Way back in 1971, the strangest thing started happening to me.  Whenever I was tired or trying to sleep, it felt as though there were ants crawling in my legs.  I told the doctor.  He said it was all in my head.  Believe me when I say that I was carrying around enough crazy as it was; it didn’t help for people to also think I was imagining bizarre symptoms.  Over the years, I would mention the symptoms to doctors now and then but I always got the same “you must be a nutcase” reaction.

Finally, decades after it began, I went to the doctor when my mom was slowly killing herself on purpose.  I told him I thought I could get through her whole protracted suicide thing, raise five children, take care of the dogs and the cats, keep my husband mollified, get dinner on the table at 5:30PM every night, if he could just stop the ants crawling in my legs. I didn’t really have much hope, but still I was hoping he’d give me some pill that might help me cope.  Surprisingly, this doctor sent me to a sleep specialist and I got a small dose of medicine that is ordinarily given to Parkinson’s patients.  The sleep doctor gave a name to what I had: Restless Legs Syndrome. It really was inside my head.

RLS is a sleep disorder.  Whenever I was tired, or sitting in one place for a long time (such as an airplane or in bed trying to relax to go to sleep), I got the feeling that there were hundreds, even thousands, of ants crawling inside my legs.  I could stop it.  I had to get up and move around and it stopped.  The problem was that I couldn’t go back and relax in bed because the ants returned as soon as I stopped walking or dancing or doing the treadmill.  I barely got any sleep until I got my glorious medicine.

Another component of RLS is Periodic Limb Movement Disorder. Here is this wrinkle: even after I took the medicine to combat the RLS, my legs or arms started kicking or flailing about, usually while asleep, but it could also happen when I was awake.  If PLMD didn’t wake me up, it still jiggered my sleep from a deeper stage to a shallower stage.  For this reason I woke up tired, even if I thought I slept. I took more amazing medicine for this.

Once, I was on an airplane bouncing my legs up and down in my seat as usual.  Suddenly my right arm flailed out and slapped the lady next to me right across the face.  She didn’t speak English.  It was awkward.

I just recently managed to cross into a whole new stage of the disease that I didn’t even know about before.  I don’t even know what to call it yet.  (I’d at least like an acronym.)  For now I’m going to call it New Muscle-Cramping Thing, or NMCT. When I have taken enough medicine to help stop the ants and the flailing, there is now the muscle cramping component.  If I relax in front of the TV in the evening, for example, after a few minutes the muscles of my feet and toes and my hands and fingers will start going into painful spasm.  Now I’m on an outstanding medicine for that.

You would think that all of this would be enough sleep disorder for one person.

But no.  There’s Victor.

Victor is another of my sleep disorders.

Victor is buckets of fun when he is awake.  Just look at how sweet he looks!

Victor is very bossy in his sleep.  He’s been sleep-bossy for 41 years.

At least three times a week, Victor yells at me to do something while we are both asleep.  I sleep lightly, but since I am asleep and not thinking straight, I always think he is telling me to do something for a good reason.

“Sit up!”

I sit up and ask why I have to sit up, but he’s asleep.

“Get out!”

He pushes me right off the bed.

It’s a high bed.

I ask him what’s wrong, but he’s asleep.

“You don’t belong here!”

He shakes me angrily and hard.

I ask him what’s wrong, but he’s asleep.

“Dial 9-1-1!”

I leap off the bed and grab the phone.  I ask what I should tell the operator, but he’s asleep.

“Who do you think you are?”

He pokes his index finger in my chest repeatedly, seemingly furious.

I tell him I only think I’m me, but he’s asleep.

“Stop that right now!”

I ask stop what? but he’s asleep.

“You have no right to be here!”

I explain that I do, but he’s asleep.

“Where’s Irene?  Irene should be here!”

He pulls my arm until I’m sitting up.  I tell him I’m right here, but he’s asleep.

Last night it was:

“Get away from me!”

Victor shoved me right off the bed again.

Last night was a bit worse because I had thrown out my back several days before.

The landing wasn’t any fun.

Victor sleeps like a baby through it all.  He never remembers any of it.

Forty-one years.

I never get back to sleep.

There is no medicine for Victor Sleep Disorder, or VSD.

TAGS: , , , ,

IRENE ZION has been married to the same curmudgeon for 40 years. She has 5 children, none of whom sufficiently appreciates her. The one you probably know is Lenore, who frequently gives her mother hives. Irene paints oil portraits and makes her own frames. She has been described as an outsider artist. Most of her paintings creep people out, especially her family. She finds this to be greatly satisfying. She writes non-fiction for TNB and loves every minute of it. She is writing fiction now too, but is too chicken to show it to anyone. She has two golden retrievers who will inherit anything of worth she leaves behind. Her kids will delight in dividing up her famous cork collection and her notorious stockpile of bubble wrap.

116 responses to “Victor Sleep Disorder”

  1. Melissa(Irene's friend) says:

    Irene, you have tons of rooms. I say paint one a pretty pink with polka dots that you love so much, and sleep there.
    You did igive me a good laugh though.
    Chalk another one up for why I like to live and sleep alone.
    The dog does not push me out of my bed.

    Love. Mz. Bling Bling

  2. Ducky says:

    My ex had RLS and he swears by a chiropractor. So do I, for everything else.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:


      That’s probably a great idea, but I might have a preference for doping myself up with medications.
      I’m on one now that turns my pee day-glo orange!
      (How cool is that?)

  3. Oh Irene, what a riot.
    This is my first comment to you, not because I have not ever read
    you – but because I actually get comment shy.
    But this has made me laugh out loud and alot so I had to comment to you.
    I’m so interested in sleeping disorders, since I’m sure I have several.
    I rock in my sleep when I’m in deep REM sleep. I wake up with with the back of my hair
    in a terrible snarl and my body feels like it’s run a marathon.
    Since sharing a bed with totally killer greg, I actually don’t rock as much –
    sometimes I do – and it’s pretty embarrassing. But I have no recollection and no control
    over it – so I guess I can empathize with Victor.

