I have been sleeping on my back these days–something I almost never did. Sure there were those occasions in a sunny field that I may have dozed off or while lying in a hammock in the backyard, but generally, when going to sleep at night, I turn on my right side before drifting off. I can sleep sitting up—that gets proven night after night in front of the television—but I remember times when I was “back-flat” in need of sleep and just couldn’t do it. What’s changed? A few things actually and as a former science teacher, it troubles me not to be able to pinpoint the one factor (variable, if you will) responsible. I retired, (something that keeps popping up in these articles), I am sleeping beside a partner again, I am sleeping on a large waterbed, and my carpal tunnel is bothering me.
For ten years, I slept on a couch, not a pull-out couch, just a couch. I lived in a studio apartment in Taipei, Taiwan and that was my bed as well as my awake sitting area. It was wide enough for me to sleep on my back, but it seemed more natural and comfortable to turn toward the padded back and tuck in that way. When I visited my home in Washington, I slept on a king-size bed and often started out on my back, spreading out my arms and legs, enjoying the space, but always ended up turning on my side before succumbing to slumber. In the economy section of airplanes, I was forced to sleep sitting up but even then, I’d angle my body, turning as much as my seat belt would allow.
But all of that changed when I sold my home and retired to Arkansas.
I am much more relaxed now that I don’t teach anymore. Being relaxed may contribute to sleeping in a different position. You might think sharing the bed with someone would push me to the edge, but that is not the case. Perhaps I’ve become assertive in my retirement, staking claim to my half of the bed! And it is a big bed—a king-sized water bed. Sleeping in a heated water bed could be a big factor in my new position since it cradles its warm self around me, adding to my sense of security, although my partner gives me most of that sense of security.
I call the position I sleep in now the Frankenstein because I am flat on my back, arms at my sides with hands open, and legs out straight. When I was teaching, I decorated my classroom a lot for holidays and Halloween was no exception. I used to hang a cardboard cut-out of Frankenstein’s monster on the wall, and it is this image I remind myself of when sleeping. This position has proven to be the one that keeps my carpal tunnel at bay. I am a fist clincher it seems. There are scads of photos of me as a little girl with my hands balled up and placed in my lap. (If you are wondering if I am an angry person, I am not.) So this idea that I need to keep my hands open and flat while asleep is something I am working on. Even when I turn on my side, I remember to flatten my hands under my pillow or under my cheek. I wear the braces (mine are blue, my favorite color) and they help a lot, but they are most effective when in the Frankenstein position.
How does this connect to my theme, Logo-phi-lia? Sleeping in this position actually has a name and it isn’t Frankenstein. The word is supine. I think most everyone is familiar with the term, prone, supine’s antonym, but you almost never hear anyone describe a person as lying supine. No, rather, the description is wordier—lying on his back or flat on her back. While sleeping supine pretty much guarantees I’ll snore, it is the recommended position to keep your face from wrinkling. So there’s that.
I didn’t come upon the word, supine, until several years ago when I was searching for a word for a poem. I like the sound of it. I like that it has “pine” in it which can take you into a forest or relate an emotion. Supine is just a cool word, much cooler than prone, in my opinion. When I think of the word prone, I think vulnerable, but in fact, wouldn’t you be more vulnerable to attack, let’s say, when lying on your back with all of your organs just a sword slash away from disembowelment? If you are prone, the attacker has gluteus maximus to saw through before hitting anything too vital. Although, I suppose a swift slice of your spine would result in a critical situation.
Supine has another meaning according to Merriam-Webster online: failing to act or protest as a result of moral weakness or indolence. I’m not sure why in our current political climate this word hasn’t become more popular as it seems to fit some of our Congressional leaders rather well.
See if you can work supine into a conversation this week or perhaps welcome it into your bed tonight.
I love your writing and poetry! I don’t know about working in the word supine (I sleep on my side also), but I thought it was interesting right after I read your post this word came up in my daily Word Genius:
Part of speech: adjective
Origin: French, late 19th century
1. Relating to the state immediately before falling asleep.
Examples of Hypnagogic in a sentence:
“He listened to instrumental music to relax into a hypnagogic state.”
“My mom always told me warm milk was hypnagogic, but I’ve never felt sleepy after drinking it.”
I love being in that state of in between sleep and awake…I have had the most interesting thoughts.
Thank you for your comment. I call that state “drifty-dreamy.” Lots of thoughts come to me then as well.