Wide Awake: A Memoir of Insomnia
by Patricia Morrisroe

Spiegel & Grau NY, 2010. ISBN 978-0-385-52224-3.
Reviewed by Martha Meacham
Posted on 10/24/2010

Nonfiction: Memoir

If misery loves company, millions of Americans will love this Memoir of Insomnia by Patricia Morrisroe. According to her statistics, a total of 70 million of us can't sleep at night about 40 million with chronic wakefulness issues and 30 million with occasional sleep deprivation.

Patricia Morrisroe's story ought to resonate with many middle-age women of the baby boomer crowd. Amidst history of the growth of the sleep disorder business is her story of growing up in a family with other members with insomnia. Though she traces her issues back to childhood and a genetic propensity to lose sleep, she acknowledges that as a population, we tend to have disrupted circadian rhythms as we age. As one of the 40 million with a diagnosed sleep disorder, I looked forward to the researched facts purported to be in this book. I was pleasantly surprised by a candid personal history embellished with humor and insight.

This book is well-crafted, right down to its perky sunshine yellow cover, displaying the hands of the clock stopped at ten minutes to 3:00 AM. How well do I know that time of night! In fact, through the years, this author had used her early morning wakefulness to develop her writing career. Her writing style is compelling as she intertwines research on sleep disorders, sleeping aids and pharmaceuticals with her experiences with yoga, meditation and even alternative herbal remedies for treatment. I was kept wide-awake, reading through her tale of trying everything imaginable to seduce Sleep, the character she personifies with evil intentions and power to torture her to keep her from her rest.

One might expect a story that details years of lost sleep and the debilitating effects of sleeplessness could be a downer, but this one isn't. Through the progression of her life, we grow to see as the author does, how to still the over-active mind that can't be silenced in the still of the night. Her lessons serve to guide us away from pills and props to actively silencing our thoughts through meditation. When she moves to the country and practices living in the moment and close to nature, she aligns her cycles with nature's. By appreciating those ties, came to find peace and the elusive slumber she seeks.

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Patricia Morrisroe is a professional magazine writer. Her work appears in many mainstream publications such as New York, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Departures, Travel & Leisure, Elle, and the London Sunday Times Magazine. She wrote Mapplethorpe: A Biography (Random House, 1995). Visit her website.

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