Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Sleepcatcher

I seem to have mastered the art of sleeping. After I got married, my wife made the observation that I'm asleep about 5 minutes after hitting the pillow. I can sleep in airports if the need arises, as long as there is someone to wake me up when the whistle blows. I've fallen asleep in staff meetings after lunch and woke up when it was my turn to give my report. I find it easy to take a nap when convenient to do so.

I've never used sleeping pills and can't imagine why they would be necessary. I've even read studies that associate sleeping pills with a higher rate of mortality. Some people like a beer. Some like a book - that was me for a time. Some find that exercise is great for sleep, I know I have. But for the most part, all I really need is a pillow and a flat, soft place to rest.

For more than 20 years, I have not needed an alarm clock. I stopped setting the alarm when I began to notice that I would wake just as the alarm was about to go off. After a few weeks of this, it didn't make any sense anymore, so I just used it for timekeeping. I can sometimes set my own alarm. If I want to get up at 4, I imagine the clock reading 4am before going to sleep and I get up right around that time. I usually get up around 5am and have found on many occasions, the clock has read exactly 5am when I woke.

I also know that as I have aged, I need less sleep. I don't know exactly why that is. I have tried going to sleep at 8:30. But I get up at 3 when I do that. So I make sure I stay up just long enough that I'm tired enough for sleep and somehow, I wake up at the right time.

This morning, Emily woke up very early in the middle of the night. Emily had been weaned from nursing weeks before and still finds a pang here or there for some motherly comfort. But this morning, that was not going to happen. I watched for many minutes as my wife tried in frustration to find the magic that would help Emily fall asleep, but there was none.

When I could see that Alice had all but given up, I decided to try something that had worked before. I picked Emily up, carried her to the rocking chair and laid her on my chest, and let her head fall on my shoulder. Then I started to rock the chair and hum the Blue Danube.

There is something incredibly satisfying in helping Emily to relax and find sleep. There we were, rocking together, while I'm humming songs. I enjoyed her warmth and could feel in her, the satisfaction of having someone hold her and care enough to help her fall asleep. This is something my wife has done many more times than me, but it's pretty hard to compete with nursing.

Emily did not fall asleep in a snap. The process was gradual and took time to take hold. Emily tried to stop and turn around to have a conversation, but I put her back on my shoulder so that she could find the sleep she needs. She shifted and I would help her find a comfortable position. Eventually, I could hear her breathing, but she had settled down.

Then I turned out the light and laid in bed with her on my chest. Then I rolled her slowly to my side. Then I gradually worked my arm out from under her, restored the blanket to cover her and came here to write. I like to share my ability to catch some sleep with Emily and to share that story with you.
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