    But anyway – thanks for the laugh – sweet dreams – don’t let the leg ants bite!

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      stephanie stjohn olear,

      This is wonderful! We have to investigate it! I wonder if the sleep docs know what it is?

      There are so many bizarre sleep disorders.

      Three of my kids had night terrors. Those were amazing! They would run around screaming, trembling with eyes wide open. I would try to catch them, but they just couldn’t be caught. You just had to follow them until it was over. Then they’d wake up and ask you why they were downstairs or outside in pajamas and what I was doing there with them.

      Frequently a fever would bring them on, but sometimes they just came out of the blue. They never had any recollection of the terror they were in. The scary part for me was that they were mobile while asleep.

      The sleep docs say that they are NOT in REM sleep, not dreaming at all, although they seem too be having nightmares. No one knows what’s going on with it.

      When you’re dreaming you are supposed to be paralyzed so you don’t act out your dreams.

      Maybe Victor has always had night terrors?

      • Our kids have had that terror thing once in a while – it is soooooo scary.
        Less so now, as they’re older. Knock wood. The night’s not over.

        I wonder if I rock not in REM, probably – that would make sense.
        I’ve heard of my rocking thing – I read about it somewhere. It’s most likely
        a leftover self soothing technique from my early childhood – (great)!
        I don’t care about it as much now, since Greg seems to be the antedote.
        I guess, I’m more of a co-sleeper type person.

        Maybe Victor’s nightly demands are a way for him to burn off the day’s stress – who knows.
        And your piece made me laugh, true, but it’s no laughing matter when you can’t sleep.
        So, I’m certainly glad that you got some relief for most of your disorders.

        Zzzzzz – may we all rest east tonite.

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          Did your kids get it more often if they had a fever?

          I brought Tim to the ER one night because I didn’t know what it was and I thought he had gone crazy because he didn’t know me and he was screaming in what sounded like terror and running all over the house and then out the door in the dark. When it passed, I took him in to the ER and the ER doc that day happened to be a sleep specialist also. That’s how I finally found out what was going on when the kids did this.

          The oldest attack that I know of was my son Lonny when he was home from college for a visit. he totally wrecked his room and didn’t know he did it and didn’t understand any of it.

          Sleep disorders can only be funny when it’s not a kid. Never when it’s a kid.

      • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

        Wait! stephanie stjohn olear,

        I should NEVER have said that was wonderful. What was I thinking? It sounds horrible. I guess I got caught up in thinking there was yet another weird sleep disorder, but that is inexcusable!

        I’m really sorry you have this exhausting sleep thing. Go to get a sleep study. The sleep docs are amazing, really.

        • Oh nono! No worries at all Irene Lenore’s mom – it is fascinating!!

          And I do get enough sleep at this point as the rocking has subsided – for two reasons.

          1) I, most of the time, sleep with totally killer greg olear – who for some reason –
          keeps me very calm and still.


          2) – being a mom, I’m so exhausted from them keeping me up those first years – it seems to have put my rocking on the back burner. So when I do get to sleep all night- I just zonk out.

          I think it is wonderful and fascinating – I took no offense at all.
          I think I was saying it was no laughing matter because I didn’t want
          you to think I was taking your sleep stuff lightly – even though your piece
          is incredibly funny and made me laugh out loud.

          Anyway – thought of you all last night when Prue ended up sleeping with me
          and punched me a few times in the night. (totally killer greg olear is away
          on his way to meet Duke and Lenore and Brad and who knows who else tonite – wuhoo!
          So, Prue kind of made her way into my bed last night and I didn’t mind except for the punching…)

          And to answer your other inquiries about our kids with their night terror thingies – it was when they were about to get sick – a fever induced thing I believe. Wow – scary about Lonny on his visit home from school. One often thinks of these things as a smaller child thing, but clearly these things can happen at any age.

          I need a nap.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          The L.A. mission is complete now, Steph, as of course you know. I hope this has put an end to the punching.

    • Greg Olear says:

      I think Steph’s rocking is cute. When it happens, I just hug her and it stops. But since the kids, she rarely does that.

      Irene, that’s terrible about the sleep disorders. Maybe there’s some herbs or something like that you can take?

      • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:


        I have tried everything, seriously, some of the craziest things. I have found that using lots and lots of medicine of several kinds works for me.

  4. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    Well, Mz. Bling Bling,

    That there is a good idea, however at least 400 people are descending here starting on Tuesday so I can’t have any wet paint!

    Brooklyn’s X-Rays were perfect. She is now a free dog. (Speaking of dogs….)

  5. Zara Potts says:

    Oh Irene!
    I can’t even begin to imagine how awful the feeling of ants crawling up your legs must be. That must have been horrible.
    And to be woken from sleep in such an aggressive way!
    I don’t have restless leg syndrome but I do have hyperextendable ligaments which means I constantly fidget. It also means that I open my mouth too wide at the dentist and get lockjaw. That sucks.
    This was funny! I love your Victor stories. And he does look so sweet in that picture….

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:


      The worst part was having the ant-crawly thing for over two decades and yet NO ONE BELIEVED ME!
      It was hard enough to go without meds, but being thought of as nuts was galling.

      I’m used to Victor’s night behavior now. I still at first believe him, but then I think it’s funny, although he STAYS asleep and I almost never can go back to sleep.

      Fidgeters loose more weight. That was an actual study. Have you talked to a doctor? Sometimes they know stuff that can help.

      Oh! Opening your mouth so wide that you get lockjaw is SCARY! Do you get a creaking noise in your mandibular joint? I get that on the left side if my mouth is open too wide for some reason. Huh. My left knee also creaks. I wonder if I’m getting a creaky left side.

  6. mary shideler says:

    let’s all get some sleep. i mean a full eight hours of blissful sleep. i sleep better alone these daze. night night, it is bedtime! victor was sweet in africa……

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      One day that might happen, but probably only if I have to have surgery or something and I’m anesthetized in the hospital. I don’t even think about it anymore.

      (He WAS sweet in Africa, wasn’t he?)

