The late Anthony Yeo, often acknowledged as the Father of Counselling inSingapore, once gave this advice: the television (TV) should be banished from the bedroom. He felt its presence would put an end to conversations in the bedroom, not to mention other more intimate couple interactions.
Instead of following his advice, my wife and I had a TV firmly emplaced in our bedroom from Day One and to this day, it has remained. This was partly due to our starting marital life in a rented room while waiting for our flat – our room had to be bedroom, study and living room all rolled into one. Instead of the TV intruding into our lives, it drew us closer through our newfound shared love for movies and detective serials. When our child came, she too was inducted into our viewing habits. We would snuggle into bed to catch the weekly series of The X-Files; when the scenes got too tense, the three of us would dive under the sheets.
These days, though, TV viewing is less of a unifying activity. We now watch different programmes, my interest being more in documentaries and food channels while my wife’s is in hard-boiled European crime thrillers.
In addition, we are each guilty of bringing in new bedfellows. I have taken to going through postings on Facebook and YouTube. My wife has word and quiz games she faithfully attends to on her smartphone. These divergent interests and activities have led to less connection and interaction. Alas, the danger that Anthony warned against seems to be in danger of coming true.
So who, might I ask, are you taking to bed with you nightly?
In the past, some may have tucked themselves in with a good book. These days, it is more likely to be an e-book reader, iPad or smartphone. These devices can be all-consuming as they demand our full attention. It is ironic that with so much connectivity at our fingertips, we actually feel less connected to the person next to us.
Besides being conversation killers, it is also worth considering the effect of these activities occupying our last waking thoughts. Do they aid us in getting a good night’s rest or do they leave us with a disturbing idea or an anxious state of mind? The Bible tells us not to let the sun go down on our anger (Eph 4:26) for this very reason. Going to bed still angry with the person sleeping next to us means sleeping with angry or even hateful thoughts. A mind filled with anxiety also does not make for restful sleep.
Finally, do our bedtime activities rob us of precious rest and sleep? Most of us have a routine before falling asleep. If the routine puts our mind and body in a restful state, then we are well prepared for the sleep to come. Which is why the hymn writer Joseph M. Scriven reminded us, “Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear? All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.”
It was reported in 2014 by Jawbone – which produces wearable devices that help users track how well they sleep, move and eat – that people in Singapore average six and a half hours of sleep nightly, making us the third most sleep-deprived amongst the 43 cities surveyed. Being sleep-deprived means not getting enough rest and recuperation for our minds and bodies. If the seeds of how we perform today are planted in how we rested last night, perhaps we should be more mindful of how we are getting our much-needed rest.
So spare a thought about how and with whom you go to bed each night.
Benny Bong –has been a family and marital therapist for more than 30 years, and is a certified work-life consultant. He was the first recipient of the AWARE Hero Award in 2011 and is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.