lois lane

I slipped into the dimly lit café and cast a furtive glance across the room.There was a couple huddled together in a corner booth and a man seated at a table for one was peering over the top of his newspaper. A flash of lightening punctuated the final chord of a song emanating from hidden speakers and illuminated the small shop like the morning sun. I locked eyes with the barista who nodded toward the back before disappearing behind a curtain. I had a sinking feeling it was going to be a long night.I found my compadres seated in the back of the café and plopped into a chair Batman had kicked out.

“You’re late.” He stated gruffly.

“It’s about to rain.” I pointed out the obvious. “Mother Nature is starting her crap again.”

Spiderman stared blankly and Superman shook his head while slurping a Cappuccino.

“Course of action” Batman barked. Don’t take it personally I thought to myself, his arthritis must be flared up again.

So began our super secret meeting to discuss how we could combine forces to take on the elusive villains of P.A.I.N. that wreak havoc on innocent bodies: particularly, that Femme Fatale Fatigue, Mother Nature, her lecherous henchmen The Low Pressure Systems, and the ever-elusive Inflammation.

“What’s your super power?” Spiderman squeaked. For some reason I thought his voice would be deeper.

“CBT” I remarked confidently.

“Sounds like a disease.” Batman remarked stoically, as always.

“Is that like x-ray vision?” Superman asked hopefully, wiping a foam mustache from his upper lip with the back of his hand. Next time ask for no whip, no foam I mused.

“Yes, but not like TSA sees bones and bra hooks, it’s a cognitive process.” I quipped, but no one seemed to see the humor in my comment.

“CBT sounds like a virus, is it injected? My Spidey senses are staring to tingle! How do you spread it?” The webbed wonder blurted out.

“Did you order decaf Peter? You know how caffeine affects you after 3pm.” Spidey lowered his head; busted!

“Aww, come on guys! You didn’t read my Trans-Human resume did you. It was all in there; my strengths and weaknesses, descriptions, flow-charts and diagrams providing the quantitative measurements of pain, distribution and location. I even enclosed a urine sample for drug screening.”

“Whoa, whoa; you are talking WAY over our heads.” Superman slurped a fresh Grande Mocha Latte. “You have a weakness, really? You look strong and fit!”

“Yup! MRI machines.” I sighed. “I can’t get within 50 feet of one.”

“What happens?” I little voice called out from above us. Spiderman was doing aerial yoga from a web he had attached to the ceiling. OK, I know who his nemesis is!

“It sucks out all my Cyborg parts. Do you like that better than traditional yoga Peter?” I should have added baby-sitting to my resume.

“Oh Bruce, I almost forgot, here is that camphor you wanted.” I tossed the cream across the table.

“No given names.” He growled as he slid the tube into the empty slot in his utility belt. Boy, he is really feeling the weather!

“Ok guys, huddle in we need to address that age old question; How do you fight what you cannot see?”

“Oo, Oo, x-ray vision.” Superman was waving his hand high over his head.

“Shush!” the caped crusader demanded while elbowing the reporter turned crime fighter.

I rose from my chair and leaned over the table lowering my voice.

“Are you ok?” The barista whispered and leaned in, his head close to mine.

“We’re fine, but do me a favor. Don’t give the guy in the mask, the one swinging from the ceiling fan, any more caffeine ok?”

“What?” The barista seemed very confused. “Honey, do you need help getting back into bed?”

WHAT!! Honey? Boy the nerve of some people!

I looked up to see my husband’s puzzled face. “I was dreaming.” I mumbled while climbing back into bed. “There was this café and a secret meeting of super heroes and…” I tried to recall each detail of my nocturnal escapade.

“Why were you leaning over the bed?” Tommy yawned.

“My back hurts; I guess I was subconsciously trying to stretch and ease the pain.”

This has happened to me before, vivid dreams in which my subconscious mind seems to be trying to rationalize the physical pain I am actually experiencing. Oh, I’ve had some strange and unsettling ones; gunshot wounds to the back, being knocked off my bicycle by a runaway dump truck, these are examples of a group of sleep disorders called; Parasomnias.

Categorized by the stage of REM sleep in which they occur, Parasomnias have few, if any specific causes but can be related to neurological conditions such as neuropathy, and spinal cord pathology. These sleep disturbances involve abnormal movements, behavior, emotions, and perceptions. Sleep walking, sleep talking, sleep terrors and sleep paralysis are a few of the more commonly experienced Parasomnias.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, many people who suffer with Parasomnias see their symptoms improve by making simple changes to their daily routines.  By adopting a relaxing evening routine such as a warm shower, deep breathing, prayer or meditation and keeping a consistent bedtime, they are able to improve their sleep patterns. Regular exercise has many health benefits and studies show it can improve the quality of sleep; however, many of us suffering from chronic pain and illness have difficulty following an exercise regime. Talk to your health care professional about incorporating low impact activities like swimming, yoga or Tai Chi to your schedule, but be sure to finish your workout at least 3 hours prior to retiring for bed. Additionally, avoiding foods and beverages, as well as medications, that contain caffeine and retreating to a cool, dark and quiet bedroom may help increase the chances of getting the full eight hours of sleep that the AASM recommends.

My super hero friends and I may not have been able to solve the mystery of how to battle what you cannot see that dark and stormy night, but by taking a step in the right direction and making a few changes, I was able to defeat the fearsome and ever-glassy eyed Insomniac!