Monday 9 February 2015

Deprived of sleep I'm starting to lose my very tiny mind!

Sleep sleep glorious sleep. I love sleep and sleep loves me. When sleep leaves me, as it has done recently, I crumble like a man who’s lost his lover.

We all have our Achilles heel, and mine is sleep, or rather, the lack thereof. Given a good night’s kip I can face anything that the universe might throw at me, but after even one night's dodgy slumber I’m lost.

If my recent lack of sleep were the result of a hectic social life I’d be delighted, but I’ve not been drinking. I’ve not been to bed late. I’ve been a good little scribbler, who has for the last six nights woken up somewhere between 2:00 and 4:30 each morning.

If I was writing this in April I might understand my rhythms better. Each year as the sun rises earlier and earlier, I tend to wake up at ridiculously impractical times. To be honest, although it’s a pain when that happens, I don’t mind too much. It feels somewhat primal, as if the bear that lurks inside me is emerging from hibernation, greeting the new season with an eagerness and desire to make the most of all the daylight hours.

Yet as we enter what the Irish rather optimistically call ‘Spring’, my early waking has nothing to do with the fact that the sun is rising a little earlier each morning. To this Londoner, February is still Winter. 

Even though the sap is rising in the willow whips outside; even though there are buds appearing on the soft fruit bushes and a tiny creep of light is appearing in the early evenings, as if somebody has left the dark door of Winter ajar, I cannot pretend that my present sleep deprivation is driven by the Seasons.

As any true insomniac will tell you, lack of sleep feeds upon itself. Aware of the fact that you have not slept well, you go to bed dreading another bad night, which creates in itself a certain disastrous self-fulfilling prophecy.

Years ago I used to work alongside a true insomniac and it was a terrible thing to see the effect the condition had upon him. The moment he walked in the door I was able to tell whether he had failed to sleep the night before. 

His shoulders would be slumped forward, his pallor turned grey and the fire of positivity that usually lurked just behind his eyes was replaced with a resigned sadness; his usual passion for the job transformed into a dreadful acceptance that exhaustion was to be his lot for the foreseeable future.

Thankfully I am not an insomniac, as at least 340 times each year I fall asleep somewhere between 10:30 and 11:30, and (apart from the middle aged male middle of the night peeper) wake around 6:30 or 7:00. For that I give much thanks, as those seven or eight hours of restorative slumber allow me to function as  - well, I was going to say ‘a normal human being’, but I suppose that’s for others to judge!

Were this a particularly stressful time I would better understand, but it’s not. Yet for the last six nights I have had such an active brain that after waking in the middle of the night, there is no more rest to be had.

Back in 2008, my father’s decade-long journey towards death was coming to an end. He died in May of that year, two weeks before the Snapper and I were to be married. Given the combination of the loss of my much-loved parent and the planning of a wedding that was due to take place in two countries over three days, my sleeping patterns went haywire.

Driven by an overactive brain, my sense of hearing acquired new levels of intensity. Each night I was woken up by noises I’d never heard before, and to this day I feel sorry for one particular bread delivery man.

At that time we were living behind a hotel, and unaware that I was slightly mad and temporarily the possessor of the aural capabilities of an owl, I was driven demented each night by the sound of his truck beep-beep-beeping as he reversed it down the ramp towards the hotel kitchen.

One morning the poor unfortunately delivery driver was confronted by a raging nutter in the shape of your colyoomist, clad only in a dressing gown and slippers, shouting yelling crying beseeching him to please please stop reversing each morning. Was there any way he could possibly just park at the top of the ramp and deliver his loaves on a trolley?

The poor bloke looked at me with the contempt I deserved, and explained that he’d been reversing down that ramp five times a week for the past four years.

I insisted that was impossible, as I lived just over there, look, see that window? That’s my bedroom, that is, and I’ve never heard you before the last fortnight. You must’ve just started doing it, and you’re waking me up and it’s driving me doolally.

After returning to my house I sat and pondered the delivery driver’s response. As I often tell the Snapper, it takes me a while, but I get there in the end. Gradually it dawned on me that he had no reason to lie, so clearly I had been in the wrong.

Accepting that for this brief yet incredibly stressful period of my life I would not be able to sleep well, the next day I returned to see the delivery man again (this time dressed in clothes and shoes) and apologised profusely.

However, the reason why I’m unable to sleep well at the moment eludes me, as does energy, enthusiasm and sanity. Hopefully by next week my usual patterns will have returned and you will be spared my whinging. In the meantime, I send a loving hug out to all the insomniacs of the world.

I feel your pain.

©Charlie Adley

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