January 16, 2006
BehindTheMedspeak: Married — But They Can't Sleep Together
Last Tuesday, January 10, Stacy Weiner's front page story in the Washington Post Health section took an in–depth look at the problem of couples who sleep apart — so they can sleep.
FunFact: "23% of partnered adults frequently sleep solo because of their loved one's snoring, kicking or other sleep problem."
Weiner's piece offered a most informative and interesting look behind the bedroom door, as it were.
Here's the article.
- Estranged Bedfellows
The Undercover Stories Of Happily Married Couples Who Love Each Other, Who 'Sleep Together'... But Have Separate Beds. Or Rooms
If you and your partner sleep apart, you may be lonely, but you're not alone.
According to a 2005 National Sleep Foundation survey, 23 percent of partnered adults frequently sleep solo because of their loved one's snoring, kicking or other sleep problem.
That number doesn't include those who bed down apart because of mismatched schedules or desire for different room temperatures, or to let an exhausted spouse avoid a tyke's wake-up calls.
And though a small number of couples who opt for separate beds do so to recapture a sense of romance, for most, there's one simple fantasy: some decent rest.
In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation survey of 1,506 adults, disruptive bedmates rob their partners, on average, of 49 minutes of shut-eye each night.
Kensington mom Naomi Rivkis has regularly slept apart from her husband throughout their seven-year marriage.
As is the case for many spouses, it's her mate's snoring that sends Rivkis scrambling for quieter ground; more than half of snorers report having disturbed someone's sleep.
Most of the time Rivkis uses earplugs, but two or three nights a week she needs a break from the uncomfortable contraptions.
At first, the 36-year-old said she barely noticed the separation because her husband was in law school and often chose books over bed anyway.
Now that sleeping apart is a set pattern, though, she remains unfazed, especially since the couple resolves all conflicts before bedtime.
"I don't want it to look to us even slightly like sleeping apart is associated with there being anything wrong," she said.
"As long as that's separated out, it's just a physical convenience."
Still, Rivkis concedes that initially it was a bit tough on her husband (who, like lots of people, didn't want his name associated with the topic).
"It could have hurt the relationship if I weren't reassuring," she said.
"But he's long settled into realizing it doesn't mean anything about how much I love him."
Besides, notes Rivkis, they've got a toddler.
And she is six months pregnant.
And her husband has a stressful job.
"This is not the kind of situation that if either one of us is exhausted and falling apart, it's going to work very well," she said.
Chevy Chase sleep specialist Helene Emsellem concurs about rest's crucial role.
To recharge our bodies -- and our psyches -- adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night, explains Emsellem, a George Washington University associate clinical professor of neurology.
If we're tired, she argues, chances are we'll hold it together at work, then dump on our partners.
"Is an adequate amount of sleep essential for a good relationship? You bet," she said.
The stats back her up.
Twenty-three percent of partnered adults say tiredness has sapped their sex lives, according to the nonprofit National Sleep Foundation, and more than a third admit that a mate's disruptive sleep habits have taken a toll on their relationship.
So what can be done to let sleeping partners lie?
For snorers, Emsellem suggests dropping some excess weight, cutting back on late-night alcohol consumption and tossing out down comforters or other bedding that might contain allergens. (But if your partner hears gaps in your breathing, she urges getting checked for sleep apnea, a potentially serious condition that can lead heart disease and other disorders.)
For partners of snorers, gently rolling one's mate from his back onto his side may help -- but then, of course, you've already been awakened by the offending noise and now he may be up, too.
In the case of night owls married to early birds, Emsellem usually prescribes a heavy dose of accommodation, starting with an earlier wake time and a willingness to sacrifice some late-night solitude.
Generally, her patients are highly motivated to share a bed, said Emsellem; the vast majority who end up apart in the morning start out, at least, in tandem.
"I think people who are together, are together because they want to sleep together," she said.
Don't tell that to Kirsten and Bill Hawkins.
The Silver Spring couple's sleep life was, well, just dreamy until their first baby was born.
Suddenly, Kirsten found it easy to wake up and difficult to fall back to sleep.
