The 5-Minute Rule
By Emily Parke Chase –
My husband, with a professional math journal propped on his lap, falls sound asleep in the recliner after dinner. When he awakes two hours later, I am finishing my work in the kitchen and heading to bed myself. We climb into bed and read for a few minutes before turning off the light.“I don’t know if I’ll be able to sleep again after that long nap,” Gene says as he hugs his pillow and rolls to his side. “I’ll give it the 5-minute rule.”
Five minutes to fall asleep. If my husband, a retired math professor, doesn’t begin snoring in those few moments, he will get up and read his journal once more. Can falling asleep really be as predictable as one of his math theorems?
Sleeping is my husband’s talent in life. He can do it any time, anywhere. Once he dozed off in the midst of his own sentence while speaking in a meeting. I’ve seen him snoring on the sofa, then awakening to answer the phone and, apparently alert, helping students solve complex calculus problems, only to find that later he had no memory of waking at all. In the middle of the night, I’ve listened as he mumbled his way through a math lecture in his dreams.
Me? For years, I thought I had the same talent. Not even fire alarms could disturb my sleep. In college, I woke up one time to hear the alarm sounding in my dormitory, only to discover that it was the “all clear” signal for students to re-enter the building after the firemen had already doused the flames.
No more. Getting up to care for babies crying in the night awakened a sensitivity to noise that keeps me alert into the wee hours of the morning. And when hormonal changes hit, I averaged only four hours per night over a period of several years. Can any human get so little sleep and remain sane? Even today, six hours of rest is a good night, something accomplished only with the help of a lengthy bedtime ritual. I begin by taking an ibuprofen tablet, maybe two. I follow that with a warm shower. I try to slow down my galloping thoughts by focusing on a chapter in my library book, but once I turn the light out, my mind continues to trot through the day’s activities. Lying in the dark, I review scripture passages I’ve committed to memory. I pray for everyone I know – and some I don’t. I beat a monotonous rhythm with my fingers on the pillow near my head. Too hot? I throw a blanket to the floor. I toss, I turn, with the pillow, without. Arithmetic is the Amnion of my husband’s world so, unable to remember the quadratic equation or the formula for the area of a polygon, I try doing long division problems in my head. Let’s see, 2839 divided by 32…
All to no avail. A glance at the clock tells me I have failed again. Perhaps eating a graham cracker or two will help? I grab my pillow and my book, and, after a pass through the kitchen for a snack, I head for my study. There I read until 2:00 a.m. and my eyes at last close for the night.
My husband? He fell asleep long ago—five minutes after his head hit the pillow.
“Your protector is always awake. The protector of Israel never dozes or sleeps” (Psalm 121:3, 4, Good News Bible).
(Next time you’re having a restless night, why not visit the author at her website, www.emilychase.com?)