This feature originally appeared in Volume Three of our print magazine. You can pick up a copy here or at a stockist near you. For a different way to fall asleep in front of a TV, or anywhere else, try our Dusk sleep tincture.
When I decided to strong-arm my husband into getting a TV for our bedroom, I felt conflicted. I was thinking about circadian rhythms, and how a very superficial Google search indicated that such a purchase would, without a doubt, fuck mine up a lot. I was also thinking about what I had learned during a brief and hideous stint as a wellness editor: namely, that meditation is roughly 700,000 times better for you than watching television. But honestly, I was mostly thinking about that Philip Larkin poem, the one where he writes of “waking at four to soundless dark” and freaking out about how he’s going to die someday. As someone who is often awake at four, and who is almost always freaking out about how she’s going to die someday, a TV seemed like a far better option than soundless dark. (Plus, my husband found a good one for, like, 99 bucks.)
Before we had the TV, I did terrible things at night. I stayed on my phone for hours, checking email and feeling bad about my job, checking Twitter and feeling bad about my country, checking Instagram and feeling bad about my whole entire self. But the sudden ability to watch my favorite shows in bed changed all that.
Nothing—and I mean not even narcotics—keeps me calmer and happier than falling asleep while a show I love plays softly in the background. At night, my thoughts are like those toys that grow when you put them in water: they become bigger, slimier, more useless. But focusing on a TV show stunts them. It keeps me rooted in the present. It slows my breathing and unclenches my jaw, which is usually tighter than a snapping turtle’s. When my mind starts to wander, I redirect it, smiling at a joke while I burrow deeper under the covers. I scan my body to make sure every part of me is properly swaddled and arranged precisely the way I like it to be. Falling asleep to the TV feels like a meditative act. I think less. I rest more. I avoid the soundless dark.
There’s indulging yourself, and then there’s admitting to it. Meditative or not, for a long time, I still felt guilty for falling asleep with the TV on. I felt lazy, but I also felt like a loser. Everyone’s out here living in 2019 with their gravity blankets and magnesium powders and breathable memory foam mattresses while I’m stuck in 1999 with my remote control and comedy reruns. So when my therapist asked me during a particularly fraught appointment if I ever felt free from anxiety, I squirmed and sighed and looked down at her little tiny therapist feet as I told her about my ritual. I expected a disapprovingly raised eyebrow, or a “Hmmm, and didn’t you tell me your mother used to watch TV in bed?” What I got instead was amazing: she gave me permission. She reminded me that feeling anxious about the thing that lessens my anxiety is, uh, stupid. But she said it in a nicer way, and then charged me a zillion dollars for it.
Falling asleep in front of the TV feels good, but falling asleep in front of the TV—on doctor’s orders—feels like a balm. I still get to do a thing I love, but I get to think about it without immediately jumping to some variation of ugh you’re such a dipshit while I do. I get to strip away the bad and polish the good until it shines. And the shining good is this: TV at night is just a bedtime story, all grown up.
As a kid, the stories I asked my babysitter to read were filled with strange magic: talking foxes and kind-hearted monsters and shape-shifting mice. I’ve come to realize that I was trying to do then what I do now: ease myself as gently as possible from wakefulness to sleep. Thinking about North Korea’s nuclear weapons and dying coral reefs and how idiotic you sounded in that meeting today? That’ll keep you up. But thinking about people who aren’t real, who live in a place that doesn't exist, who literally cannot care about how idiotic you sounded in that meeting today? That’s the best soporific out there.
So to my fellow crepuscular fatalists: find your bedtime story, and give yourself permission to fall asleep to it. Or let me give it to you—I got it from a very expensive doctor. And I’ve never slept better in my life.