To Bed, Perchance to Sleep


There's something about bedtime that's exciting. Oh for Pete’s sake, not that - I’m talking about actual sleeping. It's the end of the day; you're allowed and expected to rest. Unlike frequent day napping, snoozing at night carries no stigma, no scarlet S (for Sluggard) worn on my nightgown. Toddlers and dogs don’t know how good they’ve got it. Even so, when nighttime finally rolls around, many of us resist it like we’re still two years old. We act as if we’re required to stay up until at least 11:30 every night. As if it’s some kind of rule for grownups.

I'm a recovering night owl. For years, late night was the only time Flash and I got a break from parenting, not that you ever flip the switch off on that. And B.M. (before matrimony), whether studying for a test, out dancing, or hanging out with friends, I was rarely asleep before 1 a.m. So staying up late became a way of life. God must give us some kind of Red Bull DNA that lasts through our 30s.

Recently, my doctor told me everyone should try to be asleep by 10 p.m. because of circadian rhythms.

“What do the noises those locust things make in the summer have to do with my sleeping? I like that sound,” I responded.

“Not cicadas’ rhythms, circadian rhythms,” the patient doctor said, and then he explained how these rhythms apply to everyone, whether they are night owls or not.

I thought I’d give the 10 p.m. curfew a try.

"I'm going to bed now..."

"Now?" Flash looked at his watch. "It's 8 o'clock."

"I know."

"Are you okay?"

"Yep, just going to bed early."


He looked like a kid who was the last one to get picked up from school or, as was my experience, the last kid to get picked for any team sport in P. E. class during an entire school career. But I’m over it now.

"You can go to bed early too," I said, just to be polite.

He hesitated. It's just not what we do.

Of course, I longed to journey to Dreamland alone, without having to listen to the nightly floss-fest for 15 minutes before Flash falls asleep with a Placker in his mouth. Or being awakened when he walks into the room, swirling his ice in his Bubba cup full of water. He takes that thing everywhere; I call it his Nuk-Nuk or Binky. When I met him, he carried his drink in a Big Gulp cup, but it didn’t travel with us. Not sure there would have been a second date if it had. Why must Bubba be his constant companion? The cup is huge; we had to have a customized seat belt installed for it, to keep its contents from spilling in my lap, yet again, when Flash makes Jersey stops at red lights. Why can’t my Linus carry a blanket?

For these transgressions and more, it was, and always is, my goal to get to sleep before the loudest human being I've ever met goes through his nightly rituals. Flash says it seems louder because the house is so quiet when he is prepping for bed, although it hasn't exactly been a night at an AC/DC concert in our living room up to that point. Cowboy and the dogs are asleep; the TV is turned down. What noise?

I made it to bed early. Ahhh, bliss. Flash was on the couch watching TV with his eyes closed. If I could get to REM, the paradise island of Dreamland, before the sound of a wild boar with a sinus condition pierced my subconscious, I would be home free until morning. After 22 years of marriage, my beloved still insists he doesn’t snore.

I tried to hurry myself to sleep, finally drifting off and into another world where everyone is quietly slumbering.

Suddenly, and startlingly, my dream was cut short by a Nazi-concentration-camp-style searchlight glaring into my eyeballs.

Who on earth felt the need to embed a lighthouse lens in the back of an iPhone? Clearly a man who decided it would be too much trouble to use a flashlight in case of a blackout. Wouldn't want my hubby to strain something reaching for one of the two LED 4-inch flashlights he keeps on the headboard, or the one in the kitchen, or the one in the bathroom. Nope, it needs to be right there, built into his extra appendage.

"Turn off your phone," I growled. "I was alseep!"

"I will," he snarled back before that hellishly bright laser beam nailed me in the pupils again.

"Flash! I can see spots, and the room is totally dark."

He pushed a button on his phone, and the screen went black. But I knew it wasn’t off; it was merely playing opossum. Flash was asleep within two minutes. It was a familiar scenario. As usual, his phone went off; it’s a buzz on a good night, an earth-shattering ding on a worse one.

I bounced him on our water bed, like a flounder in a frying pan, until he groggily exclaimed, "What? Huh? What is it?"

"Your phone. Turn off your phone."

Finally, the Apple was dead to the core.

The next day, we had a discussion about bedroom etiquette and what to do when I am asleep before he is. I explained how sleep works and what kinds of things stop sleep. He didn't seem all that concerned.

"I need the phone light to walk down the hall," he explained.

Walking "down the hall" often involves his taking a 45-degree turn from the bathroom into our bedroom, five steps in the dark after turning off the bathroom light.

“We've lived here for 20 years - you know how to get from the living room to the bedroom. You walked to bed in the dark for years before you had that phone."

"It keeps me from bumping into things."

This from a man who has reached new heights of pain by stubbing his toe on the base of the waterbed during the day with the light on. What was the problem then? The sunlight streaming through the window was too bright, and he couldn't see this monstrosity of a bed in front of him?

I'm not sure when everything changed and walking to bed became a dangerous mission.

My early bedtime seemed a lost cause. We could put railings up in the hallway or lane markers on the floor, but his phone is cheaper and portable. Who knows when he might need it to get to the bathroom in a hotel room or find his way in the woods on that camping trip we’ve talked about taking for the last 19 years?

So, I do what I must to get a full night's sleep and follow the beat of those circadian rhythms. When blinded by the light, I grope my way to my ear plugs and my trusty eye mask and pretend I’m back on that island with no Wi-Fi, no cell phone towers, no outlets, and no floss picks.