Monday, 20 October 2014


I’m so tired. So very tired.

In the middle of last week I started waking up around 4-ish in the morning. Middle age brings with it a man’s need to wander to loo in the middle of the night, but some time ago I perfected the art of drifting somnolently there and back and going straight back to sleep.

Yet for the last ten days I have been lying awake for hours, finally giving up on any hope of restorative sleep, kicking the duvet off me and going to put the kettle on for the Snapper, who takes Lady Dog out for her morning peeper.

Were it March, with the hours of daylight growing longer and earlier I might understand, as I’ve noticed how Alpha males start waking up really early around that time of year.

Stress is the other factor to consider. Nothing guarantees a bad night’s sleep like a brain spinning mental plates on imaginary rods. Thing is, back when this premature waking started, I was not stressed. Life was good and I was happy.

Now, however, I force myself through my days as if the air were treacle. Everything is such an effort and by 9:30pm I’m dozing in my armchair.

Captain Funtastic I am not. Stubborn, dogged, strong enough to keep going just a little beyond where I should have stopped, I usually enjoy great stamina. Yet take my kip from me and I’m as useless as Samson with a bald bonce.

To mix my Biblical and Homeric metaphors, sleep is my Achilles Heel.

Where there was no stress to justify my insomnia there now thrives plenty. A fuzzy head and turgid brain would not help anyone do their job, but as a writer/teacher/editor, mental alacrity is vital. The autumnal mist lying low on the fields outside has gone by midday, but fog now swirls all day around my brain, refusing to allow me clarity or focus.

All I want to do is crawl into bed, pretend I have no deadlines to fill, no classes to teach, no dog to take out, and sleep, but I won’t do that (see: ‘stubborn, dogged’) because I cannot allow myself to.

At first I blamed last week’s full moon, so glorious as it crept over the horizon, rising vast in glowing harvest gold. Then I remembered the wise words of my friend, the Artist Formerly Known As Snarly.

“The moon is innocent!” he declared, flashing a rare toothy smile in my direction.

Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, I nodded in agreement, mainly because upon hearing his words, my mind filled with the chorus of the greatest song Tom Waits never wrote. As an aural hallucination, the great American singer-songwriter’s voice of gravel and treacle blasted through my mind:

“The MOOOOON is IIIn-oooo-ceeent! The MOOOOON is IIIn-oooo-ceeent!

In truth, I believe the moon affects us a great deal. It moves great oceans and dictates the habits of the animal kingdom, of which (lest we forget, in our hubristic delusions of grandeur) we are a part, so why shouldn’t it wake me up when it’s full? But that was last week. Now on the wane, the moon’s journey has not eased my wakefulness.

Before the days of electric light, people in these isles used to have two sleeps. They went to bed a couple of hours after dark, slept for a few hours and then, in the middle of the night, arose, had a warm drink, played a little with the dirt between their toes and stared at where the TV would have been, were it invented. Then, doubtless pissed off that they’d have to wait 400 years for the next episode of Homeland, they went back to bed and slept until dawn.

These days the vast majority of folk are woken up by the unnatural disaster that is the alarm clock. What a travesty! Sleep is such a blessed and precious commodity, allowing our bodies to repair and restore themselves, while images, memories and all kind of filthy salacious nonsense is shuttled back and forth between our conscious and subconscious minds.

I stopped using alarm clocks back in 1984, when I left the corporate world of marketing to try life as a writer. For years, when living on my own up in north Mayo and out in West Connemara, my sleep patterns simply followed my body’s needs and the demands of the seasons.

I went to bed when I was tired and did not rise until I felt refreshed. Such is my nature that quite often I’d be in bed for no more than 7 hours, wandering alone and blissed out along empty secluded beaches at dawn.

Oh, but in the cold months of winter, what joy I felt to lie there, head on the pillows, reading my book, as outside I saw the school bus head along the road to teenage hell. All those poor souls out there, commuting in the crammed subway systems of great cities or those sad lads, sitting on that school bus, heads down, wishing life was different.

How lucky I felt. Almost smug, but ever wary of how fragile the eggshells of our constructed lifestyles can be life, I felt gratitude more than anything. I gave thanks to the universe, for allowing me to have my sleep freed from the needs of others.

As I watch my bleary-eyed exhausted wife don her wellies to take out the dog, I wonder at this uncivilised world we have made for ourselves. Did it never occur to anyone else that if you have to be woken up by an alarm, ripped aforetime from your dreams, you haven’t had enough sleep? How many bad moods and, indeed, how many mad wars might we have avoided if alarm clocks had never been invented?

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we just let the world sleep until it woke up? All those rested people might give peace a chance.

©Charlie Adley

No comments: