Al Batt: Good night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the pillows bite.

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, March 12, 2024

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Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

Part of a human being is a human sleeping.

Al Batt

Sleep is easy. I can do it with my eyes closed. Follow your dreams and fall asleep.

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My brother could sleep standing up. I’m not that good, but I’m a competent sleeper. Most nights, I barely notice the sheets are made of razor wire, but there are those nights when I toss and turn, and turn and toss like a little kid on Christmas Eve. Or I sleep like a presidential candidate — I lie on one side, and then I lie on the other side. When this happens, I try to use some mental math to solve the Goldbach Conjecture, considered one of the most challenging mathematics problems, before realizing I have no idea what the Goldbach Conjecture is.

Do you remember the last time someone said to you, “I’m getting way too much sleep”?

It’s easy to get eight hours of sleep if you have two or three days to do it. We need more of more and less of less. Wilson Mizner said, “The amount of sleep required by the average person is five minutes more.” There is a vast difference between 6 and 6:05 in the morning.

We spend a third of our lives looking at the inside of our eyelids. How important is sleep? There’s a reason every furniture store has a mattress sale every day and twice on Sunday.

My mother was fond of the old saying, “Good night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.” No hotel desk clerk has ever said that to me. A myth says that “sleep tight” relates to the way beds were made before the introduction of spring mattresses. Mattresses were filled with straw and feathers resting on a latticework of ropes, which were tightened regularly to prevent sagging. The myth doesn’t match the timeline of the rhyme’s earliest appearances in text, in which mosquitoes did the biting in some versions. It’s probably nothing more than a jazzy way to wish someone a good night.

Every mother, grandmother and aunt said, “The Sandman is coming.” In 18th-century Germany, this was a popular way to describe someone who looked sleepy because tired persons looked like they’d had sand poured in them. They had vivid imaginations in 18th-century Germany. In Hans Christian Andersen’s 1841 folk tale, Ole Lukoje tiptoed upstairs and lulled children to sleep by sprinkling magic dust in their eyes. He had umbrellas he held over children, one with pictures to bring beautiful dreams and one without pictures, which led to a dreamless sleep.

What to do when sleep eludes you? There are sleep apps, but they don’t sleep for you. Rip van Winkle didn’t use one. Replace the corduroy pajamas with white noise, a specific type of sound that includes all the audible frequencies. Brown noise and pink noise resemble white noise, but people perceive them as deeper sounds. Researchers are uncertain how white noise improves sleep, but a theory is that it masks background noises that can disrupt sleep. Snoring isn’t white noise.

Some people use sleep masks. On my first trip to Alaska, the extended daylight caused me to wear a sleep mask. I’ve no idea where I got it. What I do know is that I jumped out of bed and walked into a wall.

Maybe too many pillows are the answer? I stayed in a bed-and-breakfast where I was given a heaping amount of pillows. I could bury myself in a pile of pillows, sleep in a pillow fort or play king on a pillow mountain and snooze at its summit.

Carry a pillow at all times, and when you feel tired (park your car first), toss it down and go to sleep — even if you’re in the middle of a spirited pickleball match.

A friend told me he’d had a checkup that found no sleep disorders, but he felt tired all the time. He couldn’t get enough sleep. He didn’t know what to do. I rolled out the medical degree I’d received for having the high score in a disreputable pinball game at The Vomitorium and told him he should go to bed right after he got up in the morning.

I’ll send him my bill.

Al Batt’s column appears in the Tribune every Wednesday.