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Couch Sleep

I’ve done a lot of sleeping on couches in my time. It’s affected some of the relationships I’ve been in, as some people take it as a personal affront. But the truth is I’m equally likely to sleep on the couch, or get up from the bed to go sleep on the couch, when I’m alone. Someone once put it to me as “getting away from yourself on the couch,” which stuck with me long enough to suggest it wasn’t entirely inaccurate. But sometimes it’s just a choice and where I sleep the whole night through.

A couch can possess a particular lure lacking in a bed. Strictly speaking, it’s intended for leisurely and communal sitting. When one associates sleep with a couch, it’s typically in the form of a nap. This idea of “getting away with something” can make it seem more enticing and likely to seduce one into greedy slumber. (Which, coincidentally, was the name of my high school band.) The other unconventional but accepted context for couch sleep is that of a marital dispute. In either case, it isn’t where “proper sleep” is supposed to take place. This distinction is reserved for one’s bed, and as such comes with the pressure to perform as soon as one turns down the sheets. This might be why, when I do sleep on the bed, it’s more often on top of the comforter with another comforter over me.

All of this relates to the psychology of sleep, which, if you’re fortunate, you’ve never had to consider. My father has been sleep-challenged for most of his post adolescent life, and there is definitely a genetic component involved. As a younger man he could often be found in the morning curled under a blanket on the living room floor, having given half a dozen other spots a try. Back then he attributed most of his sleeping woes to worries about work, but the truth is that it’s the mind set and not the circumstance that leads to problems. Although his sleeping woes have abated to some extent in retirement, he’s just as likely to lose sleep these days over a ten a.m. tee time. Don’t let anyone tell you that golf is relaxing.

Being a sympathizer and disproportionately huge fan of genetic theory, my dad urged me to consult a sleep clinic some years back. I put it off for a while but eventually submitted and forked over $250 for a consultation from one of the few accredited facilities in San Francisco. After some tests and extensive interviewing the physician informed me that my problems were not physiological and were best addressed by consulting a therapist. Fortunately, I’d had some experience with this as well – enough to know that it was a lot like consulting a sleep expert, except every week and for the rest of your life. So I went home and resolved to deal with my problem as  I always had, which has worked with varying degrees of success to the present. While I’ve often envied those who are able to switch over to sleep in an instant, some of these folks also tend to speak hauntingly and even scream in their sleep, thrashing and kicking at unseen demons. Given the choice, I prefer to do my demon kicking while awake. As Willie Nelson once pointed out, “nobody slides, my friend.” (2/28/08)

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