Sleep (and) Hygiene


Falling asleep in the first five minutes of anything is typically not a good sign. Unless it’s a massage—and then falling asleep instantly is a sign of blissful relaxation. I should clarify: It’s only relaxing if the massag-ee, as opposed to the massag-er, is the one sleeping.

It was a two-hour massage I had been looking forward to all day. After dinner with my family, I drove to the spa, almost giddy with the thought of two full hours of relaxation. David was the masseuse whom I had been told was available. I had high hopes for David. Once checked in for my massage, I decided to avoid the temptation of looking at my phone, lest something disrupt the peaceful relaxed state I was going for; instead, I flipped through a magazine.

The first sign that something was amiss was the yawning. “What spots would you like me to—yaaaawwwwnn—focus on today?” He began. He started to work on my back. Seven yawns. Lying on my stomach with my head in the head cradle, I was fully alert counting the yawns and noting their increasing frequency. He began using his forearm to rub my back, when suddenly I noticed that his movements had stopped somewhere close to my trapezoid muscle. And there it rested. And he was still. David was asleep.

I didn’t know quite what to do. My eyes widened as I looked down at the floor. My first reaction wasn’t anger or disappointment. It was curiosity. How long would he sleep? How was he balancing his head? There were so many questions.

Then I realized that a problem with sleeping is that some people drool. Drool was crossing the line. The thought of drool dripping onto my back started to make me feel sick. And that’s when I decided I must wake him. So I bounced a bit. It came out more like a spasm. Like the movement you make sometimes as you drift off to sleep and feel like you’re falling.

It worked. Suddenly, as quickly as he had fallen asleep, he was awake again. The massage continued without further episodes of sleep from either of us.

Checking out, the person at the desk asked me whether I enjoyed my massage. “Did you fall asleep?” she asked, “Evening massages always put me to sleep.”

I smiled at her. I know the feeling, I thought. Or at least David does.

Author: Alyssa Forcehimes, PhD

An expert in behavior change, substance use disorders and empathic communication, Dr. Alyssa Forcehimes serves as President of The Change Companies® and Train for Change Inc.® She lives in Arizona with her husband and two daughters.