The average individual sleeps upwards of 25 years of their life. That’s nine thousand one hundred and twenty-five days. There was a time when anyone that even lived that long would be considered an elder statesman. But that’s how long, on average, we currently sleep in our lives. 25 years. Yet, somewhere between the quarter and halfway point in life, many of us agree to share sleeping quarters with another individual on a regular basis. For many of us, we do so every single night. Naturally, some habits and tendencies are formed through a quaterlife. Naturally, some arguments arise once your comfortable sleeping arrangements have been disturbed. Naturally, we’re going to write about it.
She Says: Because There’s No Window
Most people have probably never thought about the best sleeping stint of their lives. Many a morning, you might wake up and think “man, I got a good night’s sleep last night” and move onto the rest of your day refreshed. I, on the other hand, do recall a series of my best night’s sleep that occurred over the duration of 4 years. A stint that I have yet to relive.
It was the summer before my freshman year at Holy Names and my parents had finally realized that 8 people living in a three bedroom home just wasn’t going to make the cut any longer, especially with three teenage females and technically one restroom. I say technically because the master bath in my parent’s room was where we all showered. Outside of that, the six children were left scrambling for time in the main bathroom of the home. Anywho, we found a five bedroom three bathroom home that summer and finally, after 14 years of sharing a bedroom, I had my own sanctuary.
Now this sanctuary was unlike anything you’ve ever seen. And for some reason, the moment I laid eyes on this particular bedroom, I knew it was mine. It resided in the deepest depths of the house in the finished walk out basement right across from the laundry room. I loved it for four distinct reasons:
- I could easily sneak out of the house through the downstairs door without my parents ever knowing, whether it was to see my uber cool boyfriend or traipse to the backyard for a cigarette—yes, I did smoke in high school from time to time and I completely regret it now.
- The room had its own heater. Added in the 1970’s when the basement was finished, I can still picture it today—about 8 feet long by 6 inches high, taupe in color, with a large white dial. Oh, and you could fire that puppy up to pump out over 90 degrees of heat on any given day.
- There was no window. Now some might think it’s insane to want a bedroom with no window. But for a mischievous teen who was often up to no good, a windowless room was an all out blessing.
- It was the second largest bedroom in the home, perfect for housing at least 8 girlfriends for a sleepover. It also had a walk in closet where suspicious paraphernalia (including aforementioned boyfriend) could easily be hid.
It was in this amazing windowless room that I received my best night’s sleep throughout high school. On the chilly Seattle nights, I often lit the heater to full capacity, roasting under a pile of blankets. In the summers, the room was always perfectly cool, allowing me to sleep through the night on even the hottest evenings. And because it was windowless, there was no telling what time it was. I could pass out at 8 pm and wake up at noon the next day without any problem. It was heaven, and in it, I was a little hibernating bear angel thingy.
College days were just the beginning of chaotic sleep for me, as it seems it was for most. One can pull an all nighter, head to a 9 am class for a quick hour or two of learning, and then run home to stay in bed the rest of the afternoon until it was time to rally again. My sleeping schedule was never what it should have been to be a healthy and productive student, but I survived.
But there are no days like recent days that I long for the silent, warm bedroom that allowed such amazing night’s sleep. You see, even more disrupting than college, my husband is today’s reason for sleep deprivation. I give you yet another short list now, this time of reasons I struggle to hit the REM stage every night:
- The damn fan. When I first spent the night with my husband on, ah hem, our wedding night, he seemed to toss and turn endlessly. Mid sleep, I inquire if he has a problem. “I need a fan,” he replies. “Hot?” I ask. “Nope, I need the noise,” he says. And so it began. My husband, you see, grew up with a fan running on full blast all night long to provide white noise. He cannot sleep without one on. Unfortunately, I can’t sleep well with one on. The nights of a cool basement room in the summers and a toasty one in the winter have turned bedtime into a chilly tornado, no matter what time of the year.
- The loose sheets. I love being warm when I sleep. Sweltering, actually. And part of what perpetuates a warm sleep is having the covers tucked as tightly as possible around you. My husband, though, literally panics when any portion of blanket cannot easily be slung across his body. Bye, bye tucked sheets. Hello slippy slidey blankets.
3. The invention of the iPhone. When I go to bed, I want to go to bed. I might read for a handful of minutes until my eyes are too heavy to finish a chapter. Not my other half. He whips out his iPhone and plays game after game or reads article after article, holding the phone above his head as the blinding white light glows across the room. Oh, and did I mention that he tends to scroll through pages and games in such an aggressive way that he shakes the whole bed. I didn’t mention it? Well he does.
4. The poke. Yes, we all know what that means. As I mentioned before, when I go to bed, I want to go to bed – or at least that’s what’s on my one track mind. More often than not, I’m half asleep by the time I make it upstairs to the bedroom. Now I’m not saying that I dislike the poke or that I’m a prude and don’t allow it (though I’m sure my husband will complain otherwise). What I’m saying is that when I arrive in my bedroom, I’m already working my ass off to not get blown back out the door by the damn fan, be blinded by the iPhone sitting on the side table, or cry thinking about how chilly my feet will be without sheets tucked around them. So when that poke arrives, and it does every night, you can imagine what I’m thinking.
All this being said, I’m hoping at some point my husband will be willing to move back to my parents home someday. We can take over the bedroom I loved so much as a highschooler. We can get the beds old people get. You know, the ones that look like a king bed but once you take off the duvet, you see it’s two weird adjustable twin beds smushed together. This way, I can tuck in the sheets on my side and he can leave his loose. I can pump the heat, so it’s warm, and he can keep his beloved fan on his side of the room, blowing that warm heat around while he enjoys the white noise.
