I haven’t been able to sleep too well recently. In the past, bed has been a safe place I long to reach at the end of a long day; somewhere I can lie comfortably close to my husband, or turn away and stretch out with a little gap creating a cool space between us. No less love, but a rather lower temperature. I’m getting to a funny age where such things matter.
So what is the problem? Why can’t I sleep beyond 4.30? By the time the clock turns over to 05:00 I am lying there trying not to think about the increasing need to get up and go to the loo – as our bathroom is downstairs there is no staggering out with sleep-filled eyes. If I am not fully awake by the top of our steep staircase I know I might as well throw myself to the bottom and be done with it. So by the time I have done the necessary and returned to lie back underneath the duvet, my mind is working harder than it does at almost any other point in the day – the physicality of the whirling mass of thoughts, fears and anxieties that manifest themselves in those small hours is literally palpable.
If my husband can’t sleep he gets up and watches something boring on the television, waits patiently until he feels dozy and then tries again. Not a deep thinker during the day, he doesn’t become one at night so even if sleep doesn’t eventually overpower him he isn’t beset by demons taunting him over things half remembered or taking him to task over things said or done. Whilst I will lay there imagining all manner of horrors; seeing darkness in every nook and cranny of my life, he will simply re-run the last Ireland rugby match. Perhaps he will even celebrate scoring the winning try….
I have camomile tea and read quietly before I lay down. I have a routine. I don’t eat loads before bedtime. But I do have anxieties that creep up on me during the daytime, so I have to assume that they have nocturnal relations – the anxiety night-shift – that are shiftless and grey and lurk camouflaged in the balls of fluff under the bed….
I know some people suffer far greater problems with sleeplessness than me. Insomnia leaves you unrefreshed, fatigued, irritable and ill-prepared to meet the challenges of the coming day. I can be all those things but I can’t blame them all on lack of sleep. I would just like to find a way of nodding back off at 5am before the night-time niggles take hold.
There is a wonderful poem by Fleur Adcock that does at least offer the small comfort that I am not alone…
There are worse things than having behaved foolishly in public.
There are worse things than these miniature betrayals,
committed or endured or suspected; there are worse things
than not being able to sleep for thinking about them.
It is 5 a.m. All the worse things come stalking in
and stand icily about the bed looking worse and worse
Clearly 5am is ‘that’ sort of time. However, on the one occasion when I gave up trying, creeping out of bed, slippers on and wrapped up in an old sweatshirt to my desk, I logged on to find that there is a whole group of people up and working at that hour. At least I think they were working – they were certainly on twitter and Facebook – and I sat back quite abashed. Dissertations were being written, essays marked and blog posts put up. Children were running around the feet of mummybloggers and the ubiquitous cat pictures and inspirational quotes were already appearing in my Facebook timeline. It actually crossed my mind that if I got up early every morning I would actually ‘live’ longer – or have more ‘life’ at any event. What would an extra two hours asleep do anyway?
I suspect it would make up for the fact that I had been typing away or reading until 1am. How easy would it be to change from an ‘owl’ to a ‘lark’? As I sit here writing I can hear my husband cleaning his teeth and getting ready to climb the wooden stairs to Bedfordshire. Perhaps I should follow. Night night - see you on the early twitter shift tomorrow…