually want a seat instead of joining my carry-on in the overhead rack. What a deal! Gotta call right away!

Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.


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