  7. John says:

    Wow, I will never complain about my own Garden Variety Insomnia (GVI) ever again. Okay, that’s a lie. I’ll complain about it tomorrow after only sleeping an hour or two tonight, but still. Wow.

    Your good humor about it all is almost inspirational. I mean, if you can deal with all THAT, I’ve got absolutely nothing to complain about.

    Thanks so much for a good laugh, even if I do feel a little bit guilty as it seems to be at your expense. And also, good luck for a restful night of sleep ahead!

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      Oh John!

      I’m so sorry you have GVI! It’s horrible to just lie there and try everything and you’re still as awake as can be. I have GVI too, but I take meds for that too. The problem with GVI is that you can’t take the meds more than once a week or they stop working.
      Scientists really need to work on that. I’ll bet three-quarters of the country suffer from GVI!

  8. Lenore says:

    OH MY GOD! this is where i get it from! from dad! every man i’ve ever had in my bed (and there have been soo many, mom, seriously, sooo many), has had to deal with me jerking awake with nightmares. and they get shoved and slapped and kicked. and then they tell me in the morning (the ones who stay around) that i am a horror to sleep next to.

    it’s all dad’s fault. and the stuff that isn’t dad’s fault is your fault. you guys totally fucked me up. that’s why i’ve had so many bed partners.

    i love you.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      Yeah. Sorry about that. I hope you didn’t get any STDs or babies you are hiding from me.
      (If you ever hid babies from me, I would take you to the woodshed!)

      Once I was having a dream that I was being attacked physically and I actually sat up and started punching Dad HARD. You are supposed to be paralyzed during a dream, but I distinctly remember the terror of the attack and I certainly was not paralyzed when I was punching him.

      Dad wasn’t happy about it.

      No quid pro quo at all.

  9. Kate says:

    Tim seems to think that it is okay for married couples to sleep in separate beds. I tend to think he’s nuts, but it sounds like it might just work for you two.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      Well, Kate, it might work for some people, but neither of us can go to sleep without cuddling. It’s completely soporific. Whenever we get two beds in a hotel, we just use one.

  10. Erika Rae says:

    Victor is so completely adorable in that picture. And his sleep stories are so dang hilarious – you being pushed off the bed with excruciating back pain, aside. I’m thinking back to another story you once told – about him taking a sleeping pill on the airplane. And how he falls asleep at 90 degree angles on top of things. I think you could write a book on his sleep issues alone. Add YOUR sleep issues, and you’ve got a multi-volume set.

    I do always get so excited when I see a story by you. Love them.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      Oh Erika, I love hearing from you because you are so good for my aging ego!

      Victor is actually way more adorable than that. I always choose goofy pictures just for the fun of it.
      (On the other hand, because he’s goofy maybe he’s MORE adorable.)

      Yeah, that story is here.

      This is one of my kids’ favorites, although you would think it would embarrass them.

      That’s the one I read live in Chicago, in the midst of the greats of the Chicago area. I wrote a piece about it that I thought was a scream, but it’s not in the archives. Oh well.

      (I think I AM writing a multi-volume set. Just one chapter at a time….)

  11. Jude says:

    Hilarious story! Laughed out loud when you slapped the lady sitting next to you on the plane! That must have been so embarrassing!

    And then I continued to laugh as I kept reading your story – so thanks for sharing your pain in such a funny way…

    And then there’s lovely Victor – what a great photo of him. He looks like such a nice man. Perhaps it is because he is so nice his alter ego comes out when he’s sleeping. Is he bossy during the day?

    On a more serious note, it must be hell to suffer from RLS. Ants inside your legs – yuk! Being sleep deprived however doesn’t seem to have robbed you of your wonderful sense of humour.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      Oh Jude,

      My arm just flung out and whopped her good, right in the face! I might’ve been able to sort of explain if we spoke the same language, but as it was, she just thought I was a really angry American. I felt so bad representing Americans as bullies. It was my arm! It was my mixed-up brain! It wasn’t me!

      Now that I have stupendous meds it really isn’t a problem anymore so it’s easy to laugh about it. the only actual problem is that when I get an upper and lower GI they can’t put me to sleep. I’m awake for the whole thing and it is NOT fun. Try swallowing that enormous tube over and over. The doc and the nurse keep saying, “You can do it, just swallow again!” Then they push that thing right down to your small intestine! I’m not even going to go into the lower GI experience!

      Yeah. Victor is really, really bossy. The trick is to wait out the day and then give him a nice stiff drink at dinner. Then his bossiness just vanishes. The miracle of liquor!

      Jude, you know, it’s my life. I don’t have anything fatal or disfiguring. I’m grateful.

  12. Brad Listi says:

    Who do you think you are?

  13. Megan DiLullo says:

    Holy hemoglobin, Irene!

    I know I shouldn’t laugh at your pain, but you present it with such great comedic wit.

    I’m sorry your back hurts and you’re peeing orange. I’m with Erika on the sleep disorder book you now have to write.

    I’ve never slept with anyone who does those things, that must be really confusing.

    I have heard from people that I tend to sit up in my sleep and tell jokes and sing on occasion.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      HA! I feel like I’m talking to Batman, Megan!

      Seriously it’s not pain anymore. I have glorious medications now. It sort of is funny, after the fact.

      My back is much better and so is my bladder, thank you very much for your concern. Every once in a while the old body just gives me a fit to remind me to be glad I’m alive the rest of the time. It’s fair.

      Megan, you MUST have your husband tape you at night so you can hear yourself! It would be so funny!
      Does he at least remember what you say or sing? He should at the very least have a pad and pen on the night table to write it all down. You put the pad and pen by his side and tell him I said to do it. he’ll listen to me. I speak with authority!

      I wish I did that! Victor says I just mumble incoherently. Victor, on the other hand does both. He mumbles incoherently sometimes and other times he speaks in complete sentences. Sometimes he sort of screams and I always rub his head to wake him then because I’m afraid he’s in a bad nightmare.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      Wait! Megan, you sit up and tell jokes in your sleep?
      You sing in your sleep sometimes?
      This is a wonderful thing. All entertainment value stuff. Nothing scary.
      You must be a good, good soul.

