The working title for this item was "Is this the last Vent?" It's not like I'm looking forward to ditching this series, which is, after all, one of the oldest continuing features on the Web. But the onset of serious sleep difficulties has made me wonder, sometimes out loud, if maybe this is it for me.

I've had some problems along these lines for many years. Sometimes the brain just refused to shut down despite my best efforts — I strongly suspect that best efforts by definition are inimical to proper sleep — and I'd lie there for hours, occasionally still, occasionally thrashing, waiting for the tumult to quiet. Eventually it did, though I'd be thoroughly befogged the next day. What's different today is that "eventually it did" no longer applies: starting on the 15th of this cruel month, the quiet was conspicuous by its absence, into a second day and then into a third. Never before had there been a third.

I should note here that for about a decade I've been popping a daily Ativan, supplementing it with your basic drug-store sleep aids as needed. Two of the latter would normally suffice. But they no longer have any effect on me: one night I polished off half a dozen of them, and washed them down with a swig of NyQuil, to no avail.

The result of this failure was nothing less than sheer terror. I'd lie there for whatever time period, and suddenly it would dawn on me: This isn't going to work, is it? My heart raced, pounded, eventually subsided, but there would be no rest for me that night.

Friday night I got a reprieve. It didn't last. Saturday night, despite above-average physical activity for the day, found me up almost until dawn. I managed a couple of brief catnaps Sunday afternoon,