Bedtime Stories

I tend to be tired almost all of the time. As soon as I wake up, I am already longing for the moment I can crawl back into bed at the end of the day and curl up under the covers. Inevitably though, when that moment comes, my brain decides it’s the perfect time to go wild and bring up memories and thoughts at the pace of a cheetah in hot pursuit. Often they are thoughts and memories I am really not keen to go through and so I lie there, awake, forever. On the other hand, Jeremy’s superpower is sleep. Almost as soon as the light goes out, he’s happily away on the boat to dreamland. It can be just a bit frustrating.

Before we lived together, I would often put on TV shows or movies and fall asleep to them. It’s not really possible though when you have another human in the same room who is trying to sleep. It’s also not the best solution. The light from a laptop can actually make it more difficult to fall asleep. On the nights where I was particularly struggling, I asked Jeremy if he wouldn’t mind if I put the laptop on. I hid it on the floor on my side of the bed and eventually after a few hours, I finally drifted off.

Recently, though, I’ve stumbled upon a much better solution. I used to use calm.com to have some relaxing ambient sounds in the background while I worked. Occasionally I’d use the guided meditations. Most of the features are locked behind a paid subscription which is a bit too expensive to my mind. Anyway, at some point, they added a feature called Sleep Stories. Now, I tend toward the skeptical spectrum of thought. I really didn’t think someone speaking in hypnotic tones about the Siberian Express could possible send me off to sleep. But I also tend toward the try-and-see spectrum, so I asked Jeremy if he minded the noise. Luckily he didn’t. I settled in, chose one of the free stories, and pushed play. After about five or ten minutes I was still wide awake. “Nope,” I thought, “this isn’t working. I knew it.”

Then I woke up the next morning. Seriously, I had no memory of falling asleep and I slept through the whole night. I tried it again the next night and the same thing. After ten minutes I really felt like there was no way I would ever get to sleep. And then I woke up the next morning. Clearly a powerful wizard was behind this.

*

Last week, Jeremy and I went to the ADC Theatre here in Cambridge to see a production of the Count of Monte Cristo. Jeremy had read the book years ago and was interested to see how it had been adapted to the stage. It was a fast-paced production. In some respects a bit too fast paced. I found myself a bit lost in places and wondering about secondary characters who didn’t have a lot of stage time. I began asking Jeremy about the book and when we got home he pulled the enormous tome off the shelf. I began to flick through it. The print was tiny and it was over one thousand pages long. I had no desire to embark upon that sort of challenge.

Then an idea struck me. The story had originally been serialised in the Journal des Débats between 1844 and 1846. What if we just read one chapter aloud every night before we went to sleep? With Jeremy’s knack for accents and voices, he became the designated the reader. We’ve only read three chapters so far but there is something lovely about being read to. There is also something lovely about sharing a story with someone else and sharing it as you go, not just sharing it after you’ve both read it separately. It’s almost like you get to help it take shape in each other’s minds.

*

So between my sleep stories and my bedtime story with Jeremy, my sleep routine has become so much better and healthier. I’ve taken to leaving my laptop on the dining room table most nights. I settle in for a bit of the Count (who because of the cover image, I imagine is Steve Coogan), and then I let the Siberian Express take me away or sometimes I listen to my Runner’s World podcasts. In any event, my overactive brain is given a chance to focus on other things until it is lulled to sleep. I still wake up every morning longing for the moment I can crawl back into bed, but it’s less because I’m waking up tired and more because my bedtime routine is genuinely enjoyable.

Steve Coogan as the Count of Monte Cristo

This is the cover of the version we’re reading. It’s totally a picture of Steve Coogan.

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