      • Megan DiLullo says:

        Well, Irene. Maybe not as good as you would think.

        Apparently, I don’t tell the punchline.

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          Does your partner remember the joke in the morning?
          If he does, do you then remember the punchline?
          If so, you should absolutely write them down.
          If not, you are writing jokes in your sleep and the punchlines are hidden in the sulci and gyri of your brain!

  14. George says:

    The two of you a meant for each other. But, whom is Victor dreaming about when he said, “Where’s Irene? Irene should be here!”

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      He never remembers, George. He never has a whit of recollection. I guess we’ll all have to use our imaginations.
      He’s said so many things in his sleep over the years. I can’t come close to remembering it all.

  15. Michelle Shayne says:

    Dear Irene,

    Your acronyms had me roaring. Thanks for starting my day off right.

    Love you guys,


    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:


      Did you see above that John coined GVI? That had me on the floor. I love acronyms.

      Love you back!

      • john says:

        Oh lordy, I’m (unfortunately) in the military, and all we use is acronyms. It’s frightening. I will hear almost a whole conversation in just random letters. I think they do it to sound cool. Unfortunately, I have a ridiculously terrible short-term memory, so many times I need a translator to understand what the heck is being said.

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          I’m with you there, John. My memory is great for stuff I don’t need at all. For instance my best friend’s phone number when I was ten is SH8-4149. (Brooklyn used to have words for the beginning. SH stood for Shore Road, which was the main road on the coast of the Narrows where I lived.) But stuff I need to know? In my brain somewhere, but frequently inaccessible.

          What branch? My son was in fast-attack subs for 9 years. He’s out and in school now.

        • John says:

          Yeah, my job is not nearly as exciting as your son’s was. I write contracts in the Air Force. It does have the added terrifying benefit of showing me where that thirty percent of our Federal tax dollars goes. For the first time in my life, I understand why some people refuse to pay taxes. I’d like to reassure you that it all goes to good use, but it doesn’t. Not by any stretch of the imagination. (I hate to self-promote here, but if you click on my name, the last blog I wrote was about a bunch of money I’ve seen wasted in the last year. I’d like to think it’s “edifying.”)

          And as to my memory, I’d like to think that when I am finally able to get a good night’s sleep and beat this GVI, it will make its glorious and triumphant return. Unfortunately, I just don’t see that happening. At least I have the future of being that precious old man who can’t find his slippers when they are on his feet to look forward to. Always a bright side to everything.

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          Oh John, that’s why they call it a job. No one likes a job, even if he thought he’d love it when he began. It just gets mundane and starts to pick at your skin and make you all pissy.
          Are you a lifer? My son couldn’t hack it. 20 wasn’t so far away, but he already had an undergrad and he left and is getting his masters in the real world. He’s happy he was in, but also happy he’s out. You know?

          When I become demented, I’m going to begin to speak Italian. No one will know what I’m saying, since no one I know is proficient in Italian, (including me, now.) Hopefully someone will be found in the community who wants to speak to old demented ladies who only speak what they did when they were really small and thought they could fly.

          I love the can’t find the slippers that are on your feet line. I really do. It’s too close for comfort.

  16. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    The only cure for VMD might be separate beds. Or bedrooms. There may be side effects. *sigh*

    One night, when we were in college, my partner woke me up in the middle of the night–eyes open, seemingly coherent–and asked, “Where does the C go?” What?! “Where does the C go?” Then his head hit the pillow again. He was a music composition major. Thus C, rather than sea. Although I’m just guessing. We STILL laugh about this.

    • Ronlyn Domingue says:

      VSD. Dang. Why can’t we edit…

      • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

        HA! I believed you were right, so I was trying to think what I meant the whole time I wrote back to you. I guess I could’ve taken the time to scroll up.
        (Lazy Irene! Lazy, lazy Irene!)

        So I guess you have PSD!

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      Does he still do it? Does he ever get angry as Victor does? Tell me, I want to know everything. No one has ever told me their partner does this before.

      As I said above, neither of us can go to sleep without cuddling.

      It’s worth it.

      • Ronlyn Domingue says:

        In all these 21 years, it’s happened about a dozen times. He has never been angry or flailed his limbs. He’s shaken me awake in a couple of instances, though. His questions or statements come out with emphatic intensity–it’s all VERY important. I have no clue what triggers the episodes. My guess is that whatever he is processing subconsciously ruptures out in a semi-awake state with all the attendant logic of dreams.

        You’re still cuddling! Love CAN last!

  17. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    I’m glad it’s not happening too often. It can get kind of scary before you realize he’s asleep.
    I certainly recognize the intensity. Sure do.
    Your theory sounds good. Since I don’t have one, I’ll adopt yours.

    (It ALL lasts, if you catch my drift.)

  18. Ben Loory says:

    I love how sleep itself is a nightmare. I have a lot of trouble going to sleep for fear that I will die the instant I lose consciousness. And then, once I do fall asleep, I immediately wake up terrified that there is someone outside my house trying to get in to kill me. Then I have to grab the flashlight and creep around in the dark making sure all the doors and windows are locked. This is especially frightening when there is a guest in my house constantly asking me “What’s wrong? What is it? What are you doing with that knife?” I tell them to stay still and be quiet but they never listen. Then the murderer gets away before I can catch him. Good times; much like the rest of life.

    But this was my favorite sleep-incident:

    Me (sitting bold upright in the middle of the night): The building next door is named Hogwarts!

    My then-girlfriend (suprisingly lucid): Oh?


    Her: Which one?

  19. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:


    How about this? You get an alarm system put on your doors and windows that you can turn on at night. Then you will KNOW if someone came in and you can rest easy unless the alarm goes off.
    And as far as the knife goes, I think a better weapon would be a taser. I think they are illegal in LA because you’re not allowed to protect yourself in a way that doesn’t kill the bad guy. Seems illogical to me, so it wouldn’t hold me back. just get one from another state. You’re way less likely to trip and stab yourself this way.
    You probably need a sleep-work-up too. You need some quality sleep!

    (I love that your then-girlfriend wanted to know which one!)

