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Shell Shocked: Are You Asleep?

By Staff | Jul 29, 2011

Why do people pretend to be asleep when they’re not?

Every so often when I’m trying to sleep my wife will come into the bedroom and quietly ask “are you asleep?” If I’m awake I will tell her that I’m not asleep. But sometimes I lie. When she asks if I’m asleep, I say nothing and pretend that I am indeed sleeping.

I’ve often asked myself why I do this. It’s a harmless lie. Nobody will get hurt. No feelings will become uncoiled. I’ve come up with a number of reasons.

The first is that if we’d had words before I went to sleep I certainly don’t want to continue any argument. She probably has some additional zingers to throw at me and I’d prefer not to hear them. So I pretend to snore when she asks that perennial question “are you asleep?” I admit this is the coward’s way out, but at least it buys me an additional eight hours before a sore subject is broached again.

Another reason I sometimes pretend to be asleep when she asks me that question is to monitor her movements. I sometimes think that she would prefer for me to be asleep so that she has freedom of movement. For example, if she starts rummaging through items I’ve left on my night table. Now I don’t think I leave incriminating objects on my night table so what could she be looking for? Why does she need to think I’m asleep to carry out this furtive, nighttime search?

I have no secrets. That certainly couldn’t be the problem. Is she looking for a love letter from a young lady I met on a train? Fat chance. Dream on.

Does she want to “borrow” some cash in my wallet? She doesn’t use much cash. Credit is her king. Then what could she be looking for? And then I realize what it is. She’s placed a birthday card on my night table. She wanted to surprise me. So why am I so paranoiac and expecting her to engage in dark deeds? Maybe I’ve been watching too many episodes of “Desperate Housewives.”

I’ve thought of another reason why I pretend to be asleep when she asks me “are you asleep?” I don’t want her to think that I have a problem sleeping. She might worry about me. So if I tell her I’m not asleep she’ll start asking me why I can’t sleep. She’ll ask me if I’m feeling okay and then I would need to explain that I’m feeling fine, that maybe I went to the gym too late; or that I shouldn’t have had that extra glass of wine.

And, no, I’m not anxious, worried or concerned about anything. I’d have to explain that everything is okay and that I’m just having a bit of a problem getting to sleep.

And I also don’t respond to her “are you asleep?” if indeed I really am worried about something or concerned about an event that took place that day. I don’t want to worry her so I pretend that I’m asleep and don’t have to discuss it.

I also don’t want her to think that I have chronic insomnia because she’ll start worrying and then she won’t be able to sleep either. So pretending to sleep serves many purposes. It keeps the peace.