The Quest for the Perfect Night’s Sleep

princessOkay, I will admit it.  I am ridiculously particular when it comes to my bed.  In an earlier post I talked about making my bed, and I can tell you that nothing has changed about my obsession with an unwrinkled surface on which to lay my head at the end of a hard day. 

Except I think the obsession is worse than ever.

It started a little over a year ago after I received a tax refund.  I don’t easily spend large sums of money.  I prefer to let it slip through my fingers in small insignificant sums that are hard to track and end up in the age-old question, “Jeeze…Where did all that money go, anyway?”

At any rate, when my refund check arrived, I decided to break tradition and spend the entire wad on a new mattress.  My old one was over fifteen years old, and had a trench several inches deep in the center.  In the morning, I would wake stiff and sore, and spend the next hour stretching and cussing out the matted stuffing that had obviously seen better days.

The weekend after making THE DECISION, my search began.  I surfed the internet, reading reviews, making price comparisons and otherwise schooling myself in the ways of the mattress.  Memory foam sounded the most comfortable, but the reviews said it gets hot. 

“Hot” and “menopausal woman” should never exist in the same room, unless it is a description of the woman and not her temperature, which at my age is more fantasy than reality.

I decided to speak to some real-life sales people someone who knew mattresses like a Ford salesman knows cars, and headed for one of the several mattress stores in town.

 “I’m looking for a new mattress,” I said, after entering the display room.

“Um…sure… try out anything in the store and let me know what you want,” responded the salesman, who was busy sending a text on his smartphone.

I scanned the room, trying to compare the mattresses. They all looked pretty much the same. 

“Thank you for your time,” I called out as I exited. The salesman never looked up from his smartphone.

A few days later, my son and I were in a large department store and I wandered to the mattress department.  Before I had time to read the sale signs, I heard a voice from behind me, “Zat one eeze on sale.”

The speaker was a slender woman with faded blond hair and a strong German accent.  She swayed a bit and leaned against the bed frame.  “Lie down on eet and try eet out,” she coaxed.

I couldn’t tell if she was slurring, or if it was just her accent, but I carefully perched on the edge of the mattress she was pointing to.

Eet is a special combination of memory foam injected with gel that keeps you cool,” she cooed.

She was definitely slurring.

 “Try lying down on eet.”

A bed that keeps you cool.  I thought I heard angels singing the “Halleluia”chorus from Theicomfort mattress Messiah.

I gingerly stretched out on the bed. 

Heaven on steroids.

The slurring woman knew her stuff.  She explained how the mattress was made. She told me about its warranty.  She knew the regular price and the sale price.  She explained that if something were to go wrong with the mattress, I did not need to call the manufacturer because the big department store would make good on the warranty.  She staggered to her desk and I followed, and in a few moments the deal was done.

A few weeks later my bed was delivered by two men who carefully put booties over their shoes before entering my apartment, and every night  since then, I sink into my bed and sigh, “God, I love this bed!  Bless the slurring staggering German lady!” before falling asleep.

But with everything in life, there is a catch.  My favorite sheets are wearing thin.  I thought it would be easy to find new ones.  Little did I know that my specifications were so difficult to meet.

They cannot have deep pockets.  Most new contour sheets are for mattresses that are at least fifteen inches thick.  The slurring lady didn’t mention this when she sold me a mattress that is nine inches thick.  When I put deep pocket sheets on my mattress they do not stay smooth, and to me, sleeping in a wrinkled bed is like sleeping on rocks.  I would never claim to be a princess, but I do suspect that I would feel a pea if one was put under my mattress.

They have to be all cotton percale, 280 thread count.  When I was a child, all my mother’s sheets met these specifications. They lasted forever.  They smelled like fresh air. They felt cool and smooth against my skin.  Apparently, more people have taken to sateen, or Egyptian cotton, or (ugh!) microfiber (what kind of mini fibers is microfiber made of, anyway?)

bedThey have to be white.  When I was a kid we always had white sheets, and I longed for printed sheets like those my friends had on their beds.  But now I know that my mother knew.  White sheets are like fresh snow- cool, serene, smooth.  For me there is nothing that smells better than white sheets dried outside in the cold winter wind.