"It progressed to the point where, if my husband rolled over and woke me, I wanted to kill him," confesses Kirsten, 41.
Still, they tried sleeping together until child number two came along.
Then the exhausted mom realized she was yelling at her kids for no good reason, and pretty often.
So she set herself a rule: She'd only sleep with Bill if she went to bed early enough to get a decent chunk of shut-eye.
"It was bad there for several months" after the change, she admits.
"Neither one of us knew what was happening. It was so drastic a step" in an otherwise solid marriage.
Finally, they sat down and made a conscious decision and a plan.
They would sleep apart on weeknights, taking turns on baby-monitor duty.
On weekends, they'd sleep together so "we can keep knowing each other," Kirsten said.
Talking over such a decision to minimize misunderstanding is a wise move, said Norman Epstein, a professor of marital and family therapy at the University of Maryland.
When Epstein counsels couples who are sleeping apart, he tends to probe for underlying issues.
Is there a general difficulty compromising?
Is one partner acting on a punitive impulse?
Maybe someone has a problem with sharing, like the spouse who marks his bedroom territory with discarded socks or mounds of books.
Epstein said he'd ask if sleeping apart reflects a more pervasive pattern in their relationship, such as a tendency to create distance.
Of course, even if a sleep-apart arrangement starts out reasonably, couples should be aware that it could eventually erode intimacy, warns Falls Church marriage and family therapist Linda Rogers.
"Particularly in this area, where everybody's going 24-7, it's hard for couples to stay connected anyway," she said.
"At the end of day maybe there's not even any talking, but at least there's that touching that provides a sense of closeness."
She worries, too, that one person may begin finding it difficult to cross into a partner's room.
To prevent such problems, she encourages couples to bolster intimacy in other ways, like making sure to go out on "dates" or setting aside time to talk.
But what's the big deal about sleeping together, anyway?
The weight on the marital bed is artificial and relatively new, argues Stephanie Coontz, who has written extensively on the history and sociology of marriage.
"It represents this cookie-cutter model that developed in the early 20th century that told people you had to get every single need met by this constant togetherness," said Coontz.
"It doesn't tie in with what we know about the variety of coupled relationships that have worked in history."
What's more, noted Coontz, a professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State College in Washington state, that model doesn't fit contemporary life, in which couples marry later, bringing more experiences and habits to their relationships.
The notion that one should be "permanently turned on, permanently available -- that if you sleep in another room, maybe you're not very sexual -- is just an unnecessary burden for modern couples," she said.
Shana and David Jacobs of Chevy Chase aren't particularly troubled by that notion.
The two physicians often go to bed apart: She's a very light sleeper and he's a pretty heavy snorer.
David, 34, said he finds it reassuring that Shana's mother and one of her sisters also need to sleep apart from their spouses to get some rest.
As for Shana, 32, she said simply, "To be honest, I have never really seen the appeal of spending the whole night sleeping next to somebody. Just because I love someone and want to spend my life with them, doesn't mean I want to be in the same bed at the same time. I just don't see the connection."
The above is one superb film.
Memory Ball Clock Radio
The grid atop the device, which to my earthling eye looks like an alien artifact, is a radio tuner: each intersection of lines is a radio pre–set.
"You change stations by touching the magnetized ball and rolling it to another spot on the grid."
18 pre–sets: 9 AM and 9 FM.
Measures 5"L x 5"W x 1.25"H.
Runs on 2 AA batteries or via wall socket.
$60 here (batteries not included).
Arriving Again and Again Without Noticing — by Linda Gregg
I remember all the different kinds of years.
Angry, or brokenhearted, or afraid.
I remember feeling like that
walking up a mountain along the dirt path
to my broken house on the island.
And long years of waiting in Massachusetts.
The winter walking and hot summer walking.
I finally fell in love with all of it:
dirt, night, rock and far views.
It's strange that my heart is as full
now as my desire was then.
Create Your Own Custom Pixel Hat
From the website:
- What you get:
• a hat with a printed pixel grid
• a set of permanent fabric paints (washing machine safe!)
