Rock-a-bye Grandma: The Insomnia Song

If you're among America's 40 million "older adults" troubled by insomnia, you probably suffer from depression, memory deprivation, frequent falls, constipation and a tendency to repeat the same old stories over and over again.

Bill Joel Plays At Fenway Park

I haven't included hearing problems in which you say, "What?" or "Huh?" 200 times a day, because that's a category all its own.

But I will offer the advice that if you're one of the aforementioned, you need a big dose of Billy Joel.

He is not president of a major medical association or a hotshot from one of those medical centers you see advertised on TV, but he is one of the best musicians in the world. I listen to tunes from his album The Essential Billy Joel and, by the time I reach "The Entertainer," I am ready for sleep. The BJ Fix is in.

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Here's how I made this great discovery. I had a bad case of insomnia. The only advice I could remember was from a doctor friend who said I should never lie there and just brood about not going to sleep; that I should get up and do something. So I tried that, wandering the midnight darkness like Banquo's ghost, but all I could find to do was eat or load the dirty dishes into the dishwasher.

It was bad advice. Who wants to eat in the middle of the night and, even worse, who wants to screw around with dirty dishes? Oh, well. The friend was a gynecologist whose expertise was not to be trusted with sleep advice.

I went back to bed and decided I'd listen to music to kill time. I used my headset so no one but me would hear it. "Piano Man," a Billy Joel tune, was playing. I had never actually listened to it. This was a new experience. At the end, I wanted more Billy Joel. He led me, as new writers like to say, into the arms of Morpheus. That's not a morphine derivative, but a Greek god.

Further research found I was doing exactly the right thing. Music does soothe the savage breast. Soft music is probably best, since loud and head-shattering rock 'n' roll might cause a stroke, chronic dementia or the sudden need for a joint.

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I tell everyone I know: Try the musicians in your own age group, like Perry Como, Nat King Cole, Andy Williams or Johnny Mathis.

Unfortunately, old people - I mean, older adults - usually have bad vision and can't read small type in my emails. When I try to tell them of my discovery, I just get dozens of whats and huhs in reply.

I drop the subject. I said, "I DROP THE SUBJECT!"

I hope you got that.

Credit:  Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe/Getty Images


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