Thursday, November 25, 2010

Falling asleep in front of the TV has its own little rituals

Hump Day
by Brian Cormier
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

When I was a kid, I'd make fun of my parents for not being able to stay awake while watching television. Within five minutes of sitting down to watch a show, they would both be out like a light unless it was an exciting hockey game or another favourite show, such as The Carol Burnett Show, Grizzly Adams or Emergency.

Nod off while watching Carol Burnett and you'd have likely been startled awake by a roomful of family members laughing at the latest Tim Conway ad-lib that forced the cast members to break into giggling fits. As for Grizzly Adams, the stories and scenery were usually enough to keep everyone awake, especially when the bear growled. And on Emergency, all those sirens were enough to wake the dead, let alone allow anyone so-inclined to fall asleep in the middle of a show.

Years ago, I could barely make it past 9:30 p.m. I was usually in bed before 10 p.m. These days, staying up past midnight is the norm for me. This makes for some sleepy mornings, especially since my alarm is permanently set for 5:55 a.m., even on weekends. My early-to-bed days are definitely past me. These days, my "early" is 11 p.m. If you would have told me 20 years ago that I'd be staying up until midnight or later every night - especially during the week - I would have slapped you across the face and called you a liar!

Yes, I would have probably actually slapped you. So there!

Lately, I've started a bad habit. Around 11 p.m. or so - especially on weekends - I curl up on my comfortable sofa with some good pillows, blanket and crossword puzzle and get down to the serious business of relaxing. After about half an hour, I put the crossword puzzle down because I'm starting to nod off periodically.

At some point, my rollerball ink pen hits the crossword puzzle page and begins to bleed into the newspaper-like sheet like an oil spill spreading in the ocean. Those crossword puzzle pages are printed on newspaper-like stock, allowing it to soak up the ink from my pen like a vampire who's just dug his teeth into the creamy white skin of a damsel lost in the woods.

Despite my best efforts to stay awake after starting the "nod off ballet" on the sofa, I give up and decide that, "Oh, I'll just watch television for a bit. After all, I have all these shows recorded that I really need to watch." At this point, I should remain sitting up straight and enjoy the coziness of the blanket over me, but no. I, like many others, end up convincing myself that I'll actually put my head down on the pillow "just for a few minutes" - you know, because I have strong willpower, right?

Anyone who regularly falls asleep in front of the television will tell you what happens next. First, you'll either wake up at some point during one of the late-night shows (for me, it's usually Jay Leno's headlines or David Letterman's top 10 list), or you end up sleeping halfway - or most of the way - through the night.

By then, you're just completely messed up. You wake up mad at yourself because you fell asleep on the sofa. "This will never happen again," you tell yourself. "The next time I get tired, I'm simply going to get up off the sofa and head over to that nice comfortable bed of mine! Yes, siree! That's what I'm gonna do!"

After scolding yourself, you have virtually no choice but to head back to bed so as to get some semblance of a good night's sleep, but not before certain bedtime rituals which need to be honoured before crawling beneath the cool covers.

And again, if you're like me, you just won't be able to sleep unless you honour those bedtime rituals that may include one or all of the following: 1) use the bathroom; 2) check the stove to see if you left on a burner; 3) lock the doors (double and triple check, of course); 4) scan for pets to ensure they're all where they're supposed to be at that hour; 5) brush your teeth; 6) do whatever medicating you need to do before bed (if you have a daily medication routine); and finally, 7) get dressed or undressed for bed, whatever your preference is.

As for me, I can skip a few of the routines except using the bathroom and checking the doors. I'm obsessed with checking to see if the doors are locked before I go to bed. If someone manages to break in, it sure as heck won't be because the doors weren't locked, let me tell you. They'll have to cut a hole through the wall.

As I write this column, my eyes are closing and I'm starting to nod off. I really need to go to bed. It's close to 11 p.m. and this is one of those rare nights when I could have gone to bed at 9:30 p.m., like I did years ago.

So, after you've fallen asleep on the sofa only to find yourself awake, confused, angry and with more than a few body parts that have fallen asleep as a punishment for sleeping all askew, you do whichever bedtime rituals you can handle doing with your eyes half closed and finally head to bed. You get under the covers, check to see if the alarm is on, and then check the volume on the radio to make sure if will wake you up when the morning comes.

Another night of peaceful sleep is finally on the horizon as you've finally made it into your own bed after a slight detour to the sofa. You close your eyes and try to drift off, only to find yourself - you guessed it! - wide awake. And that's when you start up your newest bedtime ritual, crying yourself to sleep.

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