And then we can sleep. And sleep. And sleep. And be little hibernating bear angel thingys in there together. Because there’s no window.
Before I begin, I need to explain a couple of things to help our readers understand from where I’m coming. First, I grew up in a large family. When I was young, I shared a room with my three older brothers. We had two bunkbeds in a room so close to each other that you could nearly roll over and be in the other bed. When you are the parent of four young boys sleeping in such close quarters, you devise a way in which the others will not wake up if one child begins to stir in the night. My parents’ praxis was the box fan. If you are unfamiliar with the standard box fan, there are three settings. Low—the setting that is somewhere between two and five times as loud as your typical ceiling fan. Medium—this setting simulates the sound of about four hundred humming birds hovering nearby. And High—this setting, I have no doubt, was established by scientists researching at Boeing laboratories in Seattle in order to find the closest approximation to replicating the sound of a 747 engine. To the chagrin of every individual that marries into my family, my siblings and I were all habituated to sleep with box fans on airplane mode.
The second thing you need to understand is that I tend to think, and overthink, more than any reasonable person should be allowed to do. I analyze every word that is said to me throughout the day. I plan every aspect of even menial tasks, such as the most efficient way to make a turkey sandwich so that I can maximize my lunch hour. I don’t know how or why this developed, but it makes sleeping difficult since my mind is always moving at 100 mph. When I was a young teenager, I self-diagnosed myself with insomnia because I had such difficulty falling asleep. This, of course, was a farce, but the troubles I had in turning my mind off in order to sleep were real. In those same teenage years I had so much trouble sleeping that the bout of mononucleosis I had sophomore year of high school, (and consequently chronic fatigue syndrome after my doctor’s misdiagnosed my illness three separate times), felt like a gift from above. I actually wanted to go to sleep. I looked forward to it. In fact, one of my greatest accomplishments to date is falling asleep sitting up in the doctor’s office waiting for my second misdiagnosis. I was amazed I was able to fall asleep so easily. In the years since, I have tried relaxation methods, breathing exercises, pills (natural and otherwise), alcohol, reading, meditation, and magnetism (curative and tactual). What I have found tends to work most appropriately for me is to go to sleep immediately when I feel sleepy, so long as that moment is after 10pm. Sometimes this means I go to bed right at 10pm and sometimes it means I go to bed at 2am. This may seem odd to most, but this is how I consistently sleep.
As you can imagine, these idiosyncrasies of mine cause some ache for my wife. I fully recognize that. I appreciate the concessions my wonderful partner makes for my own comfort. But there are two sides to this mundane story. What hasn’t been said is that my other half can fall asleep at any time, in any situation. She has the ability to fade into REM the moment she closes her eyes. In fact, in our first few years of dating she fell asleep so many times while watching movies we had rented that I refused to rent movies any more. We would only go to the cinema. I thought this was a brilliant plan until one evening she dozed off right in the middle of the theater. You get the point? My wife can fall asleep any time she wants. She can even fall asleep at times she doesn’t want. I think this beautiful gift, coupled with my abject curse, should in the very least grant me some leniency.
Now that you have an appropriate understanding of the facts, I can finally explain the situation. To begin with, my wife somehow developed an ill-conceived belief that the bed should be split directly in half. (As a quick interlude, anyone who is wondering why we don’t cuddle every night clearly is (a) a female or (b) a male within the first year of a relationship who still believes that cuddling always leads to sex). Mind you, I am no less than twice as big as my loving bride. Yet, somehow, she presumes that sharing a bed together means sharing it equally in half. I have come to accept this over time, even though I am twice her size. But it doesn’t end there. Most people would assume that an agreement to split the bed in half would involve some kind of split down the middle. Not for my wife, however. She curls up into the smallest ball you can imagine near the upper regions of the bed like some kind of contortionist. Then she concocts an argument that she is using no more than one-fourth of the our matrimonial resting place and I am being bed-greedy. Mind you, 60% of the “free bed” space I am supposed to be utilizing is underneath this ball-shaped wife. Somehow I am required to sleep at the foot of bed in order to maximize space or incurvate into some sort of “C” shape in order to spoon.
This doesn’t even begin to explain the asperity I will incur if she wakes up from her slumber. The wrath that emotes is what Steinbeck must have experienced from Vitis. If you are ever roped into a situation that involves waking up my wife, I pity you. Nothing you currently know can prepare you for what will happen. And she wonders why there are nights that she wakes up still asleep on the couch. These nights typically involve an attempt by me to gently and lovingly rouse her to go upstairs, a few curse words from her and incoherent slurs towards my heritage, and me wandering off in tears. I also haven’t begun to illustrate the amount of heat my wife emanates while she sleeps. I swear our bedroom must be somewhere near 110 degrees when the night ends simply due to the furnace that sleeps next to me.
But here’s the odd thing. When I travel for work, I can’t sleep for the life of me. No matter how I try, I lay awake. I long for that feeling of being unbearably hot. I restlessly ache for the opportunity to be berated incoherently. I can’t help but desire to angle awkwardly across the bed for maximum space. I guess that’s what marriage should be about. Forming new habits that appear crazy to the outside world, but work for you and your spouse. So I guess we will continue driving each other crazy when we sleep, but somehow also finding the craziness necessary. Life’s too short not to find it necessary. And we’re spending a third of it asleep.