Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The Witching Hour…….

When you suffer from crippling insomnia like I do, the bedroom becomes more like a battlefield than an actual place of rest. As the hours draw later and you end up closer to the time that most normal would be preparing for a good night’s sleep, you know that you yourself will be staring into the darkness, willing your body to finally switch off and get some rest.

Doesn’t happen.

The hours stretch out into an endless procession of time that results in you checking your clock every five minutes in a disbelieving way, while your body tells you: Yep, still awake. While you’re here, what shall we go over in your mind now?

When I was a kid, sleep came easy. Though my sleeping position was a bit different, if I'm truly honest. I used to scrunch under the covers into the tightest foetal position going, unwilling to let any part of my body hang over the edge purely for the belief that if it did, a rotting cadaverous hand would reach out from the blackness beneath my bed and drag me into the space where the monsters lived.

I’m a 31 year old man and I still do this.

Seriously, I do.

Even at this age, I can’t let any part of my body hang over the edge of the bed, and even though I am old enough to know that monsters don’t exist (apart from Sharon Osbourne), I still have the night terrors engrained on my psyche from when I was young and stupid to have: Yeah, there are no such things as monsters, but I’m not fecking chancing it! running through my mindscape.

But in all honesty, the only monster I have to deal with during the night is insomnia. And it is a scaly and nasty beast that I am at a loss as to how to defeat.

I do sleep better when I am in bed with someone, but I only see Kates a few nights a week, so the rest of the time I am left to fight my demons on my own. When we are together though, we have a sleeping position that can be deemed a little odd. We have something that we call headlocks and basically consists of us spooning while I wrap my arms around her head and neck in what looks like a really poorly executed wrestling move. And for some bizarre reason we both seem to like it. Though what that says about our relationship where I can only get to sleep if I’m basically throttling her, I don’t know…….

But even with my girlfriend in bed with me, and us re-enacting the best moves of Bret The Hitman Hart, sleep is quite often unable to be found for me. So I normally spend a very lonely night lying awake next to my lovely sleeping lady (my lovely sleeping lady who can annoyingly drop off as soon as her head hits the pillow) and read by lamplight until the early hours.

As Kates is a light sleeper though, either the light from my lamp or the sound of me turning a page, or even the sound of me daring to take a breath, will rip her from her sleep and cause her to rise from the covers in a tidal wave of blonde hair (seriously, bed hair doesn’t come close to describing it. I sometimes feel like I have to brandish a chair and a whip at her, screaming “Back beast, back!” when she wakes up in the morning. And yes, I am going to die when she reads this. Painfully, and probably involving some form of blunt instrument to my testes).

She will blink at me with sleepy eyes, taking in the sight of my lying there, lamp on, book in my hand, and ask, “Are you still reading?”

Now there are many ways in which I can reply to this. My normal sarcastic side usually screams out in my head: No, I’m crocheting. What are your measurements again? But to be honest, a combination of tiredness and a fear of bodily harm prevent me from saying this, and I just normally shake my head and switch the light off as she cuddles up beside me, while I stare at the ceiling and wait for the birds to start singing. And if I finally manage to snatch a few moments of sleep, the alarm will then go off for me to glare groggily at it and scream.

Insomnia really affects you during the day though. As the days roll by, a lack of sleep presents itself in a deep seated weariness that you can feel in your bones. Everything becomes washed out and faded; all the edges are smoothed off from the world until you feel like a half drawn animation, struggling through your own personal cartoon.

Over time, if the body is deprived of sleep, it can do strange things. My coordination becomes sluggish, my reactions poor. I’m struggling to write this even now, as my sleep has been terrible for the last few weeks. I have to keep reading everything over and over again for fear of making mistakes. I always feel as if I am about ten seconds behind everything else as everything is dull and listless for me under the fuzzy cloud of tiredness.

As per the cycle of this shitty routine, after about three or four weeks, my body will just give up and I will just fall to sleep at the drop of a hat, regardless of place or situation.

