Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Sleep of a Clear Conscience

I've never been a good sleeper. It's possible that I slept well as a child, but if I did, I don't remember it. My challenge comes in being able to fall asleep and stay asleep once I am. When the sun goes down, I begin to feel a little bit squirrelly. I'm not sure how to describe the sensation except to say that I don't feel comfortable in my own skin. My chest gets a little bit tight and my stomach gets knots. The only thing I can compare it to is the feeling one might get when they feel really guilty about something. That nervous sensation waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I have always had this problem, even as a kid. Long before there were things to worry about.

Both of my parents worked when I was growing up, and I can recall waiting at the end of the driveway for their cars if they had to work after dark. I'm not sure why I did this, but it seemed to calm that nervous feeling. As a single gal living on my own after college, I would always have a TV in my bedroom and either stay up late or leave the sound on as I fell asleep. Now sleep experts would say that the TV was the reason I wasn't sleeping. But I can assure you that it was the insomnia that came first.

Now I don't have a television in my room. Not since I got married. It's really for the best. Otherwise it's always on. Your bedroom should be a sanctuary away from those kinds of things. But I get around it anyway with my MP3 player. I fall asleep now listening to a variety of podcasts: This American Life, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, The Memory Palace, Slate Culture Gabfest. And I wake up with any noise in the night as well.

I never realized that I was so different from anyone else until I got married and had a child. My husband falls asleep very easily- when his head hits the pillow, as they say. But the amazing one to watch is my son. After he falls asleep, you can go in his room and lift up his arm, and it will fall back on the bed like a wet noodle. His whole body is relaxed in a way that I don't think mine ever has, even in sleep. As he falls asleep, his little muscles jerk and twitch until they are absolutely still. I always think to myself that he sleeps the sleep of the innocent, the sleep of someone who hasn't hurt anyone, the sleep of someone with no regrets. And I wish I could protect him from those things, protect him from his own human nature to make mistakes. But that is not the purpose of a mother. My purpose is to help him learn from those mistakes once they are made. And hopefully he's inherited the sleeping traits of his father.

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