  20. Marcia (former next-door neighbor in Illinois and frequent visitor to Florida) says:

    This is funny — too bad you’re not making it up! How about training one of the dogs to bite Victor whenever he talks in his sleep? That might cure him eventually and would be quite satisfying even if it didn’t work.

    Completely off the subject:

    1) Yay for Brooklyn!
    2) Re your bio– I thought I was in line to get your bubble wrap. Dang!

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      Well, Marcia, what kind of Therapy Dogs would they be if I taught them to bite someone?
      You were NOT thinking up to your usual genius level there.

      1) Yeah! Woohoo! Yesterday she was loose in the living room without a leash for the first time since the surgery. She looked at the couch and looked at me. Then she put one foot up and looked at me. Then she looked some more and I told her that it was okay, she could jump up. She got up and lay down and just sighed. It was beautiful.

      2) I could try to keep a different stash of blubblewrap, (or pop-it paper, as we used to call it,) in a hidden location that only you know about. The kids are pretty much set on getting it all, though.
      (Does anyone else remember calling it “pop-it paper?”

  21. Matt says:

    Ah, Irene, this was hysterical. And also kind of tragic, given Victor’s well-documented ability to fall asleep wherever, whenever.

    I had an ex-girlfriend back in the day who used to dream I was doing horrible violent things to her, which she would act out in her sleep, and then refuse to believe me the next day when I told her it didn’t happen, it was just a dream. This one of the reasons she’s my ex. And also because she cut my name into her arm with a razor blade.

    Me, I sleep pretty soundly, though my body generally refuses to let me sleep longer than six hours at a time, and when I wake up it’s like flipping on a light switch, all energized and ready to go. My dreams, however, do kind of look like what you might get if you made Salvador Dali and M.C. Escher drink a crapload of absinthe and then locked them in a room together with a bunch of art supplies.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      Okay, Matt?

      The first thing is that as soon as ex-girlfriend razored her name in her arm, THAT was when you should have cut bait. Right then. It’s sort of a cautionary tale for you now. Never sleep with a girl who uses weapons, even on herself. It tends to mean that something hinky and unhealthy is going on inside her brain. Of course she believed her violent dreams. She wanted to believe it. She was WAY out to lunch. You should have me vet your next girlfriend. I’ve got a good nose for crazy.

      Sleeping six hours in a row and waking up alert sounds like heaven to me. Not seeing a problem there.

      The fact that you dream the wonderful dreams you do makes me really envious. You have a nightly LSD movie playing in your head for entertainment, and then you wake up a normal guy. This is a terrific thing!

      • Matt says:

        Oh, I cut bait long before that. It was after I left that the REAL crazy got started: cyberstalking, harrassing phone calls, following my friends, writing herself letters that were supposed to be “from” me. I was so glad I was living across the country at that point.

        I’m never having a real girlfriend again. No, it’s a life of cheap, meaningless sexual encounters for me!

        And you are using the term “normal” subjectively, right?

        • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

          Oh Lordy, lordy, lordy.

          Have I got a story for you, but I really need permission from several people first.
          I’ll work on that.
          Suffice to say that this is a familiar story.
          How crazy is it that this nutsy story is familiar?


          You so WILL have a real girlfriend again, and you will get married and have babies and you will be a happy, happy family one day. Trust me. Just let me vet them. I’m so good.

          Yeah. Normal is pretty much a subjective thing.


  22. Frank says:

    You guys are the GREATEST!

    I mean, Victor in the middle of the night (and Victor on the airplane) plus you, pre-RLS- and pre-RLMD-medicated could have -SHOULD have! -been the Second Coming of Punch’N Judy. It boggles the mind to contemplate and vsiualize Victor on the plane in the same episode with ‘your arm’ (not YOU, of course, your ARM -that horrible, independent, misbehaving, ungrateful thing!) on the plane… And a few clips of you & Victor at 2 AM and the resulting middle-of-the-night mayhem on, say, SNL (or America’s Funniest Home Videos at the VERY least) and ‘ya cudda been contenduhs…”, you could’ve been STARS!

    Not that you aren’t right here on The Hardest-To-Navigate-Site On Earth!, of course, but I was thinking more along the lines of a globally-receptive audience, you understand. That kind of stuff transcends language; it transcends translation! Just ask that woman your arm took a fancy to…

    So much of your stuff is SO good that, 1) I begin to really wonder about that old phrase “truth is stranger than fiction”; and 2) I begin to wonder if Victor is right, LOL!

    You bring great humor and cheer to the world, Irene -thanks.


    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      Wait, Frank. What do you mean that you wonder if Victor is right? About what? Throwing me out of bed? I’m confused, cause that doesn’t make sense to me. Consider me thick.

      Yeah, that poor foreign lady. Imagine what she must have thought of me and Americans in general. My arm really clocked her. I wasn’t at all involved! It was my arm!!!!!

      • Frank says:

        Well, my friend, your “if you get my drift” partner (how’s that for a euphemism!), the infamous V of the now world-renown (or at lest globally recognized) VSD, says he generally doesn’t read your stuff because he reads only non-fiction…

        Maybe he lives differently -after all, he ‘works’ with Ed & me and sems to not only survive but thrive on it (at least we laugh at some fairly strange stuff most every break-time we take), and we all know he sees these car-rayzee movies, and we’ve seen the art he collects (oh, right -how was the trip?) -but that’s what he says he reads.

        And yes, that’s a cute pic of V, even if just a tad silly… and the hat matches the ‘dress’, or whatever it is!

        Have a Happy Thanksgiving, each and every one of you.


  23. Stefan Kiesbye says:

    Irene, the ants crawling up your legs sound like being buried alive. Shudder! But the VSD is very fascinating. I always wonder about chemistry between people, because in the past I’ve slept and napped with different people, and sometimes — even though no kicking or screaming would occur — it just didn’t work. Love, tenderness in daylight didn’t matter, at night we would just be unable to fall asleep, or constantly wake up.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      Yeah, Stefan,
      I think you need to start by wanting to cuddle and then the rest of it works its way out as part of the bargain. Maybe the people that were uncomfortable to sleep with weren’t cuddle-material.

