The Nation's Pulse

The Arms of Morpheus

Falling asleep shouldn't be as hard as we often make it.

By 9.30.13

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News item: “Forty-million American have trouble getting to sleep at night.”

Seeing that, I thought about my experience after leaving the hospital following a back operation this summer.

On the first night home, without the various comfort devices of a hospital bed, I was worried I might have trouble sleeping. To ease the lingering pain of recovery, I turned to the bottle of prescription pills and took the two allowed, then found a position I hoped would be comfortable. I said to myself, but not aloud, “Now, I’m ready to fall into the arms of Morpheus,” summoning the god of sleep from Greek mythology.

After a while I heard a soft voice, “Did you say you wanted to fall into the arms of Morpheus?” “Huhh?” I mumbled. “If you’re looking for sex in my arms, you’ve come to the wrong place,” the voice said. “No,” I said. “That’s just a figure of speech. It means I want a good night’s sleep with pleasant dreams.”

“Ah,” said Morpheus, “That’s my business. The figure of speech is ironic, because I don’t have any arms, or any body for that matter. As a god, I can assume any form I like in your dreams: tall, short, fat, thin, black, white, yellow brown or a mix, but in reality I am a spirit. You might say I am nowhere and everywhere.

“You can climb up Mount Olympus looking for me and the other gods, all sitting on thrones, but all you’ll find is clear air, though we are there, resting. My job’s not easy. Did you know that nearly forty million Americans have trouble sleeping?”

“That sounds familiar,” I replied.

“Of course, not all of them summon me. In fact, many have never heard of me, but enough do to make my nights non-stop affairs. And, that doesn’t include the sleepless people in Asia, Africa, South America, and Europe. By the time I get home to Mount Olympus, I’m bushed and I sleep all day.

“It’s not the like the old days, when all I had to worry about was a few thousand people in Athens, Sparta and sprinkled about in towns in ancient Greece. In those days I had plenty of time to relax.”

“How do your powers work?” I asked.

“That’s classified information. Only the other gods have the clearance to know, but I can tell you this: When a restless person summons me because he or she is worried about some problem or the things that must be done the next day, I murmur, ‘Put those things aside. There is nothing you can do about them tonight. Relax and my powers will work for you.’ And they do. I have them dream about happy things in their lives: a new baby, a raise, flowers blooming in their garden -- anything that has made them happy. Soon they are asleep and dreaming, and I’m off on my rounds again.”

“Thank you. That’s very inter…est…ing....” I tried to say, but was falling fast asleep.

I awoke seven hours later, after a sound and refreshing sleep. The aches and mild pains from the operation I could hardly feel.

Although I’ve long since put the pills behind me, I still summon Morpheus when I pull up the covers each night. His visits are brief and one evening he said, “Just call me Morph,” so I did. His magic has worked. First, I remind myself that tall the things in my life that need doing will still be there in the morning: writing, paying bills, running errands. There is nothing I can do about them tonight. 

So, as I fall find myself falling away into dreamland, I say, “Thanks, Morph, and good night.”

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About the Author
Peter Hannaford was closely associated with the late President Reagan for a number of years. He is a member of the board of the Committee on the Present Danger. His latest book is “Presidential Retreats.”