I remember one time I came home from work, literally dragging my arse across the floor from tiredness. I was too shattered to cook so I ordered myself a pizza. When it came, I took it to my sofa and lay down. Within minutes of doing so I was asleep face first on my pizza, where I stayed until the cold early hours of the morning. When I awoke, I didn’t have a clue where I was and sat up with a pizza slice stuck to my face, looking for all the world like some cheese based Phantom Of The Opera.

Another time when this embarrassing incident took place was when I worked in a photo lab. I entered our darkroom to change some photographic paper. I sat down in the pitch black on our work bench and due to a combination of the darkness, the quiet, and the lovely warmth, I was asleep in seconds. It was only someone banging on the door about half hour later that woke me up. Sadly I forgot where I was and thought I had gone blind.

Wasn’t funny at the time……..

I can feel that time creeping up on me now. My body feels like a clapped out old motor with barely enough juice in the tank to make it another few miles. But I know what will happen, I will crash at some point, my body not able to go any further, and I will forcibly have a good night’s sleep, waking up the next day to feel like I have been reborn. Everything will take on a brighter hue, be sharper and more defined to my fresh eyes, and I will feel what it really means to have a good night’s rest.

And then it will start all over again.

I hate you insomnia.

Seriously, if you had nipples, I would really twist them until you started crying……………..


Millions Of Atoms Man said...

Ah, if insomnia had nipples...the constant refrain of my youth. Huh? Wha? Oh, I was daydreaming out loud again...

I had insomnia for a long time in my twenties. When my thirties hit, I gained about 30 pounds and coincidentally I now sleep like a sack of potatoes. Fat ones.

Anyway, start eating until you pass out. Repeat. Soon you will pass out without food to help you. Oh, I forgot to mention the snoring...

Maybe insomnia isn't so bad...

Yankee Girl said...

I battle with insomnia as well. It sucks and there are weeks that I don't get any sleep and then turn into a monster. I have tried sleeping pills but those just made me more tired but wouldn't make me fall asleep. Instead I would just stay up all night crying.

Now if I can't fall asleep, I'll smoke pot. I call it medicinal marijuana. Works every time. It is the only time I even consider smoking.

Eva Gallant said...

How terrible; have you been checked medically or had a sleep test? I can't imagine what your life must be like, because most nights I'm like your girlfriend and fall asleep immediatelhy.

mapstew said...

Dan, Dan
The Wide Awake Man!

Insomnia is a pure bastard!

I have a t-shirt permanently draped over my bed-side lamp so as not to wake Heself with my late-night reading. I often read 'til my eyes are sore and my arms are too weak to hold a book.

I work mostly at weekends, usually quite late, and still have to read before I can sleep!

Unless I am drunk! I try NOT to do that EVERY night though! :¬)

Oiche mhaith!

jules said...

Love the Phantom Pizza visual.

Sometimes I pick a broad topic, say Food. Then I go through the alphabet and have to think of a Food item that begins with each letter. I'm all, Apple, Banana, Chips, Donuts, yadda yadda. Sometimes it helps. Its takes more focus than random sheep.

Good luck. Maybe your GF can move in and then you will sleep better! :-)

Miss OverThinker said...

I have seen a lot of people who blog are also insomniacs - I wonder if there is a correlation. I myself struggle with it, but unlike you I can only sleep when I am alone, anyone else in bed and I just can't sleep. The years that I dated, I always went and slept in another room.. these days I am trying some herbal tea that helps me sleep at night.. like someone else said above, move in with your gf and sleep better.

J said...

I can totally relate to the aftereffects that you listed after going through a few nights' without enough sleep. It's horrible.
A person at this stage is a walking zombie for me, barely aware of what's going on.The less serious side of me cannot help but come up with some potential funny scenarios related to this...hmmm...
This post of yours was just as funny if not more, than the others and you were barely awake at that!!

Anonymous said...

Ah! Insomnia...

can relate to your post :)

scarlethue said...

They say the worst part of insomnia is the anxiety that builds as you get closer to bedtime. I've heard that to deal with it, you're just supposed to not go to bed til you're tired. If you lay there and can't sleep, you get up again and do something out of bed, then when you get sleepy, go back to bed.

