Ah…to sleep like the dead. Wouldn’t that be nice? But don’t we? Isn’t laying in bed, surrounding yourself in a comfort cocoon, and closing your eyes, a lot like death? Your breathing and heartrate slow, you cease movement, and your consciousness creeps closer to the other side. And then a few hours later, when we wake, and we are reborn into a whole new world of possibilities.

To sleep like the dead
Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

“What a wonderfully complex thing! This simple seeming unity – the self! Who can trace its reintegration as morning after morning after morning we awaken, the flux and confluence of its countless factors interweaving, rebuilding, the dim first stirrings of the soul, the growth and synthesis of the unconscious to the sub-conscious, the sub-conscious to the dawning consciousness, until at last we recognize ourselves again. And as it happens to most of us after the night’s sleep, so it was with Graham at the end of his vast slumber. A dim cloud of sensation taking shape, a cloudy dreariness, and he found himself vaguely somewhere, recumbent, faint, but alive.”

When the sleeper wakes by Hg wells

A lot of “When the Sleeper Wakes” has been detailed descriptions of his surroundings and I have been getting a little weary of it to be honest, but then there are paragraphs like this. The connection between me and the author over 122 years, nearly as long as Graham had slept in the book, is why I love reading old books. Our civilization and culture may change, but what it means to be human doesn’t.

I don’t sleep well. I never have. I’ve always woken up a lot at night, even as child. I dream a lot, vivid and sometimes very frightful dreams, filled with anxiety and fear, longing, attempting to get things done or trying to connect with someone and failing. I do all the things you’re supposed to do to get a better night’s sleep: no alcohol, sleepy tea, no phones, reading or meditating before bed, winding down…everything.

I got one of those Fitbit things that monitors your heartrate and movement while you sleep. This is a typical evening for me.

I started wearing earplugs about two years ago. The smallest noises wake me up, and even though I did have to fight through the worry that not being able to hear while I sleep would be the death of me, I did get used to it and sleep a little better with them in. I’ve also taken to moving to the guest room if my husband’s snoring wakes me up. I don’t want to hurt his feelings and I do love being close to him, but I need to sleep.

The biggest help though, was acceptance (and naps). My body apparently knows how to sleep. No matter what the news articles say, everyone is different. My body rests this way. That realization was the game-changer. Suddenly, a bit of stress was released. I put less emphasis on the outcome of sleep and more on creating a relaxing evening routine, allowing myself to wake up and change my situation if I need to, and then letting the rest go. I feel more rested and that’s all that matters.

But naps, now THERE’S a whole different game! The paragraph that I quoted above is a perfect description of how I wake up from a short nap. It’s wild.

The best naps are on my bed (not in it), in the daytime, with a pillow over my eyes and the fan on. I put in my earplugs and then settle in. I lay there thinking, “There’s no way I’ll fall asleep. I’m not even tired and I’ve had SO much coffee this morning.” And then I’m off dreaming about not being in the right place, trying to send a text, calling 911, or trying to get the car started and not being able to.

Then I start to feel heavy, like I can’t move but want to, that swimming through thick water towards the surface feeling. I can feel the thick bed under me, my warm pillow on my eyes, the throw blanket over my shoulder. I’m trapped beneath them because they’re so heavy.

Then I start to hear the world moving around me, I lighten up and can feel my fingers move, the cat at my feet, hear the dog snoring beside me. Where am I? What time is it? What DAY is it?

And then I’m awake. I’m me again. I sit up, stretch, throw my feet over the side of the bed and sit up. I left this world for an hour and now I’m back. And it’s so bright and warm. Life feels good.

What if I woke up and the whole world was different to me, but to my family it wasn’t? What if they called me by a different name? What if I didn’t recognize them? What if they thought I’d gone insane and had me locked up?

Sleeping is so strange.

If you’d like to go back and start from the beginning, click back to my first post, “When the Sleeper Wakes: New Read.”