Illustrated by Edmund Dulac (1882-1953)

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 Iโ€™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 Iโ€™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 princeโ€™s mother decided to โ€œtestโ€ 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.

Illustrated by Janet & Anne Grahame Johnstone, twins, (1928-1979/1998)

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.

Illustrated by Anton Lomaev

As a result, you could argue that Iโ€™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 donโ€™t snore like an angry goddess striking her subjects down. Sometimes my husband or friend says, โ€œI didnโ€™t hear you at allโ€ or โ€œyou didnโ€™t snoreโ€.

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 itโ€™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, Iโ€™ve tried everything I can think of to get good sleep. Iโ€™m mindful of what I eat and drink hours before bed. Iโ€™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.

Iโ€™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 Iโ€™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. Youโ€™d think that kind of product would be illegal but itโ€™s made by the people who live with snorers, so itโ€™s not considered a safety hazard, but instead a relationship saver.

illustrated by Christian Birmingham

Currently, Iโ€™m on my third mattress, and itโ€™s only been two years. Yes, Iโ€™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, wasnโ€™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 doesnโ€™t drink and is prone to the middle of the night bathroom trips, is a horrible idea. But the pills were fantastic. Theyโ€™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 itโ€™s for the best that I canโ€™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?

41 replies on “๐Ÿ‘ธ๐ŸฝWhy I’m a princess: an essay about sleep

  1. Oh man Lani, that’s awful! I’m so sorry you’ve been plagued with bad sleep (or, lack of sleep) all these years. It’s truly the worst. Has anything been a big help to you other than the blue pills? Have you tried melatonin?

    For most of my life I was like your mom and husband, but in recent years I have become a very sensitive sleeper. It’s so hard for me to sleep in hot places with a lot of light… I need to dig myself a sleep cave. I found that I slept really well in Portland with all the cool weather, rain, and dark weather.

    Hope you can get some good zzzs!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think I can easily get melatonin. Vitamins are this weird expensive and challenging thing to get in Asia, it seems. Now, herbs on the other hand are alright.

      We have an online Amazon-like site called Lazada that I probably can find it on, it’s a good idea. I forgot about it but I remember when I was in my 20s and I was with my mentor and he had to pick some of it up. He told me that sleep gets harder as you get older!

      Yeah, cooler weather like in PDX could be helpful, esp during all that overcast weather too. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Enjoyed reading this post so much, Lani! I love the fairy-tale, the confessional, the ponderings about culture and upbringing.

    I used to be able to sleep anywhere, anytime. Sadly, this is no longer true. I would love to have more sleep at night, but it is often a struggle. I have been told this is a common challenge among menopausal women (you are a long time away from this ill) so I just keep telling myself this will pass soon enough.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Ju-Lyn ๐Ÿ™‚

      And double thanks in believing I’m far from menopause. Ha, I wish! I recently saw a post from my high school friends complaining about the pre- symptoms and did anyone know of any relief?

      But your comment makes me wonder if the onset of menopause is exacerbating the problem!


      1. I never thought much about it, but one day found myself right smack in the middle of it! And it was such a relief to find out that many weird symptoms I was experiencing are not necessarily permanent (like forgetfulness to the point of amnesia, temperature control, sleep issues).

        I try not fixate too much lest it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – but in retrospect, maybe a little more awareness & information may have helped.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I can sympathize! By the sound of it, I’m less of a delicate sleeper than you are, but still, it takes me a while to fall asleep, and I can only do it in a proper bed. My husband, as a good Chinese, can even sleep while standing on his feet. I really wish I had this superpower! The worst part is that my son seems to have inherited my sleep trouble (children always manage to get the bad things from both sides) and it takes him 30-40 minutes to fall asleep at night, which drives me totally crazy because I have to be with him during that time, every day, and then slip away veeeery carefully when he is finally sleeping.

    And to think I will only sleep worse when I’m older… Sigh!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’ve heard it gets worse, but then I’ve also heard these crazy stories of needing less sleep as you get older. I can’t imagine. That would be nice!

      I’m really hoping in the future, I’ll be in a situation (a bed) that will solve all my sleep problems. Is that unrealistic? ๐Ÿ˜›

      Sending you sandman sleepytime wishes to you both! xo


  4. Oof! My sleep is as riddled with issues and anxiety as yours is – and with the grief, it’s only been compounded. We have tried weighted blankets, melatonins, new medicines, removing medicines, meditations…lots of different things…the thing that seems to work to at least get me to sleep is a suggestion from two dear friends: a baby sleep sound machine that plays sounds to soothe a baby to sleep! Sounds silly, but it works like a charm! Doesn’t always keep me asleep but I put it on and dab a tiny spot of “sleepy cream” (a concoction of lavender and chamomille that if nothing else is just very soothing) onto my nose and drift off…at least for a few hours.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey Tara! It’s good to see you again ๐Ÿ™‚

      But I’m sorry to hear that there’s another sleep sufferer! Funny that you mention the music. I’m a big fan of listening to soothing sounds when I’m at the PC and before sleep I play those videos, too. There are so many on YT and they even have black screens.

