By Dr. Rubin Naiman
Typically undercover by day and out of awareness throughout the night, the bed is the most primordial of furnishings in our lives. We are conceived, born and die in a bed. We make love, sleep, dream, heal and are entertained in our bed. We burrow deeply into it in times of sorrow and awaken to a new day from it each morning.
Our very first bed was a cradle of loving arms with an undulating soft chest as a mattress. It was alive, sensitive and responsive to our subtlest needs. Sleep was a dynamic process, a natural collaboration between the sleeper and this living cradle. Unfortunately, this sense of an organic sleep experience is quickly forgotten as we grow up. The bed devolves into a thing - an inert piece of furniture or equipment where we stash the body for its overnight recharge.
I don’t mean to sound animistic and suggest the bed is alive in any literal sense, but I am suggesting that it is more like a vehicle than a static piece of furniture. Children, who intuitively sense that sleep and dreams carry them to another world, are frequently drawn to beds in the shapes of cars, trains, wagons, boats and airplanes. Although beds and vehicles may appear to be complete opposites in one respect, they actually have much in common. Both transport us to another place. And although often taken for granted, both cars and beds require a dynamic relationship with their owners. Just as we think about car and driver, it’s useful to think in terms of the bed and sleeper.
A good car integrates performance, comfort and safety. We expect it to perform - to provide us with reliable and efficient transportation while requiring minimal maintenance. Of course, we also prefer that it transport us comfortably. And we fully expect that it will do so safely. Cars can also be personalized, allowing us to configure seats, mirrors, sound systems, GPS, temperature, and other variables.
We also want our bed to perform well - to be reliable and easy to maintain. We expect a good bed to be comfortable. Advances in technology provide us with expanded options for enhancing comfort, especially in terms of adjustability and temperature management. And we want the bed to be safe - think fire-retardant and bed bug resistant. A good bed can also be personalized with a broad range of bedding and sleep accessories.
But the bed is so much more than a mechanistic vehicle - it’s a magic carpet. It whisks us from the ordinary world of waking to the expansive and mysterious world of slumber. The bed is a personal stargate, a portal that catapults us to extraordinary landscapes in consciousness - to sleep and dreams and all those ineffable and liminal places surrounding them.
But for too many, the bed has become a battlefield. Many millions of us struggle nightly with insomnia, nightmares and other sleep challenges. People with long histories of sleeplessness tell their doctors they hate their beds and they often grow anxious as bedtime nears. They pray for a peaceful night while remaining on guard for yet another battle.
A simple shift in perspective about the bed-and-sleeper relationship can help bring more peace to our nights. Good sleepers commonly assert that they love their beds and are often delighted as bedtime draws near. Because they feel perfectly safe there, good sleepers let their guard down as they slip into bed. They don’t just sleep on a bed - they sleep with it. And though it may seem silly to romanticize the bed, doing so can rekindle that deep trust we experienced as babes cradled in loving arms.
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