Emily Nussbaum can sleep anywhere: In the coat room at a party, under her desk at work, on a sidewalk at Mardi Gras — although The New Yorker’s television critic assures us she was 22 at the time of her New Orleans nap and says that was more like “passing out.”
When she’s not sleeping, Nussbaum is writing some of the most insightful and addictive criticism of our day. If you’re not already on the bandwagon, start with her delightful essay on hate-watching Smash, this requiem for 30 Rock or her nuanced look at one of Breaking Bad’s neatest maneuvers. Though really you could jump in anywhere and be moved.
In her own words, here’s Nussbaum on the life of a champion sleeper with a dream job.
My bedroom is a mess, so it has two coffee cups, an empty Diet Coke can and an old soup bowl, plus a bunch of books I'm trying to catch up on, including a Madeline Kahn biography, and a DVD screener of Ash vs. Evil Dead.
I'm a total night owl and so is my husband. Given our druthers, we'd stay up until 3:00 a.m. every night, working or hanging out, and then sleep until 11:00, and maybe have some mysterious stranger bring us coffee in bed, but since I have kids, the police would arrest me.
During the week, my husband and I both tend to stay up until at least midnight — often more like 1:30 or 2 — and then on alternate days, one of us gets up at 7:15, groaning with the horror of it all, and gets the kids breakfast, makes lunch, and gets them to school. Then that person often goes back to bed.
I don't really have any rituals. When I'm tired, I sleep.
Wait, that's not true: when I have trouble sleeping, I do a strange meditative thing inside my head, where I count backward from ten, while imagining increasingly darker shades of blue. I hope everyone answered that way.
Luckily, I generally don't have trouble staying asleep. Once in a while I wake up at 6:30 a.m. and read a book or work on a draft (typing on my iPhone, in Google Docs) until I get back to bed.
On weekends, we sleep in while the kids play video games, and then wake up at 10 or 11 and read the paper and have coffee. I often nap on weekend afternoons, too.
I don't need it to be dark or quiet or have the right pillows or anything like that.
If I have a lot of work to do but I'm exhausted, I can force myself to go to sleep for 15 minutes or so, which is very refreshing.
I have anxiety dreams about work, but not regularly. Occasionally, I've had a nice dream about being on a TV set, meeting actors. I remember one very pleasant dream about hanging out on the Firefly set, years after that show had been cancelled.
I have that stupid "I signed up for a college class and never showed" nightmare, which is seriously irritating, given how old I am!
I do have random, confusing nightmares once in a while and luckily, my husband and I both have a weirdly high tolerance for letting one another describe them.
I love hotels and would be happy if I could live in one. I've never had trouble sleeping in a hotel, but in Melbourne, I had the most incredible hotel room of my life, which was more like a fancy apartment where a CEO might shack up after his divorce, and I would happily nap there forever.
I once stayed in a horrible motel that had the kind of bathroom you'd use to chain up a dangerous prisoner to hose them down during a transfer, but it didn't keep me from sleeping.
Reading books is a great way to get to sleep. I'm reading my friend A.O. Scott's terrific new book Better Living Through Criticism, which is making me self-conscious about my job. And I am also loving my colleague Larissa MacFarquhar's fascinating and disturbing reported book Strangers Drowning.
I also enjoy putting headphones into my iPhone and catching up on episodes of Drunk History.
I have several apps on my phone, including HBO GO, Netflix, Hulu and a few cable channel apps, and it's nice to lie in the dark watching shows. I'd do that all night long if I didn't have to get up the next day, it's so cozy.