I just read an article in the paper this morning about a study reported in the journal Sleep that examined the quality of sleep in more than 150,000 Americans. The study purported to debunk the myth that you sleep worse as you get older. According to their study, older people actually sleep better than younger people with fewer sleep disturbances. I disagree with their findings for a specific reason which will be made clear when you read about a recent dream I had.
I usually don’t remember dreams, but this one was so terrifying that it has stayed with me in clear detail. My heart still pounds when I recount it. In the dream my girlfriend of nearly fifty years and I had decided to go on a little trip together. She chose going to a rustic cabin in the deep dark woods, far from any civilization. Might I point out that in real life, she and I consider staying in anything less than a three-star hotel as “roughing it,” and even in my dream, her decision to go into the woods was a tad unsettling.
The woods were lovely, dark and deep (thank you, Robert Frost), but as soon as we entered the cabin, something didn’t feel right. I sensed a menacing presence in the forest, a presence that felt like it was getting closer every minute. My friend felt it, too, but we thought we must be two old ladies letting our imaginations run away with us. Then we heard it. It started as a low rumbling we could feel in the pit of our stomachs. We looked out the kitchen window, but it was nearly dark, and we couldn’t see anything. As the rumble became louder, we realized it was growling. We clutched each other, secure in the knowledge that we were both pathetic cowards. Whatever it was, we were safe inside. Just to make sure, we went around and locked all the doors and windows.
The growling increased and now seemed to be coming from all sides of the cabin. We had drawn the shades against the coming of the dark, but we ventured to peek under one. The shriek was awful to hear, all the more awful when I recognized it as my own. For there, on the other side of the window, was an enormous bear, but not just any bear. It looked like a giant, stuffed teddy bear with no eyes but ferociously sharp fangs and claws. (Now that I think of it, it looked a little like Walter, the teddy bear my youngest son had when he was five, without the fangs and claws, of course.) And not only was it not just any bear, it was not the only bear. We were surrounded by the hideous creatures and more were pouring out of the woods. Surely we’ll be safe inside the cabin and they’ll be gone in the morning, I thought. But as soon as you have the thought “surely,” you know you’re doomed.
The sound of breaking glass heightened our terror, and my girlfriend grabbed my arm, pulling me towards the door. “We’ve got to make a break for it,” she said. “The car’s right outside the door. Let’s go!”
As much as I wanted to oblige, I had one problem that kept me rooted to the spot. “I can’t. I have to go to the bathroom first.”
“Forget the damn bathroom (my damn, not hers). We’ve got to get out of here now!” she yelled.
“But I really have to go bad!”
Picture this: the ghastly monsters are starting to climb through the windows, snarling is at a fever pitch, my girlfriend is screaming and yanking on my arm, and I’m staying put because I have to pee. The bears are so close now, we can smell their stinking breath. And then…I woke up. Yikes! I really did have to pee, I realized as I ran to the bathroom. How I hate not sleeping through the night anymore. Aging sucks sometimes.
And that’s why the experts are wrong.