If you've read my previous letters to Jon Carroll, you should know all about him, so I won't repeat myself. If you haven't, then just go here, or here, or here. This letter was written as my past ones were in response to a column, this one about buying a European Sleep System -- we call them beds here in the states. He didn't reply to this one, so I have to assume he has gotten tired of my brightning his day with my wit and wisdom.

Subject: It's The System, Man

Dear Jon,

Thanks for letting me know what an advanced sleeper I am. Still, I sleep on my stomach for a very simple reason - when I sleep on my back, dead people glide into the bedroom and ask me to please be quiet as they are trying to rest in peace. In all honesty, I'm a deep sleeper, the kind who can sleep through anything, but when I sleep on my back, my own snoring wakes me up (eventually, if my wife's elbow holds off long enough). When I was younger (and less dense) I could sleep on my side, but now if I do the next day I feel like a German Shepherd with bad hips. I have even gotten a burn from the water bed heating pad (you know, on the bottom of the mattress). I always thought the appeal to women of European men was some advanced (to American men, anyway) sexual technique, but now based on your experience I think I can confidently state that it is simply that they don't snore. Here I always thought people immigrated to this country for a better life, but it would seem that they were actually kicked out of their home country because of their snoring. Ah well, another sweet dream of youth punctured by the cold hard reality of life.

In my early years, I could sleep in any position, but advancing years (and more importantly, waistline) have limited me to only a few positions, most of which I can't sleep the whole night in. I can't even sleep full on my stomach anymore, since my neck can no longer stay turned 90 degrees the night through without locking in that position, nor can my back take the strain of having my internal organs shoved through it. I have discovered that I can sleep mostly on my stomach with a slight turn, which relieves the pressure on my neck, throat, back, hips, and belly. However, this often puts the weight of my head on the cutoff switch in my arm, just below my shoulder. The first time this happened was when I was a teenager, and I can remember to this day the morning I woke up and a strange hand was in my bed. I carefully traced the foreign arm up, hoping not to wake the other sleeper, until I reached my own shoulder, and with a start, I realized that somehow during the night my arm had died, and while saddened by the loss, I was grateful that the rest of me had declined to follow. While I contemplated a future with a dead arm (Would they cut it off to keep this effect from spreading? Could I use some external electrical apparatus to regain some function?), my arm slowly returned to life. Now when this happens, I just worry about the cumulative effect on my arm, and the day it won't spring back to life.

The only medical advice on sleeping position I've heard dealt with my children. When my first was born, we were strongly admonished to never, never mind you, put the baby on her back. If the baby were to spit up during the night, she would choke to death. And it would be Our Fault. The best position was on the stomach, or on her side propped up with a pillow or rolled up towel in the back so she wouldn't roll over onto her back in the night. Erin quickly discovered her favorite position: head to the side, weight on her chest and knees, butt flying high into the air. When my last was born just three years later, we were strongly admonished to never, never mind you, put the baby on his stomach. Putting the baby on his stomach could lead to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). And never put anything soft and fluffy in the crib with the baby (like pillow or rolled up towel) as this could also lead to SIDS. So Kyle became a back sleeper, arms thrown out to the sides, looking like an old man in a nursing home, right down to the diaper and lack of hair or teeth.

It still amazes me how many babies the American medical establishment killed with its advice on sleeping position. If they could be so wrong about something so simple, what about all the other blanket advice the medical establishment gives out: don't smoke, lose weight, drink plenty of fluids, get plenty of rest, eat a balanced diet, exercise moderately, and have a positive and pleasant personality. It's like the old joke about having some vices when you're young so that when you get older the doctor can tell you to give one up to get better. If you already follow all their advice, how can you get any better?

Anyway, I hope you enjoy your European Sleep System. Just between you and me, did it come with a manual of Advanced European Sexual Technique for use with this wonderful system? You know, like water beds in the 70's? I'm just curious in a scientific sort of way.

Kevin Murphy

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This page last updated 4 April 1998

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