Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Art and Zen of Sleeping In

For whatever reason, I hate to go to bed at night, but I hate it more to have to get out of it in the morning, and since I have so much trouble actually falling asleep, whatever sleep I do get is much appreciated but usually not enough. This is why I treasure those times that I get to sleep in, and though Saturdays have usually been assigned to me as a sleep-in day (Kara takes Sundays), I’ll take advantage of any opportunity to hit the snooze button for “just five more minutes.” They say that people are supposed to get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night and I’d be lucky to average six in any given week, including Friday nights when I stay up way past my “bedtime,” usually watching TV or doing the odd work-related assignment. It is those nights I enjoy the quiet solitude of the house, long after everyone’s asleep, which is why I hate for it to end.

I’d say that I suffer from insomnia most days of the week, but I only have half of the four generally accepted symptoms: waking up feeling unrefreshed and frequent awakenings (I’ve never had a problem falling back to sleep, and waking up early goes against everything I’ve know to believe).

With Kara hobbled by crutches and in a high degree of discomfort, I lost my sleep-in day this weekend so that I could get the kids up in the morning and wrestle them up some breakfast. Since I felt sorry for her, I didn’t put up much fuss this morning, especially after thinking that maybe, just maybe, the gods would grant me asylum from getting up early—just a few of the usual grumbles that I sputter every morning. But no such luck, and I was up a little past seven, changing diapers, making breakfast and keeping the peace. It felt like a regular week and instead of answering Matthews multiple question about where mommy is, I told him she was asleep instead of at work. His response: “Let’s go wake her.” No little buddy, it’s her day and her leg hurts, though I wanted to wake her and take over the warm side of the bed, I figured I’d pay for it later if I did.

Nope, sleeping in would not happen for me this weekend, but I was promised a make-up sleep-in day for next weekend, where I’d get both days. I may just put one of those days in the bank and cash it in when I really need it.

Since I’m a night owl and such a fan of sleeping in (and I have been since college), I’ve created a great five-step strategy for making the most out of my morning to sleep in. With these few simple steps, sleeping in can be a very worthwhile endeavor, something anyone can enjoy.

1. Be prepared. What’s worse than having to get out of bed in the morning is having to get out of bed in the morning because you have to go to the bathroom. It’s like nature cheating you out of what you feel you deserve. Sure, you can sometimes hold it for another half-hour or so, but the discomfort begins to outweigh the pleasure of snuggling into the warm covers and once I’m out of bed and my feet touch the cold linoleum of the bathroom, I’m up for the day. The last thing I do before I go to bed, regardless of what time it is, is to go to the bathroom. It is exactly what our mothers tell us to do our whole lives, and this time it actually makes sense. I try not to drink anything too late at night, and if I do have to go to the bathroom in the morning, I try to do it about three hours before I have to get up (giving me exactly one cycle of REM sleep left). And if you have an alarm clock, make sure it is off, or you might just think it is a workday and get up to start your routine. One more thing I found helpful to keeping me in bed a little longer is to have a bottle of water on my nightstand, as I frequently wake up with a soar throat and a dry mouth (because I sleep with the window open).

2. Create an environment. There are a couple of things I demand for a good morning’s sleep in: darkness and quiet. The darkness is sacrificial and I can sleep through ambient morning light, but I can’t sleep in direct sunlight…a fact I don’t have to worry about since my bedroom window faces west. If light bothers you, close the blinds before you go to bed, and make sure the window is shut if you awaken easily by noise (which I do). Most times, I try to make sure the dog is in the house in the morning, because she likes to be around the family and will complain if she’s outside and there’s something going on inside. Having a quiet house with two kids is nearly impossible, but once they’re ushered downstairs, only the loudest of screams will filter up through the floor and disturb me. Sometimes I shut the door if it is especially loud downstairs and I am especially tired, but it usually makes me feel claustrophobic—not that my bedroom is small, it’s not, it’s quite big, but with the doors shut, I feel trapped and closed in, which does not lead itself to a relaxing sleep-in experience.

3. Keep covered. If I know that I’m going to get to sleep in the next morning, I’ll make the bed the night before. It sounds redundant to make a bed you’re just going to get into and mess up (And shouldn’t the bed be made from the morning? Yeah, ours usually isn’t), but when the next morning arrives and parts are sticking out from under the covers because of an especially messy bed and you have to wrestle around with unruly blankets that are twisted and turned, you’ll never get back to sleep again. Plus, all that wrestling with the covers just lets the warm air escape and the cold air flood in, which leads to the next point.

4. Cherish the warmth. There is nothing worse than getting into a cold bed, especially after you took all night to get it warm, only to have to get up in the morning to go to the bathroom and return to icy sheets. That happened to me this morning. Since I had to get up early while Kara slept in a couple extra hours, I planned to sneak back upstairs after she took over the morning’s parental duties to get another hour or so of sleep. When I did make it up there, the sheets were artic, and although I made the best of it, they never completely warmed up (we have a California King, and that’s a lot of real estate for my body to heat up). As long as I didn’t move around too much, I could generate a warm spot until I had to get up again. I’d advise against an electric blanket, because by the time morning comes, it is usually too hot, and nobody can sleep sweating in a furnace.

5. Be selfish. Realize that you’re sleeping in for your sake and you’ve established this as your time, so make it clear to those that may disturb that time. Whether or not you had a long week, or you’re just catching up on some sleep debt you accrued over the course of the week or you just feel like being a lazy bum for a couple hours, understand and appreciate that you need some personal time. Some people take personal time by gardening or pulling weeds (and if that’s you, please come over and spend as much personal time as you feel you need in my backyard), while others just need to sit there and stare at the wall for a while, regaining personal strength and focus. Me? I like my one day a week that I get to sleep into 9:00 or 9:30 without the world I know shattering down around itself. I stay up too late and get up too early the rest of the week, so I’ve earned these harmless two hours of idle nothingness and slumber.

To me, sleeping in is one of those little personal joys that people hold onto for themselves. I don’t go to Starbucks and savor a coffee-flavored indulgence, nor do I take walks in the park by myself or sit on a bench in the mall and blank out. I sleep in, and I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I don’t feel guilty about it.

Make the most of it. People will still call you a lazy bum, but you’d might as well enjoy it while you’re doing it…. it’s the second most fun thing to do in bed (the first thing being watching TV, of course).

Sleep in.

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