Many Thais have this uncanny ability to sleep anywhere and at anytime. On piles of rocks in the middle of a construction site. On a straw mat over a bundle of bamboo poles under a tree. Between loud speakers at a party. Or on a motorbike perfectly balanced and relaxed despite the tilt of the bike on its kickstand or the narrowness of the seat.
My mom can fall asleep easily and effortlessly, but I’m too American, too soft. Or maybe Americanness has nothing to do with it, maybe it skips a generation. In any case, my inability to sleep is the reason why I believe I’m a princess — you know, like in The Princess and the Pea.
If you are not familiar with fairy tales (you sinner), allow me to quickly explain. There once was a prince who was looking for a princess, but none the ladies were true princesses. Then along came a young woman who got caught in the rain and needed a place to rest. She claimed to be princess, but the prince’s mother decided to “test” her by placing a pea under 20 down mattresses. Only a true princess would be sensitive enough to feel it. And lo and behold, she endured a sleepless night.
When I was around nine years old, I was convinced I had been adopted, that my real parents were a Chinese king or queen, and that any day now this grave mix up would be cleared. Well, decades later, I can tell you that the case of the parents grabbing the wrong baby was never resolved. So after suffering hours upon days upon months upon years of bad sleep, allow me to prove to you why I am of royal blood.
First of all, I hold a vast collection of dreams starting from childhood, but this is not because I have a great memory, it’s because I get up frequently during the night. This might have something to do with the “logs I saw” in bed. My family claimed that my bedroom walls breathed! But I assured them that the walls were solid, and I possessed no magic of that kind.
As a result, you could argue that I’ve been made into a sensitive sleeper through conditioning, or that I have that sexiest of issues, sleep apnea, but I also know that sometimes I don’t snore like an angry goddess striking her subjects down. Sometimes my husband or friend says, “I didn’t hear you at all” or “you didn’t snore”.
My mom and husband can effortlessly fall asleep in a car, a plane, or at the hotel. They’ve been enchanted with the gift of Zzz’s, nodding off no matter if it’s light out, or if there’s noise, or movement. Sometimes I look over at them with a small smile, glad they are resting, and other times I wake them up out of spite.
As you can imagine, throughout the years, I’ve tried everything I can think of to get good sleep. I’m mindful of what I eat and drink hours before bed. I’m careful about looking at the news or disturbing images from films or shows. I try to eat healthily, exercise, and spend time in bed reading before turning off the light.
I’ve purchased fancy pillows that promise deep sleep and proper neck and back alignment. Some even claim to stop your snoring (!) so I decided to video record how it does just that, and what I’ve learned might shock you.
The pillow will start to fold over itself, like a clam, in an attempt to suffocate or wake you, whatever happens first. You’d think that kind of product would be illegal but it’s made by the people who live with snorers, so it’s not considered a safety hazard, but instead a relationship saver.
Currently, I’m on my third mattress, and it’s only been two years. Yes, I’m renting, so we can probably argue the first mattress needed to be replaced, even though mattresses supposedly last seven or eight years, and this apartment is not that old.
My second mattress, I sadly discovered, wasn’t new. The apartment manager thought they could pull one over my eyes. I tried working with it though, too ashamed to say anything. So I rotated it, again and again, like a spinner, even flipping it in utter desperation to see if I could sleep on the bottom.
Then I bought a mattress topper and this helped for a while, but then I started to wake up with a bad back, so I got rid of it.
I wish Thailand had good drugs like Cambodia. I remember when a colleague suggested I take these tiny blue pills to be bought at any pharmacy. He warned me they were highly addictive, so I needed to use them only when I really needed it.
Another colleague suggested alcohol, which for someone who doesn’t drink and is prone to the middle of the night bathroom trips, is a horrible idea. But the pills were fantastic. They’d gently pull you under no matter how much you fought, so soft and seductive, so effective and wonderful, and clean with no side effects. Only later I learned it was Valium, so perhaps it’s for the best that I can’t get them anymore.
And while my third mattress is new, something’s wrong with it. I swear it’s deflating like an air balloon, creating dips and sags, it’s tired of this game of me fighting to get comfortable every night.
Alas, my ever-after involves listening to a leaky faucet during the Poltergeist hours, tossing and turning, overthinking, and willing myself to sopor. My princess-kind is so cursed that it takes an evil fairy to make Sleeping Beauty slumber. Or a poisoned apple to knock Snow White out. But despite my sensitivity, or perhaps because of it, I have my prince, thank you. Now, I just need some sleep.
What’s your relationship with sleep?