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Waiting for slumber

By Nickunj Malik - Sep 05,2018 - Last updated at Sep 05,2018

My problem is that the moment my head touches the pillow, I fall asleep. Instantly, that is. There is no tossing, turning, adjusting the duvet or counting of sheep. Also, I do not need to burn scented candles, listen to hypnotic music or make sure that there is no sliver of light entering from under the blackout curtains. None of it is of any consequence because like I said, the moment my head rests on a pillow, I crash out. 

So, why is that a problem you ask? Well, for the sleeper, that is me in this particular case, it is a blessing, but for all the non-sleepers I have been unlucky enough to be associated with, it is the biggest cause of envy that can be inflicted upon them. The reason for this is because most of the people I know, which includes my family members, friends and acquaintances, cannot go to sleep as easily as I do. They try very hard, there is absolutely no doubt about that, but somehow their share of “forty winks” evades them, night after night.

I had no idea it was so difficult for folks to fall asleep and assumed that if anyone was lying in bed for nine hours, they must be sleeping for that length of time. I was very surprised to learn that a lot of them actually slept for a fraction of that period, spending the rest of the span waiting for slumber.

Last month, one couple, who were poor sleepers, came to visit me and I discovered brand new methods of sleep enhancement. Coffee or tea after six in the evening was avoided because these were stimulants that apparently interfered with the nervous system and kept them awake. Ditto for alcoholic drinks and spicy food. The air conditioner in the bedroom had to be neither too hot nor too cold and each person had brought along their own set of feather pillows that they unpacked from their suitcases. Cashmere socks and eye masks were individually carried also and in the evening, the minute the clock struck ten, they decided to turn in. To interfere with their bedtime was sacrilegious and I was requested to walk softly outside their room so that my footsteps would not disturb them. 

They worked very hard in the city, they told me. They needed to correct their sleep deprivation and recharge their batteries, they said. They would wake up on their own the next morning, they insisted. I must not worry about their sleep cycle, they assured me. 

I related the story of one Seth Roberts, who worked in a sleep clinic since he suffered from terrible insomnia. He discovered that the days he was out and about, meeting people, teaching class, and so on, he slept very well but when he was home alone on the computer, he slept badly. He attributed this to our biology and the fact that when we lived in tribes there was a lot of social interaction, which induced good sleep.

They heard me out politely before wishing me a firm goodnight.

“Good morning,” I called out the next day.

“Did you sleep well?” I asked. 

“Nah,” they muttered.

“Tossed and turned,” the woman said.

“Counted sheep,” the man stated.

“You had coffee after dinner,” the woman observed.

“Did you wait too?” the man questioned.

“For slumber?” the woman added.

“Nope!” I answered.

“In my case,” I confided.

“Slumber waits for me,” I laughed.

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Comments

In this age of achievers, sleep too has become a structured activity to excel in. The wise know that NOT doing things is at times more effective than attempting to do. Sleep happens to be one such, the harder one tries, this tantalising damsel that much harder to get.

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