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Just Saying: Perhaps to dream …

Shakespeare once wrote, “O sleep! O gentle sleep! Nature’s soft nurse …”

And he pretty much nailed it.

As I slog into my mid-70s, I find myself looking forward to turning in for the night, usually earlier and earlier as the years march on.

I’m not one who finds the pressures and demands of modern life so debilitating that sleep is a necessary temporary refuge from those daily frights. (Although, there are those nights when some kind of oblivion — martinis often come into play here — seems well earned or, as an old friend said, richly deserved.)

Our nightly sleeps are mandatory to rejuvenate body and soul, of course, and we know much more about the rhythms that constitute a good night’s sleep.

There’s deep sleep, light sleep and the very interesting REM sleep (rapid eye movement) that produces dreams. (I’m no expert; just vamping here.)

I bring this up because in the last few years I have come to use melatonin on occasion as a sleep aid. Melatonin is found in the vitamin aisle in your local drug store and can’t assert that it assures sleep. (The body makes its own melatonin so the store-bought stuff brings some extra muscle to the natural process.)

It has no side effects and is non-addictive. In my reading about melatonin, there is one consistent report from users: It enhances the vividness of dreams. In my case, I’ve experienced many dreams that seem more grandiose and epic than “normal” dreams.

Many take the form of quests and I am wearing something very close to ill-fitting Hobbit attire. There is virtually no violence and it’s not clear what I am questing for. But the terrain is interesting and it sure beats worrying about your taxes or your septic tank. (You can run but cannot hide from those two guys.)

I can’t say that I have more dreams under the spell of melatonin, and I seem to remember them at the same level as non-melatonin dreams. It’s the Hobbit/quest thing that seems preferable. (I like the name Frodo, too.)

I am a relatively early riser, or at least waker, and sometimes in that half-sleep, half-wake zone around 5 a.m. I find another melatonin effect: My brain will seize on a phrase and repeat it over and over until I actually climb out of bed. I don’t mind this and find it somewhat amusing.

But it goes to show you that our brains are pretty much independent contractors, and all that brain mass that we don’t seem to need for getting through the day is doing things we have no idea about. Maybe this might explain the good and evil things people do. Just saying.

Getting back to Shakespeare (as we often do), the tail end of the quote at the top of the column is this: “How I have frighted thee that thou no more will weigh my eyelids down and steep my senses in forgetfulness?”

That’s where the melatonin comes in.