Santa brought me a dawn simulator to help me sleep. The box said, “Wake up refreshed!” in three languages. It also said, “Fall asleep relaxed.” Nick Littlehales promised great results in his book, Sleep. I was excited. I couldn’t wait to try it. I didn’t realize it would turn into a major event just learning how to use it. Imagine me in bed, whacking at a white machine the size of my face in the dark, throwing the covers off and finally, stepping on the dog.
My first surprise was its size and shape. It looks like a doughnut. The online sales pitch said it had a pleasant, even artistic shape, and I guess you might think so if you are into space-age doughnuts. I’m not especially. My bedroom is pretty traditional in style. I expected the dawn simulator would be regular alarm clock size. Noooo. I had to clear off the bedside table for my new big-shouldered friend. It has lots of controls too. There are buttons on top, buttons on one side, buttons on the bottom rear, and a whole panel of controls in front, two rows. I watched a couple of You Tubes about it. Both warned that programming could be complicated. That was an understatement.
The first night I left it on the automatic settings. There were three sound choices, breathing, white noise or birds. The white noise sounds like static. I was leery of breathing. Who wants a stranger breathing in your ear all night? I kept it with bird song.
Sunrise worked, but it came a half-hour late. I got confused whether the entered time signaled its start or ending. I set the machine for 6:30 a.m. thinking that was when the sun would be up, but the electronic birds didn’t start chirping until 7–after the machine lit all the way up. The birdsong tape is short, and it repeats itself over and over. I don’t know how long it would go if I let it run. I can’t stand to find out. The first bird sounds like it is saying, “Bridget, Bridget!” The second bird sounds like it is saying, “It’s me, me.” Other birds chirp a bit and then “Bridget, Bridget!” comes back. That’s quite an alarm.
I wanted the birds to shut up, so I hit the control. No response. I touched it again. No response. I pressed it, hit it, poked it, and slapped it. No response. I rubbed and caressed it. Then I scratched at it and finally, smacked it. I was almost ready to hurl it when the birds finally shut up, but I don’t know what it was that worked. The next day I fought with it again, but this time I discovered something. The big space-aged donut likes to be thumped, like the noise a rabbit makes with its feet when it is alarmed. A single thump. The knuckle of my third finger works best.
I also tried to program a sunset, but that didn’t work at all. It was just bright pink, on or off. I guess that was the nightlight, a big nightlight if I don’t say so myself. I was already in bed and not in the mood to retrieve the directions. Any other change had to wait until the next night. Once again, I got an artificial sunrise at my desired time, but by the time that sun came up, I was long awake. I don’t really need artificial sunrises. As Rumi once said, “There is a sun in every person.” I always wake up in the mornings. What I need is a sunset to trigger my own melatonin and brain.
What I’d like is to read until 9:30p.m., then do my toothbrushing, shower, etc., come back to the bedroom and do my slow, easy stretching, climb into the covers and have a nice sunset experience to drop me off into sleep. A sunset to unwind and go to sleep peacefully.
I haven’t figured out how to get a sunset. What I have is an expensive night light and a truce. With the proper touch, I can get out of bed at night, avoid the dog, visit the bathroom, and return with no trouble. Another touch and the soft light is gone. It’s gentle. I’m relaxed.
I’ve also learned that sleep has a rhythm of its own. We cycle in and out every 90 minutes. We don’t need to stress if we wake for a moment and drift off again. We don’t need to stress if we get up once at night (so long as we don’t step on the dog). We don’t need to stress at all and then, voila! We sleep.