It really is an odd sensation actually, and it generally occurs only at night, coming on usually between 10 o'clock and midnight.

It begins with a general restlessness and tired feeling. When it starts, my eyes get so heavy I can barely keep them open. The longer I try to ignore it, the heavier my eyes feel, and my thinking even becomes afflicted. I get so groggy, in fact, that I have to lie down. The minute I do so, I fall into unconsciousness and stay that way for several hours.This coma-like condition doesn't seem to have any long-range effects, except that it recurs every night. It usually lasts for anywhere from six to eight hours with each occurrence.

Oddly enough, I usually come out of the coma about the time it starts getting light outside in the morning. Slowly, I begin to regain consciousness, and if I force myself to stand up and walk around, even though I am a bit groggy at first, after a few minutes I begin to feel better and am actually much more refreshed than when I first lapsed into unconsciousness the night before.

My wife, Veloy, also suffers from the same affliction. Just like me, it seems to hit her every night but generally a bit earlier than with me, and she usually comes out of it a bit earlier in the mornings. By the time I am coming around, she is already up and about, as if nothing were wrong.

Sometimes, it will hit her the middle of the day, however. When it does, if she will just lie down for a while, after a brief spell of unconsciousness, she is quite fine again until evening.

I'm afraid there is a genetic element to it, as well, because all of our children suffer the same affliction. So much so, in fact, that we have built into our current home, special rooms, where, when members of the family begin to feel a coma coming on, they can retire away from the rest of us. In each of these rooms we have fixed special cushions on wooden frames, one for each of the children, and a larger one for Veloy and me, where we can lie comfortably until the affliction passes.

Since the nights tend to be cool, we have supplied each cushion with a down-filled cover. We use these to cover ourselves while unconscious so as not to get too chilled during the night. We also have special cushions filled with feathers that we use to support our heads.

I hate to admit it, but it really is quite comfortable, and many evenings, I actually look forward to it. I will often go in when I first feel my eyelids getting heavy, cover myself and wait for the unconsciousness to set in. It feels so cozy and relaxing that, generally, within minutes of lying down I am totally unconscious.

The other night when we were on our way home from a late movie, as we were stopping at the stop sign up by the Kountry Korner, Veloy turned to me and said, "Look at all those houses out there. Do you notice anything odd about them?"

"What do you mean?" I answered.

"Oh, I don't know, it just . . . well, here it is quarter to 12, maybe midnight, and the lights are out in almost every house. Do you think maybe . . . "

"You mean . . . "

"I know it sounds unbelievable, but do you think that maybe there are others who suffer the same affliction as we do? Maybe that's why traffic is so sparse in the middle of the night and why most people avoid night jobs."

There was a partial moon that night, enough so I could see the outline of dozens of houses on the horizon. What an odd sensation it was to realize that in all those homes there might be hundreds, even thousands, of people lying unconscious with what we had come to refer to in our family as "night coma syndrome." The very thought of all those people lying out there unconscious was rather eerie.

I've thought about it a lot since then and have decided to be totally candid about the whole thing. After all, if there really is a genetic factor, then there should be no reason to be ashamed, and the sooner we are open about it, the sooner we will be able to understand what might be done to cure the condition.

In a way, though, the thought of finding a cure makes me feel a bit sad. I've gotten quite used to night coma syndrome, and, forgive me for saying this, but I think I might actually feel bad if a cure were found. Those cushions are so comfortable that I would really miss them.