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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Here's a study I'd like to see
Posted by Jill | 8:36 AM

Maureen Dowd, subbing for the thankfully vacationing John Tierney, picks up his "It's Saturday so let's put up a nonsensical pointless post" beat, drawing parallels between the recent spate of stories about the sleep-eating and sleep-driving of Ambien users.

So in that Saturday morning spirit, I got to thinking about all these Ambian sleep-eaters. Dowd says:

Far more women suffer from insomnia, and far more women — even young ones — pop sleeping pills than men. As Ariel Levy wrote in New York magazine, pills are now seen as "brain styling," not mind-altering, because "the line between medication and recreation has become blurred."

One girlfriend of mine wanted to call her Upper East Side doctor yesterday and switch to Lunesta. "I have visions of myself in my Subaru crossing the George Washington Bridge at 3 in the morning covered in Cheetos dust," she said. But then she realized they'd probably find out something equally weird about Lunesta next week — that it causes you to run off with a Starbucks barista and go to male strip clubs in your sleep.

The scary news of zombie hordes of Ambien sleep-eaters follows fast upon the scary news of zombie hordes of Ambien sleep-drivers and zombie hordes of Ambien sleep-sirens.

Why are all these women needing sleeping pills? On most nights that don't involve a too-late-in-the-day consumption of coffee, or a viewing of a particularly disturbing Sunday night episode of whatever HBO's running at a given time, I crawl into bed and I'm out like a light within five minutes. I don't necessarily stay asleep; a particularly demanding cat who insists on wrapping her pays around my neck all night often gets in the way, but the transition is easy as pie.

It's not that I'm one of these placid, emotionally centered people. Every day of my life, I have to filter my experiences through a haze of Bad Childhood Experience, trying to determine what's real and what's just old tapes being played out again. Sometimes my life feels like an endless round of trying to pick up just the spilled kibble off the floor when you leave the bag of Purina One out and leave the dustballs, spilled dried cranberries, and the other flotsam and jetsam that accumulates on a particularly hideous yellow geometric 1970's vintage sheet vinyl floor that refuses to look clean no matter what you do with it.

But sleep is the easiest thing in the world for me.

So I wonder what gives with these insomniac women taking Ambien and then devouring bags of Chee-tohs while unconscious. Is it that Ambien simply gives them an excuse to do what they want to do anyway but don't dare? Does Ambien somehow work by suppressing the Christofascist Zombie lobe of the brain so that the pleasure principle wins out? And why am I starting to sound like Carrie Bradshaw?

It seems to me that someone like Maureen Dowd and her Ambien-popping sisters, who are heavily invested in maintaining their girlish figures lo unto eternity, probably don't allow themselves very often to ingest anything that might threaten said figure. As a result, the Oreos and Cheetohs and the bacon and eggs have been imbued with some kind of mythical significance in which one's worth as a human being is affected by whether or not one puts such things in one's mouth instead of grilled salmon and a green salad.

Now, as a somewhat more substantially-girthed person, I happen myself to be fond of a nice, fresh piece of perfectly-grilled salmon and a really fresh salad of seasonal greens topped with just a splash of something lovely like key lime vinegar. But I also want to enjoy a really good chocolate-chip cookie more than once a year. And if I want it, I have it. I don't need an entire bag of them anymore, one or two is just fine. Perhaps that's because I no longer measure my self-worth by what I eat.

But I suspect that many women who devote a disproportionate amount of energy towards fighting the ever-more-futile battle against time and gravity, are walking around feeling pretty deprived all the time -- and it's hard to sleep when you're hungry. So they pop the Ambien, and once the "I Want" part of the brain kicks in, they head for the kitchen and the bag of Chips Ahoy stashed behind the bag of spelt.
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