Alas, such sheets are evasive, and as my search for the perfect sleep continues, and I’m open to suggestions.  In the meantime, I still bless the slurring German lady, because God, I love my bed.


When I was a little girl, I hated going to sleep.  On summer nights I would lie in my bed and listen to the slap of PF Flyers hit the pavement while the older kids in the neighborhood played hide and seek in the shadows of the elm trees on Green Street.  I thought being sent to bed was insulting, and going to sleep a waste of time.  Most of all, I was afraid I’d miss something fun and exciting.

In the morning, I wakened early, the smell of toast and coffee tickling my nose, and crept silently down the stairs so I could surprise my mother and father by bursting into the kitchen with a loud “Boo!”  For years, Boo was a pet name only used by my parents, not shared by my siblings or friends. 

But things have changed.  Nobody calls me Boo anymore.   Although I still follow the scent of freshly brewed coffee in the morning, there are no stairs to creep down, and no parents buttering toast in the kitchen.  And even though I still find life fun and exciting, I cherish my sleep.

As babies, my children would fight sleep, pumping their arms and legs, and struggling to keep their drooping eyes open until at last, they relented.  I loved to hold my sleeping infants in my arms, their relaxed little bodies like rag dolls, their breathing light and even.    I would watch them sleep, their rosebud lips and the blush of their cheeks so delicate, so tender that I would barely stand to put them down.

Each had a unique way to slip into restful peace.  Abby would lay her head across my shoulder and thumb in her mouth, stroke my earlobe as she drifted off to sleep.  Gabe loved to nap in a pack on my back. He would gather the hair at the nape of my neck in his tight fists and rub his face in my hair until the rocking of my steps swung him to the Land of Nod.  Elizabeth could slumber anywhere, as long as she had her green patchwork quilt.  At church, she would snuggle under her beloved “nigh-night” and be in deep repose before we got to opening song’s second verse. 

We rarely think about sleep unless it eludes us.  Usually, I drift off within moments of lying down, but lately, worries have occupied my mind and night after night I lay in quiet darkness for hours, eyes open, unable to drift off.  I revisit the problem in my head, playing out different solutions, different responses, different paths, over and over, with no resolution.  Finally, I fall into a restless sleep, waking every couple of hours to change position, flip my pillow and try again to slip into a state of unconsciousness.  I wake feeling worse than when I went to bed, head aching, stomach churning, knowing that it will be seventeen hours before I can again crawl between the cool sheets and sink into my awaiting pillow.  I think of my precious Elizabeth and how many times she dragged her tattered quilt with her on hospital visits. She would wrap the quilt around the hospital pillow, replacing its antiseptic smell with the quilt’s familiarity.  If only I could wrap that quilt around my pillow and hide in its scent.

Friends offered their favorite remedies for insomnia- a cup of warm milk, a glass of wine, a shot of bourbon.  I have tried reading, watching television, praying, and playing Solitaire on the computer until my eyes blur.  Still, once I nestle down under my comforter, it begins again- the same nagging concern, the same unsolved problem, and again I watch the LED display of my alarm clock click from ten to eleven to twelve. 

Last night my thoughts turned again to the memories of my sleeping infants.  What was it that made them relent, to allow sleep to overtake them and carry them silently through the night?  It was trust.  Trust that the strong arms that held them would not let them fall.   Trust that they would be warm and fed and safe.  Trust that tomorrow would come, that after a time, the ebony night would be split open by the pale golden fingers of the sun.  Trust that they were held close by someone who would love them beyond days that could be numbered. 

Could it be that I was lacking trust?  I trust…sort  of.  I give over the problem, but find myself clinging to a corner, just in case.  I know that I need to relent- to let go, but I pump my arms and legs, and thrash against it, much the way my infants fought their naps. 

But that isn’t really trust and I know that I need to release my hold totally and completely.  I realize that it is time to stop fighting, to stop controlling, to stop directing.  It is time to know that the arms that hold me are strong and will not let me fall. That I will be warm and fed and safe, and that this ebony night will someday be split open by the pale golden fingers of the Son.  He will hold me close because He loves us beyond days that can be numbered.

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