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33-Years Of Insomnia Difficult To Swallow


By James Donahue

February 2006


I am an insomniac, but the story of the 64-year-old Vietnam man who hasn’t slept for 33 years is hard to believe.


According to reports, Thai Ngoc has been awake since suffering a fever in 1973 and has remained constantly awake, being unable to even nap ever since. In spite of his unending state of wakefulness, Ngoc lives a somewhat normal life, farms and manages to work both day and night without suffering ill effects. In fact, he has never been ill during these years of going without sleep. Or so they say.


My confession of personal insomnia does not mean that I do not sleep. It means that good sleep is difficult to acquire. It means that I might go through long periods when I lie awake, unable to sleep, then drag through my waking hours suffering from the ill effects of not being rested.


That was a very big problem when I was employed and needed to work for eight hour days. It drove me to using sleeping pills, white sound, and a variety of other devices to force myself into at least a few hours of slumber just so I could function on the job.


Now that I am retired the pressure is not as severe as it used to be. But I still resent those nights when sleep does not come easily because it means the following day will be somewhat wasted. It will mean that I will not feel rested and filled with natural energy and consequently miss the full pleasure of a day well utilized.


This is why I cannot believe a man in Vietnam never sleeps. The human body is designed to spend certain hours every day regenerating. That means we need a certain amount of good restful sleep. Even if we do not sleep well, a little sleep is better than none. Without it, we tend to go into self-destruct.


Oh how I recall those days of my youth when eight to ten hours of total, restful sleep was such an easy thing to enjoy. As a teen I took sleep for granted. In fact, I resented having to submit to it and frequently forced myself to stay awake just to snatch all I could out of life.


I remember reading myself to sleep on the farm, then waking up in the morning refreshed and ready to fly into the new day.  


Now I long for a full night’s sleep. I think a lot of people suffer from insomnia now. And I think the electromagnetic fields around us have a lot to do with it.


We don’t see them, but our world is now bombarded by electronic radio and telecommunication waves that penetrate the walls of our homes and bodies constantly. The television and radio transmissions, the cell phone signals, the microwave transmissions not only from our homes but from satellites passing high over the world, and now even the police eavesdropping devices that bug our homes, our telephones and our world, always listening in on what we are doing, are having an effect.


We sleep with cellular telephones, televisions and often computers in our bedrooms. They all emit electronic signals that impact our brain signals.


Not only that, but we live with noise pollution, as well as air pollution. The air we breath is not as good any more. The there is always somebody driving by with loud mufflers and boom boxes blaring. Then there are the many lawn mowers, leaf blowers, snow blowers and other machines designed to make a lot of racket and smog up the skies.


There is a good reason for our insomnia.


During my youth, when growing up on the farm, there were no such things as electromagnetic fields. We had an old Philco black and white television set in our livingroom, far at the other end of the house. But the nearest television station was about 80 miles away, and we had to have a very tall and sensitive antenna on the roof of the house to pick up an occasional signal. Thus we had television sometimes. Most of the time we had snow.


Our telephone calls came down a wire buried in the ground between our house and a pole about a mile away. That was something my parents paid to have. And every once in a while, a neighbor would accidentally cut that cable if he left his plow in the ground too long when coming out of the field and onto the road.


Those were good days then. I never dreamed things could change as drastically as they have.


Now if I have a good night of rest and long to sleep in, you can bet that sleep will be interrupted early in the morning by a utility truck with a back-up beeper, a city trash service truck stopping all along the street to pick up rubbish, or perhaps a telephone call from the phone company with somebody attempting to sell me more service.


You know insomnia is a national problem. There are too many ads by pharmaceutical companies trying to sell us their brand of sleeping pill. Sleeping pills have to be a big business now. Years ago we never thought of such a thing.  


That is life in America now. We take pills to knock us out at night. We drink a ton of coffee to wake up in the morning. Nothing comes natural. We are addicts to an unnatural world that needs to be changed.

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