I’ve never understood people who like to stay up late at night.
From the moment I get up, my entire day is basically just an exercise in getting me back into bed as soon as possible. My favorite part of the day is that moment when I’m climbing in between my ridiculously high-priced sheets and onto my highrise collection of mattress toppers that add up to a mortgage payment. But it’s not only these, I think I love sleeping so much, because it involves something I’m really good at…lying down.
In fact I love lying down so much that after I get up and get my coffee in the morning I go to the couch and lie down some more. My husband, Paul, generously refers to this as “my transition period.” He’d refer to it as “What the hell are you doing? You JUST got up!” but it would cost him significant luxuries around here–like a house–with a wife in it–so he has learned to find this quirky thing I do rather endearing (and because I told him it was).
To a regular person—and by regular, I mean “employed”– I might look like I don’t have a lot of responsibilities around here. Sure, I write a lot, but I’m well aware that unless you are bringing in a paycheck with your writing people call you “a writer” and give you an eye roll. When I manage to find a paycheck from this gig then I’ll be “a writer” and people will give me a cocktail–that last part I’m not really sure of, but I’m banking on it.
As Betty Draper’s father said to her in an episode of Mad Men once, “You’re like a house cat. You’re important, but you don’t really do anything.” I have a house cat. And she is important, but Betty’s father was right. She doesn’t really do anything—but sleep. Sometimes that analogy forces me to examine my own love of sleep more than I should probably admit.
Now I have gone without sleep before–after all, I did have three babies. Through the toddler years I’m pretty sure the only time my eyes closed was when I sneezed or was putting on eyeshadow. When I heard about other mothers having all those middle of the night maternal feelings as they got up to feed their precious newborns I felt a little guilty. I specifically remember having thoughts like “No wonder they find babies in trash dumpsters,” and saying things to my husband as I plopped a baby on his chest at 4 a.m. like, “Here. Take her. I mean it. I don’t want to see her again until she’s in the 5th grade!” Sleep and I were estranged during those months, and I hated every second of it. I honestly asked my mother one morning after pulling a grueling screaming-baby-all-nighter, “Why would any sane person do this to themselves?” But as all parents do, we survive the sleep deprived “I never knew I could have this much rage” years and eventually find ourselves in the teenage years with an entirely different type of rage.
My mother has a similar fondness for the art of lying down. Let me clarify here, my mother likes to sleep—at night— but she does not approve of “lying down during the day,” as she puts it. In fact that’s a proclamation that she makes proudly and often.
I think she must view napping as lazy or shameful.
Years ago my friend, Shelly, and I would meet every afternoon at the bus stop to get our kids, yawning, and proudly wearing the pillow creases indented into our cheeks as badges of honor. We’d greet each other as members of a secret drowsy society, like two friends seeing each other at a liquor store at 9 a.m. (not that that has ever happened). You just agree to keep the secret, never mentioning it. Being a stay-at-home mom doesn’t come with a ton of perks, but sneaking a good solid nap in is definitely one of them.
And although my mom never naps, she does have strict rules for her night time slumber. The bedroom must be cold. Now I know what some of you are thinking, “Oh I like to sleep in a cold room too…”
No. You don’t know what I mean. People sleeping in my parents’ house might actually die.
We hold debriefings with guests before they go to bed at my parents’ house in which emergency procedures and extra precautions are reviewed and liability waivers are signed. It’s sort of like the kind of cross-check you might get before you climb Mt. Everest.
So not only does my mother’s room have to be cold, but her bedroom must be dark.
Very dark—like the inside of a cow’s stomach dark. The tiny little lighted clock that used to be on the VCR in her bedroom was so bothersome to her that for years my daddy had to cover it with a shirt or a towel at bedtime, because as he put it, “otherwise your mama will go blind.”
I can relate to some of my mother’s sleep demands. I do like it cold and dark in the bedroom, but I also have been deemed a bed snob with respect to anything on the bed as well. I spend an embarrassing amount of money on sheets, mattress toppers, mattress pads, and pillows only to get in bed and right back out again when I feel one piece of grit under the covers—how does that even happen? The struggle with the princess and her elusive pea might have been hard, but try to find one little piece of grit in your bed, and it happens every night at my house.
And clean sheet day? Well it’s right up there with my birthday in terms of joy.