      When we were at a noisy hotel we played rain sounds on our phone and that helped.

      But yeah, I definitely try to ‘create a mood’ and I know what you mean about getting a few hours in, the frustrating part is not being able to sleep continuously.


  5. Lani, you have my greatest sympathy. Fellow sufferer here. I’ve put on a lot of weight recently so I am pretty sure I do have sleep apnoea, but the thing is people with sleep apnoea can actually fall asleep so I don’t know how mine could be diagnosed if I was up all night. If you find a good technique for getting to and staying asleep, please let me know.
    I feel most rested when I have an overnight blood glucose level of 3.9 mmol. Anything above and I wake but slipping below is dangerous. Not easy for a Type 1 diabetic to achieve. But, since that doesn’t apply to you, have you tried eating more in daylight hours and very sparingly when it is dark?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I”m so sorry to hear that this is a common problem! Food and drink would seem as though it would effect your sleep. In the past, before I changed my diet, I’d wake up the next morning with a food ‘hangover’.

      I have a friend who doesn’t drink after 5pm or sth like that. I should try to be more careful. These days, with lockdown, I feel like food is my comfort, my go-to pleasure during a time when I’m missing other things … I should try to curb my eating again at night. Thanks.

      P.S you let me know if you discover something too!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Sorry to hear about your bad sleep. How about melatonin supplements? And I agree with the fascination over people who can fall asleep on anything. Must be a super power.


  7. I love my sleep, so I was very intrigued to read your post, Lani. So sorry to hear you’ve had bad experiences with sleep. It sounds like you’ve tried almost everything out there to get a restful night. Did not know those clamp pillow things existed. They sound like they could suffocate you lol.

    There was a time in my life a few years ago where it took ages for me to fall asleep. I think it was stress or it could have been some pent up energy that I wasn’t expressing. Anyway, I took valium. It knocked me out like a light but dang, I had the most vivid, lucid nightmares you could imagine and I woke up shaking in such a fright. Never again with Valium ๐Ÿ˜„

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The clamp pillow was a joke, but apparently I did not make it obvious that such an item could not legally exist. ๐Ÿ˜›

      They say that problems sleeping happen as you get older, my symptoms have probably gotten exacerbated from living in SEA where, typically, noise pollution and sleep quality is not an issue.

      But I’m hopeful that in a new situation which is just around the corner for me that things will improve. Thanks for stopping by and your kind words! โค

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your clamp pillow story actually reminded me of some special beds that throw you out of bed if you don’t get up on time, or are a heavy sleeper. Pretty sure it’s not widely available either ๐Ÿ˜›

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh man what a topic. Interesting about the Thais penchant for napping often. Sounds semi cultural.

    I used to sleep 8-10 hrs. straight until my sister died (from suicide) about over decade ago. I lost alot of sleep. Then several yrs. later, sleep had a major setback when I had concussion from another cyclist crashing into me. I slept/rested alot to heal…which resulted in throwing off my circadian cycles..lost sleep. I was on disability leave for 5 months from work.

    Then it got better only about 2 yrs. ago. Now that my partner died, I’ve lost some regularity.
    It helps me to exercise, shower several hrs. before sleep.

    I did see a sleep doctor in order to withdraw my sleep pills during my concussion recovery…if you wake up in middle of night…don’t look at computer devices nor tv…it keeps your brain awake. Instead read a book or do repetitive low level activity to lull yourself back to bed/ folding laundry, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was just thinking of you this morning. (Need to catch up on my blogging.) But my goodness, you’ve been through way too much. It’s a wonder that we can get up in the morning sometimes, isn’t it?

      Your story reminds me that yes, there are those who can’t sleep due to trauma. Reminds me of those books or movies where the old-tyme doctor gives a sleeping draught to the ‘victim’ so they can get some much needed sleep.

      And I almost never look at devices during the night. I hate knowing the time and I know the light can throw off your sleep, but it’s worth mentioning.

      I hope you get your sleep back, Jean. xo

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’s a gradual process to normality. Slow. I do have enormous support of in-person long-time friends and well yes, family who are far away. But just knowing, the support exists is a sleep gently.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m another that doesn’t always manage a good sleep…
    Read Matthew Walker’s book on sleep? Think it’s called ‘why we sleep’. Lots of valuable information there. Brilliant book. One thing I’ve nearly bought a few times is the oura ring…ever seen them?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, I haven’t. Interesting little device. I’ll keep it in mind. It would be fascinating to geek out or freak out over how much or how little sleep you get.

