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PALM LATITUDES

Beng There : Sleep and the Single Girl

August 28, 1994|Judy Raphael

It wasn't apnea or anything exotic. I just couldn't sleep. It was the neighbor with the drum set, the boyfriend saying he lost the tickets for the Traffic concert, the gun going off next door ... the usual L.A. problems.

So I went to the Cedars-Sinai Sleep Disorders Center, where therapist Anthony Reading determined that I had psychophysiologic insomnia (gardenvariety, no-big-deal sleeplessness). He gave me some tips anyone can use--cut back on caffeine, use the bedroom only for sleeping and sex, take a morning walk to keep my circadian rhythms in tune, turn in around 11--and told me to come back in two weeks for a biofeedback session.

Grumpy and coffee-less, I return. I am wired to a biofeedback machine that is supposed to help me learn to relax. Reading has stuck sensors on my fingers to measure my galvanic skin response, an indication of what he calls my "arousal rate." It's actually my anxiety rate, and it's high: The biofeedback setup makes a noise linked to my arousal rate--the higher the anxiety, the louder the noise. The goal is to compel my body to relax, to silence the tone, smothering it with pure relaxation. "We train you to control the tone so you can activate the response at night," Reading says. Tone? That nerve-racking buzz? How can I relax with that noise?

"It's all about surrendering to relaxation. Letting go," he says. OK, I'll surrender. I'll let go. I'll think about--the neighbor ... BZzzzzz.... OK, the boyfriend ... Wonder if he's really taking someone else to the concert? ... I'll take a gun to his head! BZZZZZZ! As if reading my mind, Reading says, "You don't have to acknowledge every thought. Greet them like people on the street and walk on by."

The neighbor with the drum set floats into the ozone. BZzzzz. ...The boyfriend vaporizes. (I'll deal with him later). . . . The gunshot? Well, he wasn't aiming at me. . . . Mmmmmmm. ... Lower andlower. . . . Hey, now that the buzzing's gone, maybe I can get some sleep around here.

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