Latest update: June 25th, 2012
Dear Dr. Yael: My husband recently started davening in a vasikin (sunrise) minyan. Our problem is that I am a light sleeper, and he sleeps right through his alarm. I realize that while he is not trying to be cruel by intentionally leaving on his radio in the middle of the night just to hear what is going on in the world, my patience is extremely thin at 4 a.m. We have tried a few vibrating alarms, but they have not been enough to wake him. It always comes back to the radio blasting at 4 a.m. Even when sunrise is later, he sets the alarm earlier because he knows it doesn’t wake him right away. Then the alarm wakes me up and I can’t get back to sleep. When I ask him to shut the radio, he tells me he is getting up, hits the snooze and falls right back to sleep. When he finally gets up, he does not move around quietly. I am forced to listen to drawers and cabinets opening and closing. Making matters worse are the nights when his noise wakes the baby!
I have tried to discuss this with him during the day but we always come back to square one. He needs his alarm to wake up, the vibrating alarms don’t work, and he won’t go to a later minyan. When I tell him that he is robbing me of much-needed sleep, it falls on deaf ears. I feel that davening vasikin at the expense of shalom bayis is no mitzvah at all. Many days I walk around with a headache, angry with him for doing this to me. I find myself snapping at the kids when I shouldn’t – but I am just so tired. I simply can’t take it anymore. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. A Sleep-Deprived Wife
Dear Sleep-Deprived Wife: The easy answer to your tough predicament is to tell your husband that he cannot continue to do this to you, and that he needs to daven in a later minyan. However, I am not a rav and thus cannot give you such a response. Furthermore, your husband seems pretty adamant about davening in a vasikin minyan, so the obvious answer is not so simple.
The first, and most practical, thing to do is to seek advice from your husband’s rav as to what you should do. If he suggests that your husband should continue to daven in the vasikin minyan, you could, in the meantime, change some of the physical constraints that are impeding your sleep. Begin by inquiring whether your husband can get dressed in a different room so that he will not continue to wake you up. He can put all of the things (clothes, shoes, etc.) he needs for the next morning in another room before he goes to sleep, so that you will not hear him moving around. Perhaps he can also purchase an alarm clock that makes enough noise to awaken him, but not something loud and annoying. The Kosher Clock (an alarm clock that is used by many people on Shabbos because it does not require a snooze button) is loud enough to wake one up, but is not as annoying as other alarm clocks.
Maybe you can wear earplugs to sleep, so that you will not hear the alarm clock. And if your husband insists on arising for vasikin – which forces him to get up early anyway – he could get up a bit earlier if he hears the baby or he could let you know if the baby is crying. Another idea is for you to keep the alarm clock farther away from where you sleep so that you will not hear it as loudly as you do now. This will compel your husband to get up to shut it off, making it less likely that he will go back to sleep.
It would be helpful for the two of you to have a calm conversation about this at a time when you are not feeling frustrated or angry (maybe on a Motzaei Shabbos, when you are not as sleep-deprived).
You can tell your husband that you love him very much and do not want to fight about this situation. Then you can raise the idea of asking his rav for guidance, as this is becoming a big tircha for you and is affecting your ability to be a good wife and mother. You can express that while you understand the big zechus of davening vasikin, you would really appreciate his understanding of how hard this is for you and to please make as many accommodations for you as possible. Try not to put your husband on the defensive because that is generally not effective. Use the “I feel…” messages, i.e. “I feel badly that you are not taking my feelings into account” instead of using statements of blame, i.e. “You are being unfair to me.” Also, consider using neutral statements like “I need to sleep so I can be a good mother and wife. I am feeling very frustrated and angry because I am not getting enough sleep.” While both statements may be true, the first will likely lead to an argument while the second gets your point across in a non-judgmental manner.
This conversation will probably be more successful if you stay away from the blame game and try to stick to the problem at hand. Getting nowhere is not an option because you need to get sleep in order to function properly. You did not mention your daytime schedule, so I am not sure that the idea of napping during the day is an option. Maybe your husband is willing to pay for a babysitter, so you can get some much- needed sleep in the morning when the kids are in school. Or perhaps you can sleep in, and have your husband or a helper get the children off to school in the morning. If you have no choice regarding the vasikin minyan, you need to look into other, feasible time periods to sleep. Can you go to sleep earlier? If you work, can you sleep for an hour or so when you get home? None of these possibilities are foolproof solutions, but if your husband will continue to daven vasikin, he needs to understand that he should be flexible with you and make sure that you either do not get woken up when he does or you get the opportunity to make up some of that sleep at another time. Either way, remember that you will gain much more with a calm voice and with the aforementioned “I feel…” messages. Hatzlachah!
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