Anna-Leena Harkonen


Brendan Nogue/Alamy 


Sleep Gets in Your Eyes

I love sleeping. Sometimes I sleep for twelve hours at night and take a nap in the afternoon. Some might say I’m escaping reality. That’s possible. I can think of many good reasons to escape reality.

Some people think that sleeping too much is wasting your valuable time. I dare to disagree: in my opinion, time spent sleeping is never wasted time. It’s quality time.

RESEARCHERS CLAIM that people in the creative field need more sleep than others. I can always refer to this in my defense.

“You’re asleep when I leave for work, and you’re asleep when I come back home,” my ex-husband once said. “How can I know if you’ve been awake at all during the day?”

“There’s no way to know,” I replied.

THE INTERNET is full of advice on how to feel refreshed and energetic throughout the day. Outdoor exercise and vitamin pills may be good for your skin, but they won’t keep you awake when you’re dead tired.

Only one thing helps. One simple thing: sleep.

Unfortunately, sleeping is often associated with laziness and listlessness. “The early bird catches the worm,” says an annoying old adage. (Who wants worms, anyway?) On your free days, you’re supposed be active and visit art exhibitions and other cultural events or go for long walks. (Breathing in polluted city air.)

ONE OF THE GOOD aspects of parenthood is that you learn to appreciate what you used to take for granted—such as sleep.

When my son was a baby, he used to wake up once every hour and later once every three hours. During the day, I was so tired that I kept dropping things.

I had a dentist’s appointment a few weeks after childbirth.

“Are you scared?” the dentist asked when they were preparing an anesthetic injection.

“No! I love that I can finally sleep,” I exclaimed with delight and assumed a comfortable position in the chair.

I’M STILL TIRED, especially during the final stages of writing a novel. I think about the book day and night. Sometimes I program myself to solve a problem related to the plot or structure during sleep.

This often works. I don’t know whether sleep is rest in such a situation, but the problem gets solved.

The intensive work phase often causes sleeplessness. Sometimes in the afternoon I already begin to fear going to bed. I keep wondering whether I will be able to fall asleep in the evening or will keep tossing and turning in anxiety and sweaty sheets.

UNDER STRESS, I sometimes fear going to bed because I know I will have horrible nightmares.

I have learned that you can stop a nightmare by clasping your hands and saying a prayer. If you’re not into praying, you can think systematically about your personal details: name, address, spouse, telephone number . . . This will anchor you back in reality.

During a nightmare, you often realize you’re having a nightmare, but you can’t stop it. Flying is one way to interrupt a nightmare: you simply take off and fly away from the situation in the dream.

IF YOU HATE early mornings as much as I do, try this: measure the coffee into the coffee maker in the evening, so you don’t have to do it in the morning with sticky eyes and shaky hands. You only need to switch on the coffee maker; the worst is already over.

I’ve heard that this may destroy your coffee maker over time—but which is worse: to destroy a machine or be destroyed yourself?

© Anna-Leena Harkonen 2022

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