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One of the English expressions that made my students laugh, back when I used to teach a whole bunch of people from all around the world, was “to fall asleep.” On the one hand, with any luck at all, you are not falling anywhere. On the other hand, there is this sensation of sinking into a dreamy state. Or maybe that’s because of the words we use. (Which came first, the thought or the words?) Drifting off to sleep also sounds nice, a solid raft under you as waters take you to a land called sleep.

Speaking of words we use, in Spanish, we don’t fall, or even drift off to sleep, though we can “stay ourselves asleep” (quedarnos dormidos), but that really refers to keeping to your sleeping state as opposed to just beginning it (though I use it for both). The way we get to enter the sleep state in Spanish, rather than banana-peel slipping and falling into it, or getting onto something floating and moving slowly towards the Land of Nod, is by coming to an agreement with sleep.

Conciliar el sueño. (to fall asleep, literally something akin to agree with/reconcile sleep)

Te cuesta mucho conciliar el sueño? Is it very hard for you to fall asleep?

I love the idea that in order for me to enter the sleep state, I must first make an agreement. No falling, no drifting, just well-worded contracts, which I will abbreviate Ks, because I went to law school, and they teach you to do that.

My agreement would look something like this:

The Sleepee is willing to surrender to a certain level of unconsciousness if and only if she is permitted to hop out of it prematurely in case of emergency not limited to bad dreams, danger, fire or having to go to the bathroom. Once the agreed-upon period is slept, which is indicated by an alarm, the Sleepee’s desire to be awake or the Sleepee’s body’s natural sleep cycle having ended, the entity referred to as Sleep will relinquish control of the Sleepee’s body and mind, so that the Sleepee may greet the dawn, and the mountains that live outside.

What would your agreement look like?

Also, apologies to all the insomniacs out there. I am one of those people who falls asleep in the MRI machine, even with all the clanging. Perhaps this is because of my superior sleep-bargaining skills? Or just a whole lot of luck, which is more likely. May I suggest reading about theoretical linguistics or law? Both of these things put me to sleep throughout many thousands of dollars of higher education.