To sleep is to be alone. As we put aside the activity of the day, and bid goodnight to our loved ones, we drift away from their demands to lay in unconscious retreat. We may lay alongside a partner, but this restful state is not a shared experience. We leave the external world of relationships for our personal rest and dreams.
Children struggle to acclimatise to being alone before sleep. As they become more conscious of the experience of going to sleep, they confront their fear of the dark and of being deserted by their parents. Lights are usually left on to calm their horrors.
At night, teenagers find it difficult to let go of the stimulation provided by technology to face the emptiness of sleep. By contrast in the morning they find it hard to emerge from their slumbers, when the comforts of bed enfold them endlessly within their sheets.
The sleep patterns of adults are disturbed by emotional turmoil, irregular shift patterns, jet lag, ageing processes, sickness and much more. Perhaps the presence of a partner offers relaxation and comfort for sleep. Perhaps the partner snores, tosses and turns or breaks into cold sweats.
We might wish that the health we seek in sleep can be improved by the support of others. As insomniacs everywhere will attest, night-time loneliness is made all too real by wakefulness.
Advice about sleep is coming our way regularly now. Warnings about the health implications of inadequate sleep accompanies it. The least we can do is to prioritise the practice of sleep, to better secure the conditions that promote good sleep, and to be sympathetic to those who just can’t get enough. We may be alone in slumber, but we can be together in encouraging more restful conditions for rejuvenating sleep.