In Praise of Sleeping on the Couch

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It’s a telltale sign of denial, as far as sleep experts are concerned. To sleep anywhere but the bed is to avoid facing up to your real problem with sleep: namely, the fact that your bed has become Enemy Number One. The frustration of going to bed and being unable to sleep has become associated with the bed itself, so that merely setting foot in the bedroom can make you anxious. Just thinking about B-E-D makes your stomach clench.

Hence, the cowardly retreat to sleeping on the couch.

Well, OK. Most of us would rather sleep in our beds, and if the bed triggers negative associations, there are treatments you can undergo to relieve the situation and they’re worth checking out.

But sleeping on the couch isn’t always a sign of denial. Some insomniacs are light sleepers prone to high-frequency brain activity even during the deeper stages of sleep, or so the experts say. We pick up on information in the environment that normal sleepers readily tune out. The problem may be that there are disturbances in the bedroom itself.

  • Snoring husband? Now, which is the more rational approach to sleep, arguing with an unresponsive husband (“Turn over, you’re snoring.” “Was not.” Were too.” “My head’s already under the pillow.” “Is not.” “Is too.”) or tiptoeing out of the bedroom and into the arms of a nice mute couch?
  • Thrashing wife? Same thing. She may be fighting tigers in her dreams, but are you going to stick around to discuss the fact that she may be the one with sleep problem and shouldn’t she finally go in for that sleep study after all? No way. Head for the couch.
  • You wake up roasting in the sheets? It’s time to take a leaf out of Ben Franklin’s book. Franklin knew heat could sabotage sleep and had a second bed to go to when the first got too warm. Why toss and turn amid sweaty sheets when you can stretch out on a nice cool couch?
  • Moonlight awakens you at 2 a.m.? Is it your fault that your partner leaves the blinds open so he can awaken to sunlight and an alarm clock chanting, “’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe?” No, señor! The simple way to solve this problem is to head to the couch in the den.

A couch with all the right accouterments can be a godsend for insomniacs in a pinch. Do not underestimate us, sleep experts. Sometimes we’re smarter than you think.