      The ant thing is actually worse than crawling UP your legs. It feels like they are INSIDE my legs crawling around. Seriously, before I got my meds I just thought I’d die.

  24. jmblaine says:

    Have you ever noticed that as
    you read through the comments
    of a writer
    you love you
    have ten different channels
    in your brain
    changing to what
    you want to say?

    The grace with which you write
    inspires and gives me hope
    on how to handle aging

    I’ve wrestled with GVI from an early age
    and because I tend to be obsessive
    about gathering information and treatment options
    I’ve tried it all.
    I’ve been pondering writing a post on it.
    Think I will.

  25. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    Yes, I have.

    I just act the age I think I am in my brain. It can be humiliating for your children, but they’ll understand when they are in the same position.

    Everyone who can’t turn off his brain has GVI.
    I hope when you write your post that you have some ideas on how to turn off a brain, so the body and the brain can get some rest.
    I’ll try anything.

  26. Funny, Irene. Before i got to the end of the piece I was wondering: “Hmmm. I wonder if there’s any type of medicine for this Victor Sleeping Disorder.”

    You ended up answering that question, though.

    But here’s a thought…

    Take a box of chocolate-flavored Ex-Lax. Make it into a nice batch of hot cocoa, and have him drink it before sleep. He’ll be so busy in the bathroom that you’ll have the bed all to yourself.

    Voila. Problem solved.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      Well, Smart Rich,

      That is a good idea for most people.
      Unfortunately, Victor’s reaction to that would be to wake me up each time he had to make a run to the bathroom.
      I wouldn’t get much sleep that way, either.

      Also, it might make him sick to do that.
      I could never, ever bear making him sick.

      But it’s a great idea for everyone else, Rich.
      (You couldn’t do it either, could you Smart Rich? You’re pretty much a softy at heart and everyone knows it.)

  27. Amy says:

    I am trying to type this while Ashlynn is on my lap playing with the mouse. Sorry if anything illegible comes out, but it wasn’t me! Ed says talk in my sleep, but never make any sense thank god. Of course it hasn’t happened in a long time. I am going to have him read this and then he will be even more thankful for the person next to him in bed every night, me! He gets to sleep without any sudden interruptions from me, now our daughter is a different story.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      Of course it isn’t you, Amy!
      Just like it wasn’t me; it was my arm!
      Ashlynn IS your unwieldy, uncontrollable arm.
      That’s what children are, after all.
      Your husband should kiss your feet.
      You are a jewel among women.
      (And a fantastic Aunt Bee to match Queen Bee!)

  28. Uche Ogbuji says:

    The Victor episodes are hilarious, though I imagine not just at those moments.

    Lori has RLS. If she gets enough calcium during the day it helps her a lot, and she doesn’t have to take any strong meds.

    And I must say that the airplane bitchslap international incident took me right back to the Airplane movie.

    Leslie Nielson character: “Stryker? Stryker? Stryker? Stryker? STRIKE HER!”

    At which point another dude in the room pimp slaps he girl next to him. You do kinda have to see the scene to get it…

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      You know I saw that movie when it came out, but it was before my arms and legs were acting of their own volition. Now I have to see it again!
      If Lori is on a long plane ride, what does she do?
      Once a doc gave me oxycontin to take on the plane for a long trip when my RLS started up.
      I spent the whole flight vomiting in the bathroom.
      On the other hand, the RLS DID go away.
      Apparently I won’t be able to become an addict. I guess that’s not a bad thing.

  29. I once knew a girl who gave commands in her sleep. Apparently her boyfriends would be marched about doing all kinds of mad things she never knew she was making them do.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      That’s EXACTLY what Victor does. I wonder if she’s found out if there’s anything to do about it.
      I understand the boyfriend doing what she says when he just wakes up, but he must have caught on after a while that he can stop following the commands because she’s asleep.
      It does take a bit of time to get the fog out of your brain and realize it’s not real.
      Victor doesn’t remember any of it, either.

  30. Sara Zion says:

    This makes me think of an amusing pickle that sleep doctors (usually neurologists) not uncommonly find themselves in. It goes like this: a patient who is sleeping well (by EEG and objectively, by observing closed circuit video of patient sleeping) wakes up and feels miserable, believing he/she was up all night. It turns out that the patient has a recurring dream that he/she has insomnia. I’m not kidding. So the patient wakes up technically rested but feeling like he/she has been through the wringer all night. Yes. It’s a pickle. (I think I read of this in an Oliver Sachs book. Can’t remember now– sorry, no reference.)

    • Tim says:

      Reminds me of the most awesome of the Nightmare on Elm Street series, where the kids in the halfway house fought back against that asshole Freddy Kruger. One of them was a ninja.

      • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

        Well, Tim, I have never seen a horror movie since the triple feature your dad took me to on Mothers Day just before I delivered Sara. As I recall they were: Last House on the Left, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and don’t Look in the Basement. (I repeat, this was for Mother’s Day.)
        I think that’s why Sara won’t go to Horror movies to this very day.)

        I don’t know if you’re making this up or that this is what really happens in the movie. I’ll just trust you on it. Although, I’m not really seeing a connection.

  31. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    That is one horrible situation. I wonder if there is anything the docs can do about that.
    Can anyone stop a recurring dream?
    I don’t see how.
    Oliver Sachs has such amazing stories!

  32. Frank says:

    The Horrible Situation has a name. But the name is shared with many other situationalis horrilibii -it’s Catch-22…

    Reminds me of a coffee mug a co-worker of mine had. It depicted some poor cartoon schlemiel on a field of burning coals and smouldering fire, being prodded from behind by a wicked imp with a pitchfork, facing two door, the whole scene overseen by El Diablo his very own self. The doors both lead to more of the same, and are lebelled across the transoms: “If You Do” and “If You Don’t”…

    As I kid, I had something akin to RLS, I think. I remember lying awake after going to or being put to bed, and feeling that my legs weren’t quite right, sort of the ants thing, but a little more diffuse. I’d lie there on my stomach and slowly but rhythmically lift the heel of one leg, and let my leg drop back on the bed, then do the same with the other, and repeat, once every five seconds or so, for minutes on end. It seemed to help, at the time, even though it never really seemed to cure th feeling. Sleep usually did, however -and my mother would sometimes come in an rub witch hazel on my legs. Don’t ask me -I don’t know why it was witch hazel. But it smelled sort of nice, and it didn’t sting or burn or anything. And then I’d go back to alternate leg lifting & dropping until I fell asleep.

