An Open Letter to Sleep: We Need to Talk
I know we’ve had some ups and downs over the years, and I accept responsibility for my part in it.
Originally published May 20, 2021 by McSWEENEY’S INTERNET TENDENCY
We’ve been together for a while now, and I am tired of doing all the heavy lifting in our relationship. I feel like you’ve been phoning it in. I am not asking for much, just for you to be there at night. And on rare occasions, a long flight.
I know we’ve had some ups and downs over the years, and I accept responsibility for my part in it. I didn’t “get” you at first. I was cranky, a brat. I cried a lot, threw tantrums, refused to go to bed. I didn’t know how important you were. In my defense, I was also teething.
We were solid all through adolescence, sometimes too solid, maybe. Perhaps we became too codependent, seeing each other all night, all morning, and even a little in the early afternoon. But it was a blissful time, except when my dreams took a turn and focused primarily on the male leads of General Hospital and 90210. I know you’d like to forget about that phase. We don’t have to talk about it.
I admit I neglected you during my college years: all that boundless young energy and the novelty of being away from home. We didn’t see each other at all, except for the occasional nap. But I knew you were near, waiting for me to be ready again.
But here we are today in adulthood. This should be our best time together, the time I need you most through staggering work responsibility, chronic stress, relationship issues, yet you stopped showing up for me.
I have given in to all your demands: I no longer consume caffeine. I bought a fancy new memory foam mattress (the one advertised on NPR). I take melatonin (and valerian root, glycine, ginkgo biloba, L-theanine, kava, and tart cherry juice). I grow lavender and make DIY lavender oil to spritz on my face. I sneak into my neighbor’s apartment to take a relaxing bath since I only have a shower.
I downloaded all the meditation apps and rotate through them nightly while doing breathing exercises and counting backward. I eliminated blue light from all my screens. I even banished the color blue from my life, except for the sky, but I try not to look up much.
I know routine is important to you. I go to bed at the same time every night, even if I have company. I tell them to enjoy themselves, there’s vodka in the freezer, and I go to bed because that’s what we agreed on.
I rub magnesium oil on the soles of my feet and leave a slimy trail on my way to the bathroom. I keep my bedroom cool. So cool that my dog has to wear her coat to sleep in it. And dark. So dark that I step on my dog every time I get up.
I use a blanket that’s weighted, very weighted. To get up, I have to shimmy my way out sideways and roll onto the floor. I do all of this for you and I wait. And wait. But you don’t show up. And when you do, you’re always late and you never stay. Is there an emergency slumber party somewhere? Is it someone else?
I told you I could be flexible. I’m willing to have an open relationship with you. I don’t mind if you start seeing other people. In another time zone, like New Zealand or the Marshall Islands. But you have to be there for me. At least five nights a week.
Sleep, this is not an ultimatum. I would never do that. But you should know that if you’re not there for me tonight, I’m pulling out the big guns. I’ve invited Ambien and Lunesta over, and you know they always show up with their Side Effects.
I hope you make the right decision. Either way, I’ll see you tonight.
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