Wendyl Nissen

Wendyl Nissen on being 'The Supportive Wife'

Wendyl Nissen: Hey, Mr Sandman


Wendyl Nissen's ethos: eyes shut, lie down, all day long I won't frown.

Naps are my kind of break. Photo / Thinkstock
Naps are my kind of break. Photo / Thinkstock

I love to sleep. Those who know and love me soon realise there isn't much a sleep won't fix in my life.

"She's having a nap," is something my children and my husband are required to say on a regular basis as I sneak off to my bedroom to sleep.

Mostly, it's because I come from a sleepy family; its part of my culture.

If I belonged to any significant cultural group it would be written into our tikanga. When I grew up sleep was the antidote to all things - sickness, sadness, boredom, a natural accompaniment to reading a book or a simple refresher. Whole days could reasonably be spent drifting in and out of sleep. It was seen as a good thing to do, like taking Lane's Emulsion.

"Had a nice sleep?" my mother would ask, full of praise for sleep therapy.

But, when I grew up and left the sleep clinic that was my childhood home, I found that other people, actually most people, don't sleep all the time. I was genuinely shocked.

I discovered that people who have extra sleeps during the day can even be regarded as a bit lazy.

My husband is rarely caught napping and from the moment he wakes up he leaps out of bed as if it is a hot frying pan, not returning until that night.

He also likes to make the bed after he has leaped as a further signal to his brain that sleep time is definitely over. Unfortunately, I am usually still in bed where I sometimes work all morning on my laptop.

So he just makes the bed around me.

In other cultures, such as Spain's, Italy's and France's people are very sophisticated and take a siesta in the afternoon, I like to tell people as an explanation for my frequent sleeping.

But I don't live in another culture. I live in New Zealand where sleeping is slothful.

My indolence is also compounded by my working from home where occasionally my employers ring me.

"She's having a sle ... I mean, she's not available at the moment," I have trained my children to say. But with friends they are brutally honest.

"She's in bed, again," I heard one of them say. "There may be a brief hour when she is up so I'll get her to call you back then."

So I had to do something. It's called meditation. I took myself off a few years ago to learn how to do it and now meditation is a posh way to sleep.

"I'm just off to meditate!" sounds so much more meaningful than "I'm off for a snooze".

Somehow the fact that you sit up while you meditate rather than lie down is seen as evidence that you're not being lazy, you're being healthy. So my two meditations a day have become my substitutes for sleep.

Recently, I treated myself to a whole day of meditation at a retreat.

I'd never been to a retreat before but had several prejudices to overcome. First I had to check that there would be no hand holding seated in circles, trust exercises or sharing. Then I had to check that the whole day would, in fact, be spent with my eyes mostly shut.

It was a sleeping person's heaven. Deep breathing, a few yoga exercises, a bit of breathing in and out of several nostrils and then a lie down. We did this three times and I've never felt more at home.

"How was it?" asked my husband when I glided in through the front door.

"It was like being a 5-year-old again and curling up in my little bed in my room with the polka dot wallpaper," I gurgled.

"Great," he said wearily. "You must be full of energy. Let's go for a walk."

"It it's okay with you I'll just have a wee lie down, I mean, meditation."

- Herald on Sunday

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