I have never had an anvil dropped on my head before. Yet I try, purposely, to imagine the sensation. Why? Because if it's 2am and I can't sleep, it helps to manufacture third-party intervention. Mind you, by the time I arrive at the "blunt objects" segment of the evening, I've already exhausted all gentle means to exhaustion: decaffeinated beverages, meditative breathing, eye masks. There are pills, but I pay a steep price in the morning if I swallow a pill after midnight. I could just surrender, turn on the light and read or watch movies. I choose to fight instead.
But how best to attack something as inexplicable and interminable as insomnia? My body rarely falls for the anvil trick. I think it knows an anvil would cause permanent unconsciousness. I would swap in a frying pan, but I associate being whacked on the head with a frying pan with screwball comedies and cartoons. The last thing one needs, when one can't sleep, is to be amused.
The trick is to quiet the mind from all the pestering stimuli of waking life, to think of nothing or to think of something from nature. A lotus flower. A field. A babbling brook. Let's just hope I don't have to pee.
By 3am, it's not the insomnia that bothers me – it's the threat of the next day. When morning comes, I will be asked to run the same workday race as the rest of the world but with my shoelaces tied together. That's when the fear of not sleeping kicks in. And if there's one thing that will keep you up more than amusement, it's fear. Between 4am and 5am, the pressure is on to turn myself off. If I don't fall asleep now, that's it. I'll be wide awake when my alarm goes off in a few hours.
Time to wheel out the big guns. I put all that unwelcomed brain activity into a scenario I like to call The Upgrade. One has to be the right combination of mentally awake and physically exhausted, but The Upgrade is the greatest gift I can give any insomniac: imagine yourself on a 16-hour flight, awake in Seat 73E. The passengers on either side of you are snoring. Their elbows, knees and thighs want to make friends with you. Your back hurts. You have too much time to ponder every personal and professional mistake you've ever made. You also have 10 hours to go.
Suddenly, there's a tap on your shoulder. A flight attendant whispers that a space has just opened up in first class. Not business. First. It's yours if you want it. You gather your things and follow the attendant. You fidget with the buttons in your armrest until your seat fully reclines. Now stop right there.
This is the moment you want to hang on to back in the reality of your bedroom – that first second of relief. Your muscles relax. You sigh. You pull a blanket to your chin and turn on your side. You are so grateful for this bed and this moment, your gratitude bleeds straight into that long-craved unconsciousness.
• Sloane Crosley's novel The Clasp will be published next year by Hutchinson.