Helen Chappell - March 2009

The Simple Pleasure of Sleeping In Your Own Bed


Helen Chappell


   Hard times are upon most of us, and we’re guzzling the coffee from home instead of $4 lattes, and shopping for the store brands instead of going out to eat that $17 sandwich. There’s nothing in the budget for that trip to Cancun, and in fact, you’ll feel lucky if you can get a weekend in Ocean City this summer. That thousand-dollar sweater? You’re wearing clothes from ten years ago, which makes you glad your mother told you the classics never go out of style.
    The more baroque pleasures we once indulged in are as far from our reach these days as the keys to a new car, and we’re all hurting to various degrees, up to and including a Ph.D.
    The new, not so genteel poverty is the trend of the moment. If this is a dog eat dog world, most of us are wearing bacon pants. Better treat that gas-guzzling SUV nicely. When they foreclose on your waterfront estate, you might be living in it, next to me in my ’97 Corolla, down at the ferry slip.
    Even the toughest of times can’t rob us of simple pleasures. Things we may have taken for granted in more fat times can become oddly comforting, like the chicken noodle soup your mother used to make when you were sick, or that favorite book or film you can always turn to when you need to escape into something both familiar and entertaining.
    For me, one of the great simple pleasures is the joy of sleeping in my own bed. Having just finished the Let’s Go Places and See Things Whether We Want To or Not Tour, I can tell you that after a spell of crashing on other people’s couches, futons or guest rooms, there is nothing quite so wonderful as to slide between the sheets and find the places where your Comfort Pillow Top Mattress had molded itself to your sleeping, reading and TV watching positions. Not to mention all six of the pillows I indulge in. It’s my own bed, and it welcomes me home like the prodigal daughter.
    Your own bed does not have a hard metal bar that cuts you across the kidneys, the way other people’s fold-out couches do. Your own bed is not a thinly sheeted corduroy road, the way certain hospital beds are. Your own bed doesn’t have strange people’s rises and dips and lumps already impressed into it.
    Your own bed, or the mattress at least, was manufactured after the Nixon administration. Strange dogs do not growl at you for sleeping in what they have come to believe is their personal bed. The cat you wake up with is the cat you know, not some huge unmoving lump who has moved in on you in the middle of the night and decided your head is the place it wants to snooze.
    Your own bed does not swallow you in a deep valley in the middle of the night and attempt to smother you. Your own bed is not as hard as a plank, or the wooden bunk in a workboat. You never have the feeling that Count Dracula spends his daylight hours sleeping in your bed.
    The truth is, I don’t sleep well in strange beds. There’s always a lot of tossing and turning and burrowing-in to be done, and it’s just exhausting. By the time you finally fall off to sleep, through sheer exhaustion, it’s time to get up again.
    And speaking of getting up again, at least when you’re home, you know where the bathroom is in the middle of the night, and you can find it when you’re still asleep. In a strange place, you’re liable to open a door and either fall down the basement stairs or try to find the potty in someone’s coat closet before you wake up and realize where you are – before it’s too late. If you are a certain age, you will know exactly what I’m talking about. If you’re not a certain age, you will know one of these days.
    Of all the simple (read - cheap) pleasures, coming home to your own bed has to be one of the best.
    The mattress industry says you should buy a new mattress every five years. Good luck with that. Unfortunately, by the time you get it broken in, it’s time to go out and buy a new one, like maybe every 10 years or so.
    Your relationship with your mattress is probably one of the most important ones in your life – especially if you happen to enjoy doing as much as you can from your bed. This is apparently a huge no-no, according to sleep specialists. If you’re having trouble sleeping, you should only use your bed for sleep (and love, one assumes, although no one said that and we’re not going there in a family-friendly publication).
    I also enjoy using my bed to nap, read, watch TV, write, do e-mail and Internet and eat midnight snacks. I also use it to sit on while I brush the cat, talk on the phone and lie there contemplating the sheer awfulness of having to face another day.
    My own bed is a sort of all-purpose piece of furniture. Maybe it’s because the bedroom is the warmest place in winter and the coolest in summer.
    It’s also a great place to watch Turner Movie Classics. The soothing drone of some 1942 B-mystery movie can lull me into dreamland better than a bottle of Ambien.
    When you sleep in other people’s beds, often the hosts don’t provide a TV in the guest room, so you end up reading yourself to sleep. This isn’t a bad thing, except I often end up waking up, face down in a open book, with the lights still on.
    It’s so much easier to do this in the privacy of my own home, in my own bed, where only I know what a fool I am, and no one else can hear the low rumble of whatever comes on TV after I’ve fallen asleep during the first fifteen minutes of Letterman.
    Of all the simple pleasures, your own bed is probably the best. It costs nothing, there’s an enormous pleasure to be had from sliding between your own freshly washed sheets, and best of all, after a long trip away, nothing else quite says welcome home.