      I watched a great video called Why We Sleep, I’m sure it’s based on the book. Thanks! And here’s to us getting better sleep!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Well, I for one, am completely convinced of your princess-ness, Lani. ๐Ÿ™‚ And I’m glad that you found your prince.

    I’ve always struggled with the act of falling asleep, but I would say 99% of the time reading until I’m almost completely asleep, has worked for me like your little blue pills. I also find that when Michael is with me I sleep much, much better than when I am alone. So lately I’m a bit sleep deprived.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ๐Ÿ˜€ I’m glad I convinced you ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Yeah, I should have been more specific. Falling asleep is usually not that big of a deal. It greatly depends if I’m at home or not. But getting up during the night is the issue. I envy folks who sleep through the night.

      Soon Michael will be with you all the time! โค xo

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Wait, when did you get married? Did I miss something??? Congrats, Lani! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Same here re: sleep issues. I use the Headspace meditation app. or some other meditation video to get to sleep, but I very rarely sleep through the night. I think I’ve always been a light sleeper, but a good night’s sleep has definitely been harder to come by as I get older and generally more sensitive to energies, etc. I’ve had to sleep separately from my husband for the past 5 or so years, which I’ve read is far more common than people realize.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ๐Ÿ˜€ Thanks, you didn’t miss anything. We’ve been together for many years and just did the deed earlier this year.

      Yes, it is common. I don’t sleep well when we’re in the same bed because I’m conscious of him getting good sleep too. The same goes for him even though he sleeps well.

      Speaking of light sleeping, I always get up when there’s a storm outside or if I hear rain or a noise. And then I listen to the storm and can’t go back to sleep. So annoying!

      Rest easy, my friend! xo

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I knew you guys had been together a while, but congrats on becoming official! ๐Ÿ™‚

        Yup, sucks being a light sleeper. Guessing it’s more of an issue with sensitive people?

        Liked by 1 person

  12. This could be right out of my journal!! Fellow sufferer here – I sometimes think that I just forgot how to fall asleep/sleep, it’s that evasive. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Noisy neighbours who love to listen to loud music and droning bass lines each hour of the day, and mating birds that start business at 4 am don’t helpm much either. ๐Ÿ˜‚ I swear, sometimes I’ve just managed to fall asleep when some a*hole neighbour wakes me up with their noise. I really wish for valium in situations like these but it’s terribly difficult to get any like that prescribed here in Germany. Maybe I should make a trip to Cambodia once it’s possible again? ๐Ÿ˜‰ You could join me if you like. ๐Ÿ˜€
    So sorry to hear about your matress problems, that sucks that your apartment manager gave you a used one. Hope you’ll be able to make friends with your current one!
    Ha! My mum also can sleep just about everywhere and anytime! Even on a plane which is just about the most impossible thing for me! ๐Ÿ˜‚ Will let you know when I find the cure for sleeplessness. ๐Ÿ˜‰ xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahaha. Yeah, the two of us showing up to Cambo for the drugs — no problem there! ๐Ÿ˜›

      I’m sort of heartened to hear that Germany is not whisper quiet. Sometimes I feel like it’s just us over here in Thailand where it’s noisy. Grrrr.

      When we move, I keep telling myself, I’ll get the better mattress. I’ll figure out this sleep thing.

      Sending you good sleepytime vibes!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And after our trip to Cambo we check into fancy hotel rooms and sleep the drugs off – lol! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜€
        While you get that better matress, can you get me a new blanket? Mine has become all clumpy and really annoying! ๐Ÿ˜‚

        Liked by 1 person

  13. I love this, but I am sorry for your sleep troubles. You write such an entertaining essay–and I’m glad you got your soundly-sleeping prince. I swear by a sleep mask and earplugs, the later of which are also handy anytime my own prince plays the drums!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahaha. Love that. And thanks. Not much for earplugs, don’t even like wearing earbuds for music — but sleep mask? Need to remember that one more often. ๐Ÿ˜‰ xo

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I enjoyed reading this and I love your way of storytelling ๐Ÿ™‚ it’s amazing how much a mattress can make a huge difference in our sleep! I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had ongoing troubles with sleep, and I hope you will find a mattress that helps. A good night sleep makes such a difference.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Oh my god…I LOVED THIS ESSAY, Lani and I can so relate. My relationship with sleep is fraught with angst at the best of times. And it’s all propaganda I tell you…there doesn’t exist a pillow or sheet set or mattress in the whole kingdom for the likes of us. I’ve finally stopped trying to fight it…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha. OMG right back. You made me laugh out loud. It does seem like a charade, doesn’t it? Hmmm. The pillow and mattress propaganda! Yes, must.stop.fighting.must.let.go. ๐Ÿ˜›

      Liked by 1 person

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