How to Fall Asleep

by Maria Li

To prepare your body for sleep, take two melatonin gummies instead of one. Sit in absolute darkness for thirty minutes to forget you ever saw the sun. Cautiously make your way to your bedroom and sit down on the right side of the bed, careful to not wake your sleeping husband. He is an early riser who thrives on six hours of sleep a night. You, a late-rising nine-hours-a-nighter, are, as dictated by society, a lesser being. Eight hours have been granted to you by the fathers of the industrial revolution. Eight hours for work, eight for play, eight for sleep. As you apply lotion to your hands and feet, contemplate whether your stolen ninth will come from tomorrow’s work or play.

If these and other thoughts have not yet resolved themselves by the time you finish moisturizing, you will need to drown them out with some bedtime listening. A podcast should do the trick. Something engaging enough to keep your mind from entering that dark place of regret, but not so engaging that it keeps you awake. Political podcasts with a dry interview. Themes tend to repeat. What’s said has usually been said before. Budgets, elections, nuclear war, etc., etc. You may be in for some strange dreams.

Here comes the tricky part: the part where you lay down.

You have options: You could lay on your side. Left-side-fetal position, but on your left, you risk your knees hanging off the bed. You have right-side-fetal, but your husband also faces towards the middle of the bed, and you’ll have to deal with his hot breath. You have stomach-left and stomach-right with knee-up or knee-down variations. These are great if the cat isn’t around, but usually he crams himself right in the middle of the bed.

You start on your back, notice just how much the mattress pad has lost its cushiness. You have never been more aware of the odd curvature of your spine. Hit play on your podcast. An extra firm mattress seemed like a good idea the day you bought it, but in retrospect it might have been an overcorrection for the first two weeks of marriage you spent sleeping on your husband’s shitty old spring mattress with a crater in the middle that finally gave you and your coworker with chronic back pain something to talk about. The four voices discussing the day’s political news begin to melt into one. Shift to right-side-fetal. Your husband seems to be moving a lot, and the cat is stuck under him. You rescue it from his windshield wiper legs, as you’ve done before. Shift to stomach-left-knee-down to make room for the cat as you pull him up between you. Another congressman you’ve never heard of has announced his presidential run. Consider the reasons you decided to keep this full frame instead of upsizing to a queen bed when you moved in together. Realize you’d forgotten to factor in the size of the cat. The pinching in your lower back worsens. Shift to stomach-left-knee-up. More budget disputes in Congress. Contemplate how much an upgraded bed frame and mattress would cost. Maybe something sturdy with built-in drawers. Husband rolls over. You roll over. Left-side-fetal. Built-in storage would be nice, but if you want anything out of the drawer closest to the headboard, you’d have to move the nightstand, and that’s just a hassle. Stomach-right-knee-down. More conflict at the border. Unwrap your headphone cable from around your neck. Hot legs, covers off. Husband moves. Save the cat. Filibuster. Gerrymander. Marilyn Monroe. Banish sudden memory of something horrible you said to your friend in high school. Back pinch. Right knee up. North Korean arms race. Arm asleep. Right knee down. Mental note to wash the sheets. Reset online passwords. Research indoor composting. Find a local doctor and stop texting dad deeply personal medical questions. Left knee up. One hop this time. Cat leaves. Hot breath. Shift to back. Check the clock.

You’ll only know if you got sleep once you’ve woken up.

Maria VanDyken Li is a Michigan born writer, artist, and filmmaker currently working to complete her MFA in interdisciplinary art and media at Columbia College Chicago. Much of her work across disciplines concerns family and Midwest identity.

Artwork by: Jodie Filan

Jodie Filan is 27 and from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. What influenced her art the most was a traumatic series of events leading to addiction. Losing her family and friends greatly impacted her style . Her art page is Facebook: Jodiefilanart , she can be found on Instagram @JodieFilan.