Bedtime Stories

Bedtime Stories

I’ve always dreaded sleep. As a child, I’d read with a flashlight under my blanket convinced that turning in meant missing out on fun. I tried to train myself to sleep with my forearm upright, my head propped on my palm, so that if my parents walked by my room, they’d see that I never slept and therefore didn’t need a bedtime. FYI: My favorite TV show, was ‘The Late, Late, Late, Late Show.”

My obsession with sleep began when I became a nurse and started working the night shift—7A to 7P. I had to learn how to trick myself into sleeping during the day. My bedroom had blackout shades, white noise, electrical tape covering LED’s, and two noisy fans. I’d stuff small pieces of a cotton ball into each ear, looking like the Bug Out Bob toy. These tricks never left me—even after I switched to dayshift.

Nowadays, I request my significant other to sing me to sleep with ‘Soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur. Happy kitty, sleepy kitty. Purr, purr, purr.’

I know all the modern remedies for sleepless nights beginning with setting your thermostat at sixty-eight, placing magnets under the pillow, to waking up your partner (jealousy when you hear them snoring and you’re wide awake).

I recently read an article about ancient Romans smearing mouse fat onto the soles of their feet and Dickens’ belief to position oneself in the precise center of a bed that faced north. A Canadian medical journal recommended hemlock–something you’d only try once.

A bedtime-challenged friend used a ‘Glo to Sleep’ mask for a week but confessed that her experiments might be flawed since she also dipped into her calcium, mag, and zinc pills, magnolia bark, chamomile tea, a squirt of extra-strength Benadryl, and Dr. Teal’s Epsom Salts soaking solution which makes me wonder if her problem with sleep was that she had no time for it.

Last year I invested in a ComforPedic mattress, and bought four down pillows, placing them strategically under and around my head. Add to that high thread-count cotton sheets and a mattress protector made from ‘climate-control fabric.’

But before you go out and spend huge sums of money trying to get your eight to ten hours of sleep a night, think about this. Although too little sleep can be deadly, too much of it can be equally dangerous. A recent study suggests that someone who sleeps more than eight or nine hours has a thirty per cent higher mortality rate than the person who sleeps seven hours. You don’t know what to believe these days.

I know you readers are thinking about your own sleep deprivation. Although it’s not my place to call anyone a liar, I have to ask, “Are you sure you were awake all night?” There’s data to show that self-professed poor sleepers often overestimate the extent of nighttime wakefulness. But never fear, there’s a way around that. You can now wear your wrist Sleep Tracker, a chunky gizmo that cost a couple hundred bucks and looks like something Dick Tracy might wear. It calculates calories burned, sweat levels, and restlessness (including bathroom visits). I don’t know about you, but for me, just having a clunky object on my wrist would keep me up all night.

I’d like to close with my latest working solution for a peaceful sleep and the best thing about it is it’s free. Roll over on your side (make sure your back is facing your bedmate) and ask your partner to take his or her forefinger and gently move it vertically up and down the length of your neck. It’s a type of pain free acupressure that works. The only problem is, he or she, has to stay awake to perform this maneuver. My cure for that is each time he begins to fall asleep and his finger quits moving, I jerk my neck just enough to wake him out of his stupor so that he can continue for a full five minutes. It might keep your partner awake, but it’s worth it. I guarantee you’ll sleep like a rock.

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About TRatner

Terry Ratner is a freelance writer, registered nurse, and writing instructor in Phoenix, Arizona. In June of 2004, she graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction from Antioch University, Los Angeles. Writing has always served a purpose in her life, but it wasn't until her son died in a motorcycle accident in March, 1999, that she began to publish her works. What's unique about Terry is the way she balances the life of a nurse with the life of a writer. "Nursing allows me to give back to the community and then write about those experiences." Ratner teaches creative writing in a variety of settings from community colleges to a school for homeless children (Thomas J. Pappas) to wellness communities throughout the Valley of the Sun. In 2004, Terry launched an Arts and Healing program for children undergoing dialysis at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. She has published numerous personal essays, cover stories, interviews, and book reviews for a variety of national and regional publications. Her manuscript, a work in progress, features a series of twelve essays, ten of which are introduced with black and white photos, dealing with issues of family and identity.
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