    But thank goodness, after I was 10 or 11 I have had a lifetime of mostly pleasant, blank-slate sleep. I can recall only 1 horrid nightmare, and I’ve experienced something akin to GVI a few times when I was under the gun at work and kept on thinking of more things to do, add, subtract, or modify in projects I was managing and about to give presentations about, but, for the most part, it’s been .

    However, I am reliably informed that I am a Transformer…!

    Sally tells me I frequently transform into a bulldozer when I sleep, and I push and shove her about in the middle of the night. She’s been known (well, she says) to have been dozed off the bed as I merely doze off, only to get out, circumnavigate said bed, and climb in the other side -“my” side.

    Every once in a blue moon, she shoves back. Enough to waken me, groggy, and to then groggily move over back to “my” side, to sleep, perchance to doze, once again…

    “Stop that right now!”

    I’d ask stop what? but I’m asleep.

  33. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    I have heard that once you have RLS it only gets worse, never better. It’s unusual that yours went away!

    Stop pushing Sally around!

  34. Tim says:

    I thought you said that nicotine patch helped this whole thing. What ever happened to that? I know you used to put vodka in your la croix. I’ll bet that worked.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      I forgot about that!
      I used it for a while after I read an article about how people who smoke are less likely to get Parkinson’s. Since the same meds seem to work for RLS & PLMD, I figured I’d start wearing one. It worked pretty well, but when I told my doctor he hit the ceiling. Apparently there are side effects of the nicotine which make it an unwise choice.

      I did not put vodka in my la croix. You kids are nothing but liars!

  35. ksw says:

    build a pillow wall. it will protect you from intrusion.

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      A pillow wall is a good idea in theory, ksw, but in reality, Victor throws things all around while he sleeps. The pillows are randomly tossed everywhere by the time we get up.

      I’m thinking taping his mouth with duct tape, but then he’d snore even worse!

  36. god, irene, so sorry to hear about your years suffering from restless leg syndrome. i’ve heard that is AWFUL! i mean, it sounds awful. it makes me feel creepy crawly just reading about it.
    i suppose it goes without saying that you are a saint for not making victor sleep in the garage. though he does look like an awfully sweet guy to chain up in the garage at night where he couldn’t bother anyone . . . you guys are a ridiculously cute couple.

  37. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    You know, Gina, Victor doesn’t ever feel any guilt for any of this because he has no memory of it. Just like the Ambien thing. (And he has only read my first post ever, and said that was enough and won’t read anymore, so I am totally free to humiliate him in any way I see fit. WAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!)

    The sleep doc I first saw got interested in it because his wife had RLS. Otherwise I probably would have gone on longer being told it was all in my head. Bad for his wife, but good for me. He’s the same guy who told me that my kids were having Night Terrors. Knowing it was a named, medical phenomenon really helped. They really looked crazed when they had them. Hell, we had kids with sleep walking too. Tim especially would wander around and wake up in the strangest places. It was funny, because he was always mad at me for not knowing why he was sleeping in the kitchen, or wherever. That didn’t scare me though, because everyone has heard of sleepwalking. All three boys had it, but not the girls, oddly. The night terrors were two boys and one girl. Bed wetters were two boys and one girl. Crazy mixtures every time.

  38. Becky says:

    We all thought they were just being prudes when they showed husbands and wives sleeping in separate beds in the 50s.

    But the light-sleeping marrieds know what the stubbornly progressive and starry-eyed romantics cannot admit:

    They weren’t prudes; they were fucking geniuses. Can we, as humans, be trusted to take good advice, though? Of course not. We must prove how much we love our spouses by never getting any sleep and being farted on for 8 hours straight as we lie unconscious and defenseless (if we’re lucky) with an elbow in our ribs to boot.

    • Irene Zion says:

      HA! Becky, you are obviously married!
      Yeah, the I Love Lucy Set up is looking pretty comfortable now, eh? I guess you’re right.

      • Becky says:

        It really is a very simple solution. WAY back in the day, in the king-times and whatnot, husbands and wives didn’t even sleep in the same wing of the house. They only saw each other like once or twice a day at meals and whenever they felt like procreating. I don’t know where we went wrong. Somewhere in the second half of the 20th century. “Sexual revolution” is turning out to be the “Quasi-fascist, no-sleep, queen-size bed revolution.”

        I’m telling you.

        What I need is a house with multiple wings and an army of servants to clean it. I love my husband, but imagine the wonders of having your own chamber. Just imagine. And for him too. He could throw his socks anywhere and no one would bitch. They’d just clean ’em up. Everyone wins.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Hell, Becky,
          Just the word “chamber” conjures up velvet and satin and peeled grapes and red wine….
          I just slapped myself out of that.
          Dangerous to think romantic things when you’re about to turn 62!

  39. josie says:

    I though this was going to be about Victor’s sleep-standing. Since he can sleep anywhere it makes your predicament even more unjust. I suggest standing him up by the dresser so you can rest through the nights. He’ll never know. Or is he already draped over the bed with is feet on the floor when he calls out at night?

    • Irene Zion says:

      No, he’s in bed now, Josie.
      We’re retired now, so he never gets quite tired enough to fall asleep standing up anymore.
      I sort of miss it. It used to really give me the giggles.
      We both volunteer a lot, but it’s not the same pace or stress as working for real.

  40. Marcia (former next-door neighbor in Illinois and frequent visitor to Florida) says:

    How about a large net that drops from the ceiling over Victor shortly after he falls asleep?

