Opinion: To sleep, perchance to dream
There's been a great deal of chatter lately in the media — be it social, mainstream or pointy-headed liberal — about sleep.
Sleep is something we seem to be failing at these days, which isn't that surprising considering we're under the influence of a dangerous global pandemic, uprising in the streets, nightly shootings by brainless young people, a plethora of wildfires, a bumbling-stumbling economy giving us vanishing jobs, still-closed businesses and rising unemployment — not to mention what appears to be a rampant lack of social graces and a chronic tendency for people to get all up in each others' business.
How COULD a normal person sleep in this midst of all this pandemonium?
Allow me to address that, because ability to sleep anytime, anywhere is kind of like my own personal super power.
The other person who lives at our house resents the heck out of me because of this — and I have to admit that falling asleep as easily as I do, this kind of seems like I've been showing off for our entire 53-year marriage. I can't help it — it comes naturally, and always has.
In the late 1960s, I fell asleep in the waiting room of a dentist's office where my wife was inside going through the special hell that involves novocaine, drilling and filling. When I woke up, she, the dentist, the dental assistant and the receptionist were all back there behind the counter staring at me — and then they all (with the exception of my embarrassed spouse) erupted in laughter.
It took me a whole five or 10 minutes to get over it.
My partner, on the other hand, has never been able to sleep. According to her father, she was always awake in the back seat — no matter how long or late the car trip ran — listening to the grownups up front while her siblings snoozed beside her. In fact, to this day, if she gets more than four hours of sleep a night, she's ecstatic. Once or twice a week, that might happen. The rest of the time, she's either trying to get to sleep until the wee hours — or she's awake for good at 3 or 3:30.
And, for her, this was the situation before COVID-19 interrupted our lives.
For the first 20 or 30 years, I simply teased her about it, suggesting she probably didn't actually know HOW to go to sleep (close your eyes and keep them closed until morning comes) — but I eventually figured out this was not only mean but also not useful, so I changed my approach to expressing empathy and wondering aloud what I might do to help.
Which brings us to today, with perhaps even more people than usual suffering from lack of sleep. The tips are fairly predictable: keep to a regular sleeping schedule; no phones or other technology devices for at least an hour before bedtime; eliminate stressful influences (as much as possible) when time for sleeping is near — etc.
Of course, none of these tips work for the other person who lives at our house. She's tried them all (and many others) with no results. It doesn't help, of course, when I fall asleep in my La-Z-Boy before the sun even goes down. And she doesn't believe me when I insist it's the fault of the chair, which works its magic on me against my wishes.
So, for the rest of you agonizing over how to overcome what may be an increasing propensity to go sleepless, no matter what you do, I'm stumped. My own super power doesn't seem to be even a little bit transferable, and for that I'm sorry.
There is one tiny saving grace, however. Those of us who do manage to sleep all night, every night, often experience a detrimental side effect. Our dreams (which I have with great regularity) usually entail crowds of people who are not maintaining social distance and who are not wearing face masks, and this almost always freaks me out and jerks me awake in a cold sweat.
A former Pamplin Media Group/Community Newspapers editor and page designer, Mikel Kelly now spends his retirement years yelling at people —between his frequent naps — to "get off my lawn!" and "go get a face mask!"
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