Have You Ever Been So Tired That You Ate an Earplug in Your Sleep?

I'll Have Mine Medium Rare; Thanks.

Yes, I too, didn’t know that was something that could happen, until yesterday evening. As I may have mentioned, my wife and I have a sweet little infant at home, so I am deep into the sleep deprivation game. Since I want to be a good husband and partner, and help share some of the incredibly uneven burden of raising our little one, I am responsible for diaper duty throughout the wee hours of the night and morning.

Somewhere around the three-hundredth diaper or so, one becomes very good at changing diapers. Nothing phases you anymore, and it’s yet another routine that is a part of your new life as a parent. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, has so many intricate levels, like some sort of Hellraiser puzzle you accidentally stumbled upon in an empty room in an otherwise unassuming old house. “This looks like a cool puzzle, let me fall into hell accidentally and create a story arc that somehow lasts for nine movies that no one will watch.” teeth chattering noise

Yesterday, I was a little stressed prior to bed due to a big meeting today, so I kept worrying about how the sleep deprivation would affect me. I woke around 2am as usual, to do the first diaper change, which we lovingly refer to as a “diaper situation,” accompanied by a custom jingle we sing. . . .

In any case, I went to lay down and take a “nap” as my wife and I say. “Good night” has now simply become, “good nap.” I had been experimenting with putting a single earplug in the ear that is facing away from my pillow, so as to try and slightly mask the nearby feeding sounds from my little Tasmanian devil—without completely obscuring my ability to hear later on since I would eventually turn my head by the time he was finished feeding.

I somehow drifted off into the luxurious world of sleep, where I found myself in a nice restaurant with a tasty filet mignon in front of me (I should also mention that I’m following a strict no eating three hours prior to bed rule, so I often go to bed a little hungry). In the “waking world” at this point, I had for some reason or another taken the earplug out of my right ear and was holding it in my right hand, which was dangling off of the bed. In my dream, I realized that I was (contrary to good table manners wherever you’re from) holding a succulent slice of steak in my hand under the table, and thought to myself, “well that’s rude, I should eat this.”

I placed the earplug in my actual mouth, and began to chew. My dream self thought, “whoever cooked this doesn’t understand what I meant when I asked for medium rare; this simply won’t do.” As my unrelenting actual self continued to chew on a Mack’s brand earplug (which are actually wonderful for their intended purpose), I at one point or another started to realize the chemical coating from the degrading foam wasn’t the steak I had ordered, in either plane of existence.

I woke quickly, pulling the horrible piece of steak from my mouth, to realize I had been chewing on my earplug for some time. My feelings were mixed, as anyone’s would be: Where is my steak? Why is this earplug so wet? Why was I eating an earplug? What happened to my life?

Turns out, one of our cats is notorious for seeking out and making off with earplugs, which he will try and viciously destroy or otherwise chase about in a fury. I realized in that moment how much he and I now had in common, and was too tired to lament my newfound frustrations.

I spent a moment wondering if the chemical coatings on the foam were bad to leave in my mouth, and whether or not I should get up to wash them out. I ended up just giving up on it all, and falling back into sleep momentarily, until the next diaper situation beckoned.

Nick Warren

Nick is the Founder & CEO of MetaSensor, a venture-backed internet of things startup located in Silicon Valley, and a Behavioural Product Designer at Duke's Center for Advanced Hindsight (with Dan Ariely et al.). | Read Full Bio »

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