Al Batt: Better not operate heavy machinery while reading this

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

I hurt my ankle while I was sleeping.

I’d fallen asleep while reading a book titled, “How to Get by on Less Sleep” and dreamed about finding a cure for hiccups. Don’t hold your breath — I didn’t find one.

Al Batt

I was staying in a hotel room all by my lonesome. The hotel, failing to check my references, had allowed me on the bed.

As I stumbled out of that bed, intending to yell, “I feel great!” I whimpered first and limped second. I had turned, twisted or tweaked an ankle in my sleep. Maybe I’d suffered all three injuries. I don’t think that’s easy to do. I reckon it takes an accomplished athlete to perform such a feat.

I hope you’re not operating heavy machinery as you read this. I’m writing about sleeping. I’m not a consistently good sleeper nor an ambitious or skilled dozer, but I’m trying to exceed myself in that area. Sleeping Beauty was a beautiful sleeper. Rip Van Winkle was a world-class sleeper. He slept for 20 years. I wonder how many times he hit the snooze button? My brother could sleep standing up. A mallard can let half its brain sleep while keeping the other half awake. My goal is to sleep like a duck.

Maybe I struggle because I sleep on the wrong side of the bed? When given counseling from the pastor before we entered wedded bliss, my wife and I weren’t told how important it is which side of the bed you choose, because you’re stuck with that side for the rest of your life.

I have a neighbor who gets up as early as he did when he milked cows every morning. He gets up early so he can take a longer nap sooner. My father took a nap right after his noon meal. He’d sleep for 20 minutes with sleep coming the instant his head hit the pillow. He’d awake feeling well-rested and go back to work. I tried that. I don’t just toss and turn. Sometimes I turn and toss. I have even tossed and tossed. It took me 19 1/2 minutes to fall asleep before I woke up 1/2 minute later on a drool-soaked pillow, feeling anything but well-rested. I strongly prefer a cool pillow over a drool-soaked one.

I worked nights and went to school during the day when I was a novice on the sea of matrimony. I tried to catch a few hours of slumber in the afternoon, but the world conspired against me. The high school marching band practiced in front of our house. Sweet dreams aren’t made of that. The instructor instructed them, because that’s what instructors do, until they got it right or at least less wrong. They used to practice near a cemetery, but their loudness woke the dead, so they moved to my address. Sleep was impossible for me. So was thought. My wife can sleep through marching bands. An owl hoot, a bass-boosted Bronco driving on a nearby road or a lady beetle walking on the kitchen ceiling wake me.

I’ve reached the point in life where there’s little hope for improvement. I aspire to small victories like becoming more rested. I’ve never used sleeping pills, eyeshades or earplugs, and I’m not good at taking pills. My wife sneaks vitamins into my hamburgers, but I’m able to chew and swallow the meat before spitting out the pills. Eyeshades worry me. I fear navigational failure. I’m afraid I’d jump out of bed in the morning and run smack dab into a wall. And I don’t like the sound of earplugs. Work and school are the primary sleep aids for much of our population. “He’s a good sleeper,” said no high school teacher, college professor or boss ever.

Sleep when you’re tired and don’t sleep when you’re not tired. That’s a great idea, but it doesn’t work. I’m perpetually sleep-deprived. I’ve learned the bags under my eyes are the only bags that always fly free on airplanes. 

If you need a sleep strategy, my advice is to try not to injure an ankle while you’re sleeping.

Just think, tomorrow, when you wake up, it will be today.

Sleep on that.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.