Scary stories from a lovely place
For two years now I’ve been sharing a bed with a sleep talker. I’ve been known to walk in my sleep, (my best was out of a hotel room door), mumble and grind my teeth. But Stephen talks, he’ll only say a couple of sentences, but they are in English and they are audible. I noticed it a lot when we first got married, I guess because it was a new experience sleeping centimetres away from this nonsense. Lately though the sleep talking has made a resurgence and I blame Stephen’s avid reading of a motorcycle adventure book called ‘Mondo Enduro’. Stephen has to make sure he doesn’t read it just before he closes his eyes or he will have wild dreams all night, of which I bear the brunt.
These are the coping mechanisms I’ve learned over the last two years.
1. Don’t take it personally
Soon after we were married we had the cliched discussion about who is a bed hog, who rolls into the middle and who steals the sheets (all Stephen). Such a scene has surely been repeated in many newly christened nuptial beds and you can imagine how sickly sweet it is. Anyway, we still have the debate and it’s not so sweet anymore. But soon after we were married my softly spoken, mild mannered, gentle husband sat up in bed, turned to face me, leaned forward on his fists and said in a voice befitting a demon “that’s your side”. I was still new to the whole living with a sleep talker thing so it took me a few moments to realise the deranged look in his eyes did not belong to a conscious husband. A sleep talker could say anything at night, and so it’s good not to take it personally. Though I don’t know what I would do if it were a revealing confession.
2. Don’t take it literally
Along with not taking things personally, it is important not to take everything the sleep talker says literally. Stephen has had quite a few motorbike related dreams and wakes up in a fit of excitement. This is usually preceded by an almighty gasp of fear. If we lived in some peaceful, seaside town in Australia such a gasp wouldn’t worry me. But living in Joburg where night time crime is a very real event, it’s not a nice way to be woken.
3. And don’t panic
Similarly, it’s important not to panic. The other morning I told Stephen that the alarm had gone off. Despite my recent post on Silas’ almost sleeping through the night efforts, this week he’s been waking at 3 and 4am ready for the day. So when the alarm goes off at 0530 to get up, we need to be forgiven for being pretty tired. Stephen’s response to my prompting was “the car alarm?” Another time I moved the curtain to look out the window and the talker said “is there someone out there?” Again, not literal, no need to panic.
4. Don’t try and understand
The other night Stephen kept sitting up and saying in a loud voice “that bag, that bag, that one, that bag”. I was feeling less than compassionate because I was worried he would wake Silas. I just shooshed him in an equally loud voice. Sleep talkers are communicating from a bizarre state of unconscious semi-consciousness. Who knows what’s going on inside their bleary heads.
5. Enjoy it
Finally, appreciate any kind sentiments that may come through the fog. Stephen has sat up in the middle of the night and offered to pray for me. I think what’s happened in his sleep addled brain is he panics that he has dropped off in the middle of our night-time prayers, feels guilty, and tries to rectify the situation. So don’t take most of it seriously, but if by some chance your sleep talker expresses kindness, accept it.