Anatomy of an Insomniac

IMG_0262I have been an insomniac for years. Like an old lover I can’t quite hang up on, I have learned to live with it. When it goes I forget it was ever here, as I pass out in a coma-like sleep. When it returns,  I fear for my sanity as I exist in a near-hallucinatory state. It is the curse of the damned and an easy way to torture people. Not having slept through the night without waking in a year – or maybe two, I’ve lost count – the endless array of insomniac armor piles up: eyemasks, aromatherapy rollers, earplugs, teas, pillows, and of course, bite guards for the incessant grinding that accompanies my fitful sleep.  All kinds of unpleasant things happen with sleep deprivation – migraines, dental problems (bite guards with holes ground through, broken teeth), pain. I’ve woken myself up by the loud chattering of my teeth, like a cartoon skeleton. Hypnosis, acupuncture, facial massage were all on the roster, but I missed out on the big picture.

Never once did I think (problem #1 of the tormented sleepless) that this grinding and clenching was the cause.  Contributor to, sure. Reason why? I had a million reasons why I didn’t sleep.

Dr. Arnold Klein is many things to many people. What is often forgotten when people discuss him is the title, “Doctor.”   “In the practice of medicine, it is not enough to do no harm. We must do good. It is our mission to provide each patient the very best care in a kind, honest and compassionate manner,” is not cheesy advertising. Yes, he is a master cosmetic dermatologist. He is also the doctor that people seek when they have tried everything else and nearly given up after hearing “That’s all we can do,” from dentists, doctors, and surgeons. Dr. Klein puts the broken back together.

Art and medicine are profoundly similar; they inspire the highest level of creativity, both in the mind of the physician as well as the hands of the artist. In the field of minimally invasive aesthetics, the physician must not only look but see the volume and structural changes of the aging face. Here the physician becomes a meticulous architect enhancing rather than altering facial appearance. (From “Beauty and the Beasts,” by Dr. Klein, May 2015.)

He will tell you why this is happening, and he will heal you.  That kind of empathy and sheer joy at healing has made him a target of many bitter people, but his personal life is not my business.

Ostensibly, I had gone to Dr. Klein for facial maintenance. What about these spots? Should I be doing more for these wrinkles? The usual questions. My latest bout of insomnia hadn’t entered my mind. That was unrelated, right?

Dr. Klein looked carefully at my face for several minutes.

“Do you know why your mouth turns down like that?”

“Sad Boston Irish genes.”

“No – you see? How it’s asymmetrical? You grind your teeth.”


“Look at how your left eyebrow is a bit higher.  Your left eye slightly bigger? How the left side where you grind is stronger than the right?”


“But you’re not left handed? You’re Catholic?”
(Right handed, ambidextrous, and of course, yes.)

“You were made to write with your right hand. You lead with your left side.”

IMG_0256Which does not explain the grinding itself, but why it was noticeably worse on the left side.  Every time I get my keys or my phone I realize that he is one hundred percent correct because they are in my left hand. Learn something new every day.

Dr. Klein set out to cure my grinding. This is how my entire face – and life – changed after one visit.

He centered in one tiny spot in my jaw where I clenched most. No longer can I bite nor clench no matter how hard I try – and I did. Yes, my mouth is completely normal except for one thing: biting down no longer ends with a clatter, but rather, a whisper. The window of my upper jaw does not slam shut, which it has for as long as I can remember.

How did this change my face? It relaxed. After all of this time, my face reflected relief. I wanted to cry tears of joy. Maybe I did. (I have.)  For the first time in I don’t know how long, I cannot wait to sleep.

Thank you, Dr. Klein.

Note: I waited one month that included a dentist visit before I finished this article. In that time, I have had thirty nights of uninterrupted, blissful sleep – an immeasurable gift.

Dr. Klein: “Your grinding is over now.”

Donna Lethal

About Donna Lethal

Donna Lethal is the author of "Milk of Amnesia" and writes for her own blog (Lethal Dose), Hair Hall of Fame, Dowager Quarterly, Find A Death, & the Valhalla Cemetery chapter in "Weird Hollywood." A native of Lowell, Mass., she's lived in Boston, NY and London before settling here. When not writing, she's hiking, soaking in a Korean salt room or in the high desert with her pit bull.
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