I'm a terrible sleeper as well. I have to have earplugs. I can get to sleep right away, but I wake up 6 times throughout the night and will lay there for twenty minutes or more trying to find sleep. Add all that up and I usually only get a few hours as well. Today I am particularly drowsy, just posted about it too.

JenJen said...

Insomnia is a royal asshole. Go ask your queen.
Wait. Are you allowed to dis the queen like we can pick apart the president here? No? yes?

Sorry queen bee. Mi dispiace.
I am currently sleeping with Insomnia's cousin "can'tfallasleepnia" He's a real prick.
Not royalty though. Fucker.

aladdinsane12 said...

oh man, would i love to see you with a face full of pizza!

and i'm totally with you on the sleeping with limbs hanging off the bed thing. i've tried it once or twice in my adult years, but kept imagining dead people grabbing my hands and feet and biting them. still can't do it.

Kim Ayres said...

As a sufferer of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I can completely relate to the feelings throughout the day.

I generally don't have a problem dropping off to sleep wen I go to bed. My problem lies is in waking up far too early and being completely unable to get back to sleep again.

A couple of years ago, I was filling in some questionnaire about sleeping patterns and one it asked was how refreshed you feel when you wake up - scaling from bright eyed and bushy tailed to cripplingly awful.

I was genuinely surprised to realise that some people can wake up feeling refreshed.

I have absolutely no idea what that must feel like.

So yes, you have my empathy

Sarah Louise said...

For me the worst thing is that my whole life seems like a total disaster in that horrible time between 2 a.m and dawn. Until I discovered BBC world service. Fortunately I love talk radio, and having something to listen too keeps the demon thoughts away while my body relaxes. Ear plugs when I am not alone.
I go to the states quite a lot, and there I stream Radio 4 on my laptop. Very strange listening to Women's Hour or You and Yours in those pre-dawn hours.
Thanks for another great post.

Lorenza said...

Hi Dan why don't you do the basic course of the Art of Living Foundation ( It works magic for sleeping desorders (and lot of other stuff) and it is basically a breathing technique. They are present in 150 countries so they must be in London too. I do this technique since july 2008 and FEEL GREAT!


Kitty Moore said...

I can totally relate Dan - my mind rarely switches off long enough to let me sleep. I often stumble out of bed having had a total of two hours of broken sleep.

Kato said...

I can relate my friend. Been suffering from it since I was 12, and I am now 30. 18 years. I had to do that sum on my calculator just now because I am too tired to figure it out myself.

Your vicious sleep circle is mine, and I really do feel bad for you!

hope said...

Oh the irony of finding this post after a night of not-so-good sleep. My problem wasn't an inability to get to sleep. Hell, I even hang a foot off the bed and dangle it to GET to sleep, a motion leftover from childhood. Guess I thought the monsters were in the closet and wouldn't see my leg as bait for anything lurking under the bed.

No, my sinuses tried to drown me and I woke up coughing. Have to sit up for a while to fix that...and getting back to sleep is awful! Pollen season is like a mini-insomnia visit for me.

Although that is not even a tenth of what you experience, I do feel for you. But NEVER let your mind start wandering when you lie down because it may never shut up...and that could be a sign that you're turning into a girl! That's why we try to fall asleep before our heads hit the keep "The Lists" at bay.

And if it helps you out, I am jealous of Kates' blonde locks. ;)

floreta said...

if you twisted my nipples i would probably just get turned on. hahahah.

ladytruth said...

" I sometimes feel like I have to brandish a chair and a whip at her, screaming “Back beast, back!” when she wakes up in the morning "
I was chuckling at this a bit since I have a serious case of bed hair every morning. Couple that with morning breath and it ain't such a good morning after all. But regarding insomnia? Sleep LOVES me. I LOVE sleep. I try to sleep at least once a day and a lot at night. I don't know why. And that whole thing of 'beauty sleep'? I'm not even a pretty picture WHILE I'm sleeping and it doesn't do much for me during the day either. But I feel for you with the insomnia. And I feel for the insomnia if it has nipples :)