    I still think the dog idea has merit but you’ve convinced me that biting might be a bad idea. How about just training the dog to wake Victor up whenever he talks in his sleep? If it happens a lot and he gets annoyed at being awakened, he might be able to control his dreams to avoid ones that make him talk. There is a good article about dreams, especially nightmares, and the ability to control them in The New Yorker this week.

    • Irene Zion says:


      I need an engineer to figure out the net thing. If I tried, I’ll bet I would only catch myself!

      I swear that you are the only person who is ALWAYS caught up in their New Yorkers! I am at least a month behind at all times. At least you can tell me what not to miss!
      I just might pick that one out of the queue and read it out of order, (horrors!)

  41. D.R. Haney says:

    Sorry to be commenting so late, Irene.

    I’ve been known to punch in my sleep, as well, as per Megan, to sing. But that’s mainly a problem for others. The thing that drives me nuts is Night Terrors, wherein I’ll think, just after I’ve drifted off, that my heart is about to stop beating, and jump out of bed, sometimes screaming “Nooooooo!”, apparently at the Grim Reaper. It comes and goes, this thing, and doesn’t appear to be related to any specific circumstance — i.e., depression or eating before bedtime, and so on.

    Do you think Victor is addressing colleagues with some of his sleeping outbursts? Or has this already been covered by other commentators? (Or is it “commenters”? — which sounds weird to me.)

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

      I think he is always speaking to me. At least that is the way it seems.

      The thing about Night Terrors that’s really weird is that they do not happen in REM or Dream sleep. The Images you see before you go absolutely to sleep are more like hallucinations. I get them too. It’s really just a part of sleep, although, with me, I don’t know anymore what’s normal.

      Have a Happy Thanksgiving, Dukie!

  42. Marni Grossman says:

    Oh, Irene, since I’ve been MIA from TNB, I’ve missed you much. I love your deadpan humor. “Once, I was on an airplane bouncing my legs up and down in my seat as usual. Suddenly my right arm flailed out and slapped the lady next to me right across the face. She didn’t speak English. It was awkward.” So great.

  43. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    Welcome back, Marni!
    I’m about to go away for almost a month and it’s 30 cents per minute on the boat, I won’t be able to read the TNB stuff for most of that time. 30 cents a minute sort of adds up.

    Marni, that lady had every right to call the flight attendant and get me in loads of trouble.
    I really clocked her one, Marni. A total foreign stranger woman. Clocked her. Imagine the tales she tells about Americans now because of my stupid arm!

    • Irene Zion says:

      Just a correction here:
      I just got back from the ship and the price on line was 62 cents a minute!!!!!
      As you can imagine, Victor was not about to let me use the internet willy-nilly.

  44. HA! A buddy of mine is prone towards doing that too.

    (Sorry I’m so late, Irene!)

    • Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:


      A buddy of yours is prone to do what?
      You have to be more specific. People have talked about trillions of things here.

      But, if you mean slugging a total stranger on a plane without your brain knowing you are doing it, I want to hear more about it!!!

      It’s okay to be late, Simon.
      I’ll be MIA for a month cause we have 4 thousand people here for Thanksgiving, which is HUGE here, (do you have it?) Then two hours after the last guest s leave, Victor and I fly out for an 18 day trip. WITHOUT INTERNET ACCESS!
      I think I will go into withdrawal!

  45. keiko says:

    I also think Lenore has VSD or some version of it. I remember she used to say all sorts of things to me (while asleep) when we shared a room in college. Thankfully, she did not punch me in the face.

  46. Irene Zion (Lenore's Mom) says:

    Lenore’s been doing some weird sleep-related things while she’s been here, so I’m not surprised.
    I’m really glad she didn’t punch you out while she slept, though!

  47. Christine W. says:

    I LOVE YOUR STORIES. Seriously, Listi printed a book of his writings on lulu, you should too and I’ll buy it. I’ll buy it and I’ll like it.

    • Irene Zion says:

      You are really good for my ego!
      I do’t even know what lulu is.
      Gotta get educated here!
      Just got back this morning from our trip sliding over the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
      Not really myself yet.

  48. Irene you are hysterically funny and I love reading everything you write.
    Is Victor ALWAYS grouchy and irritable in his sleep? Is he ever amorous or just plain sweet? Maybe instead of YOU taking medication, you should medicate Victor each night.

    • Irene Zion says:

      Jessica Anya,

      I would absolutely medicate Victor, if I could figure out how and with what!
      He isn’t always grouchy and irritable, no, not at all.
      That’s just what sticks in my memory the most.
      There’s a lot of amorous. Way more than normal, methinks.
      Never any just plain sweet.
      Well, hardly ever.

      • Your Victor story reminds me of the very old Mary Tyler Moore show that was on in the 70s. REmember Phyllis, and how she was always talking about Lars? But we never saw Lars, never knew Lars, only heard Phyllis waxing about Lars. What I can’t remember is this: What did phyllis say about Lars? Did she adore him or was she complaining about him? (And, I know, complaining about someone can be a form of affection, as seems to be the case with you and Victor!)

        Glad your amorous night life with Victor is beyond normal! Lucky you.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Jessica Anya,

          I LOVED Phyllis! I’m pretty sure you’re right and we never got to see Lars. I’m sure she adored him as a source for material, if nothing else.

  49. The Hallers says:

    Victor is demented. During the day, his brain can ordinarily control most of what he says or does, but not always. At night, it appears whatever controls are in place relax and the real Victor emerges. However, this is the Victor we love and enjoy. Daytime Victor is mostly boring unless he’s tired or overworked, which doesn’t happen much since his retirement.

  50. Irene Zion says:

    Yeah. Victor is demented.
    I don’t think it’s an age-related change.
    He does have different sides, though, there is no question about that!
    I never know WHAT will emerge!
    (He is lovable, in spite of everything.)

  51. […] and her husband, the sleep-deprived Victor, are world travelers.  They have been to Dubai, New Orleans, Chicago, Zimbabwe, and a long long […]

  52. bugaboo cameleon – orage and tan…

    […]Irene Zion | Victor Sleep Disorder, or VSD | The Nervous Breakdown[…]…

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