The Washington Post

It's true: Waking up is hard to do, especially when there's a smartphone involved

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 23/11/2020 00:10:34 John Kelly

No one but Elaine Chao should have to wake up to the voice of Mitch McConnell.

I mean no disrespect when I say that, just that there's nothing as jarring as a stranger - any stranger - in the bed first thing in the morning. That's why I felt so bad when I scrolled discreetly through social media the other day - My Lovely Wife snoozing beside me - and a video started to autoplay.

It was the Senate majority leader, orating. His voice suddenly boomed across the bedroom as I stabbed at the volume control.

There's no going back to sleep after something like that.

I apologized. Ruth - now entirely awake - picked up her own phone and soon we both lay there chewing our digital cud like narcotized cattle.

There's a lot of research about how bad smartphones are when you're trying to go to sleep, but I think they may be just as bad when you're waking up. They're especially bad for couples, and especially couples who don't wake up at the same time.

We used to wake up at the same time. That's because we used to have a schedule. If Ruth had to be at her office by 9 a.m., that meant setting the alarm for 6. That meant both of us waking up at 6.

The pandemic has messed all that up. In a way, we're more free: free to open our eyes when the sun peeks through the blinds. But in practice, it means one of us wakes up first - me, usually - and then tries to resist grabbing the iPhone that's charging on the bedside table.

Of course, I would prefer to snuggle. Snuggling is even better than Instagram. But My Lovely Wife has repeatedly told me that grabbing her in even the friendliest way while she sleeps is a good way to explore life as a single man.

There's a very funny Norwegian comedy on Netflix about Vikings called "Norsemen." In one episode, a wimpy male character is married off to a female Viking warrior about a foot taller than he is. On the morning after their wedding night, he rolls over to snuggle with his new bride as she sleeps. She wakes with a start and slugs him.

Ruth had a big laugh from that.

Video: An At-Home Wellness Sabbatical Is Exactly What We Need Right Now (Real Simple)


If I'm lucky, I'll fall back asleep. That's when the most vivid dreams come, entire epics packed into the 15 or 20 minutes before I wake again.

I've always had complex, inscrutable dreams, but the pandemic seems to be turning the dial up to 11, as if I've been microdosed in my sleep.

My weirdest dream lately: I was a passenger in an open-top airplane that had seats like church pews. Irritated at how long it was taking to taxi down the runway, I grabbed the beard of the man sitting next to me - it was long and lacquered and resembled a narwhal tusk - and used it to spear a baked potato off the outdoor table of a restaurant we passed.

I have no idea what that means, though I do like baked potatoes.

But more often than not, sleep doesn't return. I listen to the breathing on the pillow next to me, mentally imploring the breather to wake up: Wake up. Waaaaaake uuuup.

I want to share this in-between time, this liminal space. (And frankly, the snuggle-starting gun doesn't go off until Ruth has stirred.)

Sleeping Beauty is not so easily awoken. And so my thoughts turn to the nearby phone and all the wonders it contains. I've been out of touch with the world for eight hours. Here's my chance to catch up - and see whether anyone liked any of my tweets.

But I must be careful. It would be rude to wake Ruth up. I extend my right arm and gingerly lift the phone from the nightstand, taking care to keep its illuminated screen facing away until I can shield it with my body.

I gradually rotate onto my right shoulder and bring the phone closer. It tugs against the umbilical cord of its charging cable. I detach it, then slowly - noiselessly - lower the end of the cable to the floor. No cat burglar has ever been as quiet as I.

Finally, I can look at the phone. Unfortunately, I scroll someplace where a very vocal Mitch McConnell is perpetually awake.

And so another day begins.

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit

a person sitting on a bed: My thoughts turn to the nearby phone and all the wonders it contains. I've been out of touch with the world for eight hours. Here's my chance to catch up. © iStockMy thoughts turn to the nearby phone and all the wonders it contains. I've been out of touch with the world for eight hours. Here's my chance to catch up.
23. marraskuuta 2020 2:10:34 Categories: The Washington Post

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