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I can't sleep without ________

Rachael O. Phillips

You’ve already filled in the blank, haven’t you?

Whether newborn or nonagenarian, we humans believe certain conditions must be met before we can journey to Slumberland.

My grandchildren often remind me of these highly personalized bedtime needs.

For example, babies require swaddling. This is a no-brainer for experienced caregivers, right?

Um, no.

Regardless of how many demonstrations my patient children and their polite but incredulous spouses do, Grandma’s triangles resemble trapezoids. I wrap too tightly, too loosely, with sleep-killing wrinkles.

My grandchildren also require “loveys” before “Waaaaaaa!” turns to z-z-z. My grandson favored the fuzzy green giraffe I gave him, which warmed my grandma heart. One weekend, however, his parents forgot it. In desperation, I sought out and bought an identical giraffe, except it was yellow. A baby wouldn’t know the difference, right?


How I wished that like another toddler with nighttime “lovey” issues, he had bonded with an orange.

Positioning also is important. I read of another toddler who rejected his crib. Instead, he slept atop his nightstand.

I get that. My daughter often napped under my rocking chair.

Sometimes routine matters most. One grandson demanded we sing the ABC song, “Jesus Loves Me,” and “Jingle Bells” every night. In that order. Always. Otherwise, I would cause a monumental tear in his universe.

Another slept better if every bedtime was preceded by a lung-busting, lumbar-challenging dance with a weary adult.

When our little devils finally settle into angel mode, eyes closed and breathing peacefully, we’re ashamed that we considered a bedtime exorcism.

Most adults, though, try to exorcise their own insomnia demons.

Of course, we’ve outgrown silly childhood rituals.


If that were true, we wouldn’t check locks three times before retiring. Fiddle with the thermostat. Line up our slippers.

If that were true, the bed-linen industry would have gone bankrupt; instead, they’re making millions. We each need 26 pillows, placed just so. Also, our aptly named comforters. While few sleep with green giraffes, we must snuggle under favorite blankies.

Some, to their spouses’ dismay, must be swaddled or, more accurately, burrito-ed. Others substitute weighted blankets, gravity blankets and sensory compression blankets to achieve that huggy feeling.

Rather than cultivating sleep, those names scare mine away. The thought of a gravity blanket sends my novel-writing mind zooming off on flying carpets or spaceships. A sensory compression bed sheet sounds like I’m sleeping in a hamburger press. As for a weighted blanket – I often throw off covers during the night. Smacking Hubby with a thirty-pound blanket might not help him sleep. Just sayin’.

Some adults need visual/auditory stimulation on or off: laptops, tablets, TVs, phones. I would rather our devices sleep elsewhere so buzzes and squeaks don’t keep me awake.

A ceiling fan’s hum doesn’t bother me, though, as I like a breeze at night. Please note: No matter what Hubby says, I do not turn this “hurricane” up to category four.

When I remind him of our pre-ceiling fan past, he tolerates it. One hot night years ago, the breeze blowing through our sole bedroom window – directly over our heads – missed me entirely. So I reversed my position. A gentle zephyr cooled me ... z-z-z.

When Hubby turned to kiss me good morning, instead of my face, he encountered my feet.

Even superior sleeping habits don’t guarantee a peaceful night. Unlike babies, who rarely lie awake worrying about world peace, we adults embrace sleep-bashing topics the minute our heads hit the pillows. I’ve certainly experienced that state, when counting sheep only made me worry about their welfare. Warm baths, listening to sea sounds, sleeping with an orange – nothing worked.

Even my prayers morphed into worries.

One night, I recognized an antidote. I played an alphabet game I learned in a childhood Bible school. Beginning with the letter A, I thought of God’s names and/or attributes that started with A, such as Almighty and amazing. Then, B: blessed and beautiful. Then C, and so on.

Before I reached G, I fell sound asleep.

Since then, I’ve prayed alphabet prayers many times.

Occasionally, my insomnia stretches from A to Z. Eventually, though, I doze off, knowing Someone bigger and better than I can manage the world.

And oranges stay in the fridge, where they belong.