Kirby: A guide to sleep-overs for grown-ups

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I went on a week-long sleep-over earlier this month. While in Virginia, we stayed at the home of friends. It turned out OK. Six nights passed and nobody was badly injured or even mortified to death.

Best of all, Kirk and Becky Linford still like us. Upon leaving for home we didn't have to call a cab to get to the airport, there were no sounds of the front door being nailed shut behind us and we have a standing invitation to return.

That's pretty amazing given how much can go wrong when sleeping at someone else's house.

Sleep-overs are no big deal when you're young. Barring homesickness, all you need is a sleeping bag and a semi-horizontal surface. Kids and drunks can fall asleep anywhere.

When Duncan and I slept over at Leon's house, getting to sleep required nothing more than roughhousing until his old man bashed open the bedroom door and swore that he would kill all three of us if he heard one more peep.

Sleeping at someone else's place becomes a bit more problematic when you get older. That's because your body doesn't sleep as well as it use to.

In order to settle in for the night, you have to drag along an increasing amount of junk — toothbrush, jammies, stuffed animal, hair net, sleeping pill, etc.

Sleep-overs lost all charm for me around age 30. By then I'd had enough reparative surgery that my body began insisting on the spending the night in one place.

I'm twice that old now. Getting any kind of sleep at all requires a major routine, which is hard to follow when you're in someone else's space.

In Virginia it had nothing to do with our hosts. Kirk and Becky made every effort to make sure we were comfortable. We had our own room, bathroom, and bed. Unfortunately it wasn't ours.

Beginning with the fact that we were in a different place — hell, a different time zone — there were unfamiliar sounds, smells and touches. All of these belonged to someone else's routine.

At home my sleep cycle begins with the furnace compressor kicking on at 9:30 p.m. A half hour later I'm sound asleep. And I'll stay there as long as there aren't any strange noises.

Even so I wake up a lot. But I can eventually get back to sleep if I know where everything is — bathroom, water, aspirin, book, night light — and I can find it in the dark and undressed.

You don't want to go wandering around someone else's house looking for this stuff without being properly attired. I once bumped into my half-dressed mother-in-law in a bathroom at 2 a.m. and I didn't sleep soundly again for eight years.

Note: Something similar happened with a friend's older sister when I was in junior high school. I didn't sleep soundly then for another six months, but for a whole other reason.

So what do you do in the middle of the night at someone else's house when what you need to get back to sleep is a bowl of Froot Loops and 30 minutes of late night TV?

Nothing, that's what. You lay there and listen to a strange house make strange sounds for about a week. Then you doze fitfully for five minutes or until a strange dog comes in and says there's bacon upstairs.

Sleep-overs are still possible. Only now they require a lot of pre-planning. Much of this planning involves the right kind of drugs. Ambien is nice but be careful. It can make some else's aquarium look like your bathroom.

There is a bright side. Nothing helps you sleep more soundly in your own bed than a few nights in a strange one.

Robert Kirby can be reached at or