• a brush
• our undying admiration for joining club kustom
• fame and fortune when you submit your creation to the FJ hat gallery
• inspiration with printable pixel graphics
• support with step–by–step examples
I'm gonna get one and have it say joeTV.
Texas Aquatic Harvesting — Specializing in 'Extreme Island Annihilitation'
I didn't see this sport in the last X-Games — you?
It's not a sport, silly billy — it's a business.
Texas Aquatic Harvesting, which, oddly enough, is located in Polk County in the heart of Florida, is the company you call when you've got a floating island in your lake or bay that you've had enough of.
They'll come into your town, they'll help you party down, they're... wait a minute... that's not right.
The company uses 90–foot–long boats with large blades to carve up islands that "average the size of Yankee Stadium," project manager Mike Hulon told New York Times reporter Pam Belluck in a November 6, 2005 front–page story about out–of–control floating islands.
She wrote, "He also uses boats that he calls 'cookie cutters' [above], which act like Cuisinarts on an island, 'turning it into puree.'"
When Belluck told Hulon about the kinder, gentler approach that people in Springfield, Massachusetts were taking to their floating island (the Springfield Conservation Commission has mandated that the island, about the size of a football field, must not be tethered, altered or otherwise impeded from its natural inclinations and wanderings), "Mr. Hulon practically sneered. 'Bunny huggers,' he said."
Here's the article.
- And Sometimes, the Island Is Marooned on You
The island of Island Pond had it in for Andrew Renna.
Or so it seemed one Saturday evening a few weeks ago. In the middle of a pounding storm, Mr. Renna looked out across the pond, which borders his backyard.
''It was raining crazy,'' he recalled.
''I said, 'That wind's going to blow that thing right over here.' Ten minutes later it did. When it moves, it moves pretty quick.''
The island, about the size of a football field, made a beeline for Mr. Renna's house -- crushing his three-foot chain-link fence, swamping his red-blue-and-purple flagstone patio, wrecking his dock, flooding his shed, hobbling his weeping willow, and drowning the oregano, cilantro, tomatoes and peppers in his garden.
Then, with an insouciant shrug, it came to a standstill in Mr. Renna's backyard, an interloper squatting in stubborn silence.
''Normally when it floats you can actually hear the roots rip -- it sounds like ripping up carpet,'' said Mr. Renna, 51, a roofing and siding sales manager.
''But this time, it didn't make any noise.''
Island Pond's island has been floating for as long as anyone can remember, buoyed by a mat of sphagnum moss and gases from decomposing plants.
It is a curiosity and sometimes a nuisance for the 20 or so homes around the shoreline of this nine-acre pond in Springfield, Mass.
Sometimes it boings mischievously around as if the pond were a pinball machine, sailing, for example, into Richard and Beverly Vears's backyard just hours after they moved in.
That gave a neighbor a perfect welcome gag: telling the Vearses he was a tax collector who would charge them for the extra property.
Locals, including city officials and the pond's owner, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, which runs the adjacent Cathedral High School, say the wandering island is a rarity that must not be tethered, altered or otherwise brought to heel.
''There's only two in North America,'' said Stan Tenerowicz, environmental affairs administrator of the Springfield Conservation Commission.
He said that 12 years ago, Cathedral High tied the island to shore to spare homeowners an unwelcome floating visitor, but the conservation commission ordered it unchained.
''Tethering it would be a type of alteration of a wetlands system,'' Mr. Tenerowicz said.
''And this is a pretty unique natural resource.''
It turns out, however, that the claim of ''two in North America'' is apocryphal, according to experts on floating islands.
Such islands appear across the country and around the world -- familiar enough that Minnesota issues removal permits to homeowners, and prevalent enough in some lakes in Florida that they are chopped up or pulverized by large machines with sharp blades.
''People who live near a floating island always claim that it is the only one,'' said Chet Van Duzer, author of ''Floating Islands: A Global Bibliography.''
Mr. Van Duzer estimates that there are dozens of floating islands, sometimes called floating bogs, in several states including California, Indiana, Maine and Ohio.