At my last job I worked with a young man whose parents lived in India and on his return from visiting them once he was telling me that every night it took his family about thirty minutes to prepare for bed. They each had to roll out their mat on the floor and then lower each person’s mosquito net which they kept anchored to the ceiling during the day. He went on to finish his story which involved something about being bitten by a rat that was running around them as they slept—I don’t really know the ending, because I passed out somewhere between “the mat” and “the rat.” Forget that scene in Poltergeist with the scary clown in the bedroom—tell me I have to sleep on the floor on a mat with something biting me during the night if you really want to horrify me. Remember? I’m the one who’s still just trying to get that one piece of First World grit out of her bed…
Although I do adore sleeping, and I welcome a good nap when it overcomes me, sadly I sometimes have to trick my body into actually sleeping at night. Sleep can, like some boyfriends of my past, play hard to get. My mind is just too weird…I mean too wired to turn off.
I lie there thinking of something I need to write about—like this blog post about sleeping, or how I need to get my life in order—something that never seems to bother me at 2 o’clock in the afternoon (probably because I’m napping). So several years ago I experimented with an over-the-counter sleep aid. Shortly after I discovered its wonders I mentioned it to my daddy who asked,
“Well what are you gonna do if you get addicted to it?”
“Uh, K-e-e-e-p taking it.” My smart-ass-self answered. I have no shame, and I value sleep that much.
If I forget and run out of my sleep aid, I’ve been known to frantically rummage through the bathroom drawers, old purses and suitcases in my closet at midnight looking for a stray pill like some kind of desperate crack whore. Again, I have no shame when it comes to sleep.
I’ll admit that my love of sleep has a lot to do with the bed I have. Years ago I was having some unexplained shoulder and neck pain that was interfering with my sleep and after having tried everything I could think of I began to blame our old mattress for my discomfort. I complained enough and finally wrestled my husband into a mattress store to purchase a new one.
The mattress store. All those beds...
I almost teared up from delight just thinking of the sleep that was soon to come my way.
I lied down on everything in that store except the sales guy–Firm, plush, extra plush, pillow top. I was so thorough. I would have made Goldilocks proud. I’m pretty sure I didn’t put that much thought into picking out my husband, but quite frankly, I spend more time with the bed than I do with him. I even tried the mattresses that come with a dial to set the bed for a certain firmness by picking a number, but I don’t have a fondness for numbers, and I’m not getting tricked into doing math in bed.
I finally found a bed I loved and shot my husband that “I don’t care how much it costs” look. You know that look. Women use it all the time. But I can honestly say I’ve only seen the “I don’t care how much it costs” look on my husband’s face one time in 30 years of marriage—when we were driving on a long stretch of lonely highway in the middle of the Mojave desert, and the only bathroom we could find anywhere was a “pay toilet.” But I’ll save “Missy and Paul’s amazingly luxurious vacation” for a blog post at another time..
I lied on that bed while Paul paid and scheduled the delivery. I lied there so long I heard the sales guy, “Sir, you can’t leave her here,” and looked up to see my husband coming back in the exit door mumbling, “Oh yeah, her.”
Funny thing is– I didn’t care. At that point the bed and I had fallen in love. I got my new love home and began adorning it with the array of aforementioned goose down mattress toppers, quilted mattress covers, pillows and the sheets worth a king’s ransom. I lie about how much they cost, but you can look them up online—just type in “highwayrobbery.” Afterwards, I had to have a foot stool made so I could actually get up on top of the bed, and if I ever fall out of it I’ll most definitely suffer a spinal cord injury. All the new bed did was encourage my love of sleep even more. It’s my big, soft, cushy, seducing, pillow-topped enabler.
But how can you not love to sleep? You actually spend a great portion of your life in bed, and I ask why do something halfway when you can excel at it? There’s a saying, “when we’re asleep in this world, we’re awake in another.” If that’s the case, then I must be some real kick-ass overachiever somewhere.
Sleep and I are made for each other. We like the same things. We enjoy our time together, and really look forward to seeing each other at the end of the day. The demands we make on each other are simple—we just show up every night, and we don’t let anyone get between us and that bed. It took a long time to finally hone my lying down skills to this feline level of proficiency, but I did it. A professional race car driver shouldn’t have to drive a golf cart, and an important house cat like me shouldn’t have to sleep in a box under the stairs, because well, what can I say? I’m just too good in bed.