Sleep: an Inn for Phantoms

I’ve never been particularly good at sleeping, and when Fuzzy is away for business my sleep patterns get even more skewed from the usual, fairly nocturnal schedule we generally keep. Why? Because in addition to being a reluctant sleeper, I also have a vivid imagination. Even when Fuzzy is home I’m often caught in dreams that are strange, disturbing, or just plain scary, but when he’s away the phantoms come out to play.


To be honest, I’ve always been easily spooked at night. I’m not afraid of the dark – I actually prefer a room to be as cool and dark as possible when I’m trying to sleep, but that state of mind that comes just as I’m falling asleep leaves me stuck in a sort of personal Twilight Zone, albeit one without Rod Serling’s narration.

The thing is, it’s not every night, and it doesn’t seem to have a trigger. Instead, I have a kind of…eerie mood…and when it strikes I know I’ll be lying awake, quietly freaking out over every little sound. As a teenager, I would combat these moods either by reading until the sun was up or I literally fell asleep with the book in my hands (whichever came first), or by turning on the radio. Many nights were spent listening to the Larry King Show on AM radio, and I still remember some of the interviews. (That’s also the show that introduced me to the song “Talkin’ Baseball,” which remains a favorite even today.)

Larry King hasn’t been on the radio in decades, so on those nights when Fuzzy is away and the eerie mood descends upon my brain, I turn on NPR, which usually means that I go to bed hearing the BBC overnight service and wake up to Morning Edition. Except, I’m not really hearing any of it, because I keep the volume just at the edge of being able to discern individual words.

I’m not sure why the radio works for me, or why it has to be talk radio, specifically. I mean, music wires me, so I know why that doesn’t work but… Anyway, my current theory is that hearing live radio reminds me that there is a living world outside my head, and therefore the mental ghosts don’t have real power.

Of course, sleeping with three dogs in my room (at least two of which are usually in the bed with me) is helpful, as well. If I wake in the night, convinced that I heard a sound, I watch the dogs. If they don’t react, I know there’s no threat outside of my imagination.

The repose of sleep refreshes only the body. It rarely sets the soul at rest. The repose of the night does not belong to us. It is not the possession of our being. Sleep opens within us an inn for phantoms. In the morning we must sweep out the shadows. ~Gaston Bachelard