Friday, 8 February 2013

In Praise of Insomnia

I used to be a good sleeper; in fact through my 20s and 30s there was much photographic evidence of me sleeping still at 2pm, or in a mega-grump following a rude awakening at the unearthly hour of 9am. As I entered my 40s, this began to change - I'd often find myself wakeful at 3am, lying uncomfortably in bed trying not to annoy the ex-husband, trying to will myself back to sleep.

With all the Steve-drama from age 41 onwards (for even when we first met and were happy, there was always drama), things only got worse. Whole nights would disappear in a fug of drifting from a state of greater to lesser anxiety and back again. Things came to a head 18 months into the relationship, the first time he cheated. Yet this was also the time that things changed.

I knew I wasn't going to be able to sleep because I was so upset, so I didn't even try. Whole nights would pass where I would sit up catching up on TV I'd missed, watching DVD box-sets or writing angsty blog-posts and diary entries. It then occurred to me that this was a lot of useful time I was wasting. Here I was lounging around wide-awake all night, whilst during the day I felt too exhausted to do anything other than get through work/housework. Here was on opportunity to do some of those things that were being neglected - starting with the ironing mountain.

So I got into a routine - the first part of the night I would watch TV/DVDs, and as the sun came up (this was summer time) I would make a cup of tea, listen to the dawn chorus, and then start on the housework. There's all sorts of things you can do while the world around you sleeps. Ironing is my absolute favourite, but dusting, polishing, washing down the paintwork, putting on the washing, tidying the 'man drawer', cleaning out the cupboards, mopping the floors - all these are available to you. I also found it was a useful time to do other 'catch-up' things - update my CPD file, check I was on the lowest fuel tariffs, sort out my dad's house insurance, reply to emails, that sort of thing.

As the trauma all died down, so did the wakefulness, but from then on, with a few spells of full nights' sleep, I have been an insomniac. There has been insomnia induced by being woken by noise and feeling an immediate adrenalin rush, then being unable to sleep (because of the stalking). But there is also the 'normal' insomnia even when I am not afeared. I have two distinct types of insomnia - the type where I am awake until about 4am, only falling asleep to the sound of the birds awakening (typing this, I realise this is my summer insomnia), and the type where I am knackered by 10pm or earlier, sleep until 1 or 2am and am then up until 5 or 6 (which is   mostly the winter pattern). My alarm goes off at 7.

It's not something that bothers me, and I am getting to realise that I actually prefer it. When I sleep through for a number of nights (like I have the last three weeks cos of feeling a bit ill with a chest infection), my house turns into a biohazard. When you aren't needing to do housework in the day, you tend to then fill those days with other things - looking back, when my dad was ill/dying, I'd never have cleaned the house if it hadn't been for my insomnia. So now when I do sleep, I feel like I 'have no time' for housework and I resent it eating into my life.

There's also the emotional aspects of it. I love 4am; it has a stillness no other time has. In winter, in the bitter dark (I refuse to put the heating on at night!), there is a feeling that you are the only thing alive. Sitting with my cup of tea, I can open the patio door to complete silence. If there are snowflakes drifting down, the silence deepens and it is even more magical. Then in summer, 4am is when the sky is lightening. It's when the chirruping begins, when life is beginning to stir and it feels like a privilege to watch the world awaken.

4am is also, right now, a damn good time to go slug hunting. The little buggers are out then, they think I'm not around. Imagine their horror when I leap into Kingdom of the Slug (formerly known as the utility room), kitchen roll in hand, and evict them, throwing them outside and hearing the satisfying 'splat' of slug hitting next door's patio.

These last few weeks have been really rubbish - slept right through unless I've been woken by coughing - in which case I can't do anything (am certainly far too weakened for slug-combat) except cough cough cough cough COUGH (boak).

So you can imagine my excitement to be still awake at 3am this morning! The only downside was that this was entirely unexpected, and so instead of using my time constructively I found I had spent all those precious hours mostly on looking at pictures, memes and YouTubes of Grumpy Cat. But hey, YAY! Welcome back insomnia! I've MISSED YOU!

No comments:

Post a Comment