We all do it. Yet we never seem to get enough of it. But we can’t live without it.
Sleep. (Anyone who was thinking about sex has to be much younger than me and/or childless.) Oh, how I love to sleep; the perfect way to end a day. If there was a way to sleep or stay in bed watching bad movies 24 hours a day, I’d sign up.
I need about eight to nine hours a night to achieve full optimum power. Any less and I’m a cranky zombie. No amount of caffeine will dull the laser beams of irritation shooting from my sleepy eyes, annihilating everyone in their path. My husband thinks I’m lazy. I think I’m cleverly escaping from reality. My day could be full of nonstop stress with everything going wrong, but I can always count on that blissful moment when my weary head hits a soft pillow and it all goes away. Please dear god, just make it go away, for 8.5 hours.
Sleep is something you never truly appreciate until it’s gone. Back in college, I used to complain about staying up all night partying and having to go to an 8 am calculus class. Who would have guessed years later, I’d be surviving for years, almost a decade, on little to no sleep. When my colicky son was a newborn, we were surviving on mere minutes of sleep. It was only after we started seeing giant blue gummy bears dancing in our kitchen that we realized how much we needed to sleep. And how much we missed it and still do.
Sleeping entails all sorts of unique habits developed over a lifetime and sure to tick off your sleeping partner. We all have our little quirky things we need to fall asleep. First is establishing a consistent routine before bedtime. My daughter prefers to brush her teeth, put on her pajamas and read three books and sing three songs. I prefer to brush my teeth, play Angry Birds on my iTouch until a blood vessel bursts, then sit on the couch and fall asleep watching House.
Also very important is the bedroom atmosphere. I need a fan for white noise. Maybe I’m desperately trying to recreate being in the womb again. Maybe I’m trying to drown out my son’s whining at the foot of my bed that a giant Pokemon chased him in his dream and now he needs to eat some crackers at 2:30 in the morning.
Another key to good sleep is a darkened room. I like to keep a little nightlight in the hallway that gives off a soft glow, handy for those many midnight trips parading my kids back and forth to their rooms. My husband needs to keep the TV on in order to bathe us in an electric cancer-causing glow all night long. I’m always quick to point out the bright light will interfere with melatonin levels, but he doesn’t seem to care as long as he can fall asleep in the serene safety of knowing Jack Tripper and Chrissy Snow are watching over him. After a few hours of laying there with my pillow over my eyes, having creepy dreams about Mr. Furley, I usually have had enough. So I carefully slip the remote out of his hands (yes, he curls up with it like a stuffed animal) and put the TV on “sleep” mode. When the TV clicks off an hour later, he’ll suddenly sit bolt upright and shout, “What? Huh? Who?” Then he’ll roll back over while I snicker as our melatonin levels surge.
If the power goes out at night, (which it does a few dozen times or so every winter) sleepy time is over. I will stay up all night, eyes wide and heart pounding, cursing the heavy darkness crushing me and the deafening silence ringing in my ears. Is this how they slept during the Little House on the Prairie Days? For the love of all that is holy, how did they do it? I try to picture Laura huddled in her little bed with Mary, trying to keep warm, drifting off to sleep listening to the harsh Minnesota winds in the distance.
Room temperature is also a big issue. He prefers an icy bone-chilling wind blowing in from an open window. If he wakes up with his eyelids frosted shut, he’s happy. “But honey! It’s good for you! Keeps you young! My grandfather used to sleep on the front porch at night in the dead of winter and he lived to 100!” Still I prefer to maintain my body temp at a balmy 98.6. So we do the dance of pulling up the covers and yanking them off again. I prefer to sleep in a warm cozy cocoon, he feels compelled to have at least one leg exposed (and he normally leaves it on top of mine so I can dream I’m being pinned by a giant sequoia tree all night). Makes me yearn for the old days when couples slept in cute matching twin beds. Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver knew the secret to a successful marriage. Of course, the twin beds would do nothing to smother his freight train snoring. Hmm, separate rooms might work. We need a bigger house.
Knowing what sleep position works best is also helpful. I have slept curled up in a ball on my side my entire life. My husband sleeps on his stomach, drooling into his pillow with one arm draped across my face. After you have kids, it’s a free-for-all of little arms and legs stuck every which way (and usually directly into your kidneys). This brings up another crucial issue: space. Ideally, a king sized bed with one of those memory foam mattresses would be perfect. Most nights I end up half asleep underneath a pink canopy teetering on the edge of a narrow twin mattress covered in Strawberry Shortcake sheets.
And so tonight I look forward to sleep; that glorious golden slumber. Will I get enough? Will I once again sleep completely straight through the night? Doubtful, but I always have hope. I may find myself drifting off to la-la land only to return a perfect 8.5 hours later. Or I may find myself bleary-eyed at 2 am eating crackers with my son and watching Jack and Janet endure another hilarious misunderstanding down at the Regal Beagle. I think I know which one I bet on.