I swore this was the last time. I would never eat another hot dog in the middle of the night.

You see, as I had grown older, I had a harder and harder time staying asleep at night. I had no trouble falling asleep, but after about four hours my brain cells would start firing and I would wake up – usually around 2 a.m. – and have a hell of a time falling back asleep. My wife also suffered from insomnia, but her problem was the opposite of mine – she had a hard time falling asleep. So, in the wee dark hours we were like ships passing in the night, me getting up and she bedding down. She’d say, “Good morning!” and I’d say, “Good night!”

I had read a fascinating book titled “Why We Sleep” by a professor of neuroscience and it scared the crap out of me. Basically, he wrote, lack of sleep would impair my health and shorten my life. Not to mention make me crazy. Swell.

I tried lots of remedies: staying up later, taking over-the-counter sleeping pills, watching boring TV shows and so on. But the one remedy that worked best was eating something heavy in the middle of the night. I guess it caused the blood to rush to my stomach, which was focused on digestion, and away from my brain, which was on mental overdrive. Whatever the biological-chemical reasons, it worked. I’d eat something heavy and I’d eventually fall back asleep. And what I like best was eating hot dogs.

I love hot dogs. They are a cuisine unto themselves. My preferred brand is all-beef Hebrew National with lots of ketchup and a smear of sriracha sauce. Second favorite is with yellow mustard and melted cheddar. Yum! I was often tempted by the brand’s “bun length” dog, but in my experience the bigger dog screwed up the all-important ratio of meat to bun.

But I was smart enough to know that eating hot dogs in the middle of the night couldn’t be good for me. It was a mortal tradeoff: lack of sleep (which might kill me) or too much red meat, not to mention the nitrites (which might kill me).

In my second sessions of sleep, I discovered I was having memorable dreams, though not particularly pleasant ones. They were “frustration” dreams, in which I was trying desperately to do something important but just couldn’t manage it. I’d wake up, well, frustrated. I longed for the dreams of my youth, wondrous flying dreams that combined the soaring grace of Peter Pan with the surging power of Superman.

I was in an existential quandary: No sleep and die or eat hot dogs and die. What to do? I tried switching to bananas for their professed sleep-inducing properties, but they didn’t work nearly as well. Damn. So, I took the path of sensible moderation, alternating nights. It was a half-hearted solution, with negligible results.

Probably not the last time I’ll feel like a complete wiener.

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