I’ve enjoyed so many things in my life. Books and music. Friends and lovers. Children, cats, and canines. Not to mention doing work that I love. But at 59, there’s one thing I know I can always rely on to make me happy.
A good night’s sleep.
I wake up each morning refreshed, then glance at the clock. “That’s eight solid hours!” I’ll think happily. Then I’ll turn right over and head back to dreamland for another hour. Sometimes two.
Sleeping in. It’s my favorite cheap thrill.
When I was in law school, I was up every morning at six, studying. When I was a young mother, I was up every morning at six with the baby. But at this point in my life, there isn’t a reason in the world for me to awaken at dawn and leap from my bed.
So I don’t.
Nine hours is my sweet spot. Twelve hours, which I achieved on a recent spa vacation, is my personal best.
I just love the way it feels to wake up, refreshed, after hours and hours of delicious, soul-satisfying, care-unraveling slumber.
My friends feel the same way.
“I don’t just enjoy sleep,” says Stacia. “I wallow in it.”
“Sleeping rocks,” agrees Gloria.
“It’s my happy place,” adds Gill. “I just hope death is as satisfying and comfortable.”
“Just give me eight hours and I’m good to go,” proclaims Deb. “Unless it’s a weekend. Then give me nine. At least.”
Science backs us up. Sleep-deprived people get sick more often. They eat more. too. Want to drop a few pounds? You can lift weights, speed-walk, or hit the gym and climb those crazy fake stairs.
Or just go to bed on time. And stay there.
To crave sleep isn’t always good. Oversleeping can be a sign of anxiety or depression.If I woke up with the blues each morning, instead of bright as a goddamn buttercup, my love of sleep might be cause for alarm, not celebration.
But catching lots of zzzzs is definitely working for me. So I’ll dream on.
Not that my dreams are anything special. Given that I can do anything I want—fly! perform miracles! have tawdry sex with my favorite celebrities!—my dream life is one big yawn.
Say I’m planning to take Amtrak from Philly to Manhattan tomorrow. All night, in my dreams, I’ll walk to the commuter rail station, take the commuter train to 30th Street Station, purchase a ticket, then board the New York–bound train. Or I’ll begin my walk to the commuter rail station too late and miss the train. Or start my walk with time to spare, but wander around endlessly, unable to locate the train station.
Sometimes I’ll arrive at the station on time and wait for a train that never arrives.
It’s not as if I need to stay asleep to continue to experience that. (In fact, I’d love a dream upgrade. If anybody knows how I can transform my dreams so that instead of shlepping to the train station all night, I could wing my way to the Big Apple on the back of a unicorn, or fly there in the arms of Superman, please get in touch.)
“Can you remember when you didn’t want to sleep?“ comic Paula Poundstone asks. “Isn’t that inconceivable? I guess the definition of adulthood is that you WANT to sleep.”
When my son was a toddler, he needed a daily nap, but he always fought sleep. When I put him in his crib, he’d stand up, sobbing, and plead for me to rescue him. Too soft-hearted to just let him holler, I learned to trick him into falling asleep with motion. If it was sunny out, I’d pop him in his stroller and walk him around until he conked out.
In bad weather, I’d bundle him into his car seat and hit the road, telling him, “I’m driving around until one of us passes out!”
(It was never me. I don’t crave sleep so much that I’d ever indulge when behind the wheel.)
Now that he’s 25, Tom no longer naps. Like most people his age, he gets up early, stays up late, and is utterly unconcerned about how much sleep he’s getting.
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By the time he’s my age, though, I’m guessing that he’ll have finally discovered the joy of napping.
My desire for lots of shut-eye means missing out on certain things. Staying up late! Dancing till dawn! Enjoying an intense, soul-baring 2 a.m. conversation. Attending a midnight showing of Rocky Horror!
In my youth I enjoyed all those things. Now I’m happy to trade them all in for a good night’s sleep.
“I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” some folks announce proudly.
Not me. I’m going to grab nine hours right now.
What finally gets me out of bed in the morning? Birdsong? A good-morning kiss from my beloved? The promise of a glorious new day? Nope. It’s the lure of the one thing I crave even more than sleep.
(This essay first appeared on www.womensvoicesforchange.org)