Many others once floated but have since been destroyed or become land-locked, said Mr. Van Duzer, including ones on Lake Ontario in New York, Bolton Lake in Connecticut and Kettle Moraine Lake in Wisconsin.
''Globally, they're not rare, and in this country they're not rare,'' said Stuart E. G. Findlay, a senior scientist at the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y.
The islands usually form in wetlands, where plants take root in peaty soil or sphagnum moss in a shallow lake or riverbed, said Dave Walker, a senior project manager with the St. Johns River Water Management District in Florida, where, he said, ''you can get acres and acres of floating islands on a lake.''
When the plants decompose, they release gases that can create buoyancy, he said.
And if there is a surge in the water level, from a flood or hurricane for instance, the peaty mat can break away from the bottom and float.
Mr. Walker said some islands could even be precipitated by ''a large alligator burrowing'' on a lake bottom.
The islands, which can be as big as an acre and six inches to six feet thick, are rich environments for wildlife, allowing small creatures to outfloat predators.
Many of the islands sprout trees, which act as sails; the 20-foot birches, alders and pines on the Island Pond island can ferry it across the entire pond in as little as 20 minutes, residents say.
In some parts of the world, like Loktak Lake in India and Lake Kyoga in Uganda, people live or fish on floating islands, Mr. Van Duzer said.
In Springfield, few people seem to venture onto the Island Pond island; some residents say they worry about falling through its spongy surface.
But it teems with birds and amphibians, and there is even rumored to be a turtle the size of a bear, nicknamed Big Ben, that ostensibly feasts on ducks, geese and anything else it can snap up.
The island is kleptomaniacal, scooping up baseballs and tennis balls from the high school on its banks, and it gives safe harbor to some marijuana plants that have blossomed into a sizable patch.
Some experts believe that floating islands are becoming more common or lasting longer in some places, especially where human encroachment has created reservoirs or where fertilizer use has made certain plants grow faster.
Others, like Wayne Mueller, an aquatic plant management specialist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, said that so many more people lived around lakes these days that floating islands previously unnoticed were being spotted.
While the islands can be pretty, ''they are not benign,'' Mr. Walker said.
''They can crash into a dock, they can block a canal entrance, they can uproot a lot of vegetation.''
In Minnesota, Mr. Mueller said, islands can become ''aquatic footballs -- people push it off their property and it becomes attached to another person's property.''
State officials will sometimes ''stake down'' a floating island with long pieces of wood, ''pinning it to the bottom,'' Mr. Mueller said.
Homeowners in Minnesota wanting to get rid of an island cannot use machines, he said, so they often spend hours using ice saws, axes or manure hooks to cut it up, then carting the soggy pieces away.
In Florida, officials have tried pushing the islands with boats, roping them into corners and blocking their paths with wood pilings.
And there is what might be called extreme island annihilation, done by the likes of a Florida company called Texas Aquatic Harvesting.
Using 90-foot boats with large blades, the company carves up islands that ''average the size of Yankee Stadium,'' said Mike Hulon, a project manager.
He also uses boats that he calls ''cookie cutters,'' which act like Cuisinarts on an island, ''turning it into puree.''
In Lake Jackson, he said, ''those islands were full of marsh rats and rabbits,'' and once, when the cookie cutter got going, ''the alligators were in a feeding frenzy -- they would have three or four rats and rabbits in their mouths at one time.''
Told about the kid-glove approach of the Island Pond denizens in Massachusetts, Mr. Hulon practically sneered.
''Bunny huggers,'' he said.
But many Island Pond residents feel affection for their itinerant island.
Dan Blais tried to plant tomatoes on it and named a pair of geese who return to it each year Hansel and Gretel.
''It's like walking on a waterbed,'' said Mr. Blais.
''I love to see it moving around.''
Two weeks after the island plopped onto Mr. Renna's yard, Cathedral High School agreed to tow it to freedom, hoping to raise charitable donations to recoup the cost of $5,500.
It commissioned CJ's Towing Unlimited, which towed the island in 2001, an undertaking that lasted 14 hours.
