Sleep is the new sex.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude. I like sex. It’s a good thing. But the blessed abundance of my full and fulfilling life is exhausting. So many roles: wife, mother, friend, employee, writer. So few hours in the day.
I love sleep. Luscious, indulgent, glorious sleep.
I also love my husband. Deeply. Truly. Sexually. He’s the father of my children, my ‘emergency contact’, the one whose name springs to mind first when I’m agitated. He is the one I say goodnight to last and ‘good morning’ to first. I love him with all of my heart.
But he snores. Loudly. Like an air raid siren. And when he’s congested – well, he could easily steer a freighter away from the rocks. And I am a very light sleeper.
I’ve nudged, poked, elbowed – but nothing reduces the volume, I’ve tried encasing my head in pillows, sleeping with ear buds, ear plugs; I’ve taken sleeping pills, Valerian root, Bedtime, Sleepytime, Dreamytime Tea. I’ve tried it all. And there are still nights when – regardless of my husband’s decibel level – sleep eludes me.
What to do?
And then one night – after too much wine and too much bickering – my insomnia hit the fan. I had a meeting marathon the next day, the wine wasn’t helping, and neither was the sleeping pill. I couldn’t stop rummaging my mental Rolodex for Family Law attorneys.
“You know, Amy,” my husband hissed as we lay on our respective sides of the bed, “I’m unconscious when I snore. It’s not like I’m doing it on purpose. You snore sometimes, too.”
“I am not that loud.”
“You insist on turning on the heat all winter – it’s like a sauna in here!”
“That’s what people do in winter.”
“Not in Southern California!”
He rolled over. I think he may have even fallen asleep. All I could do was think words that could never be unsaid. So, I got up, left the master bedroom and headed for our guest room and a good night’s sleep.
“Mom, where were you last night?” My wide-eyed nine-year-old asked the next morning.
“In the guestroom,” I said, hurrying him to get ready for school.
“Are you and Dad getting divorced?”
“Of course not, ding dong,” my tween daughter chimed in. “Have you heard Dad snore?”
I could see the wheels turning in his nine-year-old head. “Yeah, mom, you are annoying about how silent everything should be when you’re trying to go to sleep,” My daughter grunted and off we went to face the day.
The occasional solo night does not mean the end of a marriage. In fact, it has breathed new life into my decade plus love affair. Thus, every so often before ‘lights out’ I say goodnight to my beloved and head to our guest room where I sleep spread out under a heavy blanket and down comforter in a room that is a crisp 65 degrees. Sometimes I fall asleep to the dulcet sounds of the BBC. Sometimes I’m just reading the LA Times. It doesn’t matter because I’m only sharing my bed with an iPad.
When I tell this to one of my long-married friends, she is astonished. “Every night?”
“No,” I replied.” My husband doesn’t travel as much as yours.”
Slowly her astonishment gave way – I could see the lightbulb come on in her eyes as she began to understand the joy of lying naked – or clad in the sweats your hubby hates – under the sheets, of doing Snow Angels because you can – no other pair of limbs to knock. That sleeping alone could be a choice – just another part of a couple’s sleep repertoire. Doesn’t everyone – including you, dear reader – sleep in the middle of a hotel bed regardless of its size?
My husband also enjoys his solo sleep. He can crank up the heat to 70 degrees and without all of my various anti-snore measures he too slumbers well – and without bruising.
On a recent Sunday afternoon when both kids were at respective friends’ houses for a playdate, my husband and I sat on the couch, holding hands, watching “Property Brothers”, taking turns yelling at the couple on the TV to reject Jonathan’s suggestion for the exterior color of their new home.
My husband pointed to our patio. “You did a great job designing the exterior stone,” he said softly.
“I married a great contractor,” I replied.[I’m compelled to note here that we built our house, my attorney husband serving as our general contractor. I advise you — dear reader -to most certainly not follow our lead. Family Law offices are filled with couples who did.)
Slowly, sweetly our hands began to move across each other’s bodies. And it wasn’t long before two over-worked and under-rested middle-aged people were producing Oxytocin in the afternoon.
That night we slept soundly in our separate beds.
It was glorious.