This time, the process took five hours. CJ's used a truck that could pull 45 tons, two winches, a speedboat to stretch cable to the island, 55-gallon barrels to buoy the cable above the water and a team of burly men to attach the cable to trees on the island.
With Craig Morel, CJ's owner, directing them through two-way radios, the crew members freed the island in half an hour, and it floated to the other side of the pond.
There, it was temporarily tied to a stand of swamp maples, to be freed after officials lowered the water level in the storm-swollen pond.
''It'll probably go back to somebody else's property,'' said John Miller, principal of Cathedral High.
''Ultimately, it's going to float. It's a floating island. We don't want to violate its natural state. There's only two of them in North America.''
Spoon Wars: Episode 1 — Ladle Cradle v Drip Clip (Revenge of the Sauce)
Two spoons enter, one spoon leaves.
That's how it works.
First, the Ladle Cradle (above), as described on its website:
- Ladle cradles keep drips in the pot... off counters and stovetop.
No more mess every time you stir your soup or sauce.
Slips on easily and locks into place on the lip of any pot or pan.
Set of 2 made of dishwasher safe plastic.
Withstands heat up to 260°F.
In the other corner, wearing the white trunks (it also comes in black), the Drip Clip (below).
From the website:
- This clever spoon rest clips right to the edge of your pot, keeping messy spoons off your counter, yet conveniently close at hand.
Made of stain–resistant, break–resistant, dishwasher safe plastic, it also withstands heat up to 425°F.
1"L x 1.25"W x 3.1"H.
Which is it gonna be?
The Drip Clip costs $3.99 here.
The Ladle Cradle runs $5.49 for two here.
In the interest of fair play I think it best I sit this one out.
May the best spoon rest win.
Why is revising online a pleasure where once revision — on paper — was something onerous?
I've noticed it for years but only now really thought about it.
I read my work here many, many times before I'm satisfied with it and click "publish."
Even then mistakes still make it by what I hope is my gimlet eye.
I cannot recall a day in which I did not find at least one error in the first published version of bookofjoe.
Most days two or three posts contain mistakes; on some days most do.
99% of the time I fix them before anyone else mentions them although I'm sure many readers notice but can't be bothered to give me a holler.
I don't blame you one bit: if I can't deliver a flawless product 100% of the time, something for which, let's face it, you're paying a very steep price, then I simply am not worthy of your trade.
I don't mind going back over and over and over again through a post, checking punctuation, spelling, meaning, links, anything and everything.
Often I will reread and rewrite and revise a post 10 times — or more — before it's done.
Compare this to my behavior when I was in school.
From junior high on, I absolutely hated having to reread my work and then revise it.
I tried whenever possible to get it right the first time so it wasn't necessary to do anything before handing it in.
Now, maybe it's the ease of revising with a computer vs. pen and paper or a typewriter that makes it so much less painful nowadays.
If I had to create bookofjoe with those abandoned tools I'd probably not enjoy it much at all; in fact, I wouldn't even bother.
So not only do computers enable new capabilities but, in my case at least, they engender new attitudes about old tasks.
Sharp 'Teacher's Pet' Apple Calculator
Tell you what: bring this in for teacher on the first day of school instead of the usual tired McIntosh — yes, the Woz and Steve Jobs misspelled it back in the day but hey, compost happens when genius is afoot... — and you're money.
From Sharp — you know the drill: "From Sharp people come Sharp products."
Yes, they make spectacular giant flat–screen TVs but in their spare time they like to turn out little objects like this with kawaii written all over them.
From the website:
- The calculator is adorably shaped to resemble an apple.
It offers an eight-digit LCD screen with large keys for easy use and addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division functions.
Measures 2.8" x 4.5" x 0.5".
But wait — there's more.
Turn the calculator over and voila, it's a magnetized green pepper–shaped kitchen timer.
From the website:
- The four-digit timer's easy-to-read display may be set up to 99 minutes and 59 seconds.
Use the one, three, or five-minute timer keys for steaming vegetables, boiling water, or other quick cooking projects.
I'd say that's plenty for $9.96.