Alan's Blog



Dream On!

Insomnia. One thing I do really enjoy is a good night's sleep. I feel like a new man when I wake feeling refreshed after a good sleep. But how do I get one?

Since being, so far, forced into retirement, I've been finding it difficult to sleep. Grace says it is because I'm not doing anything to get tired and I'm sure she's quite right about that in some ways even though my 'normal' job doesn't involve anything physically demanding beyond getting out of bed and into the car. If I was doing some sort of physical activity, I'm sure I'd sleep better, but doing anything physical at my age, and in this winter weather, is really not on. I quite like cycling, and a little walking, but in the winter in the UK I hardly leave the house. The real difficulty is getting to sleep in the first place. If I go to bed at anything like a normal time I lay there for some hours before falling asleep. Lying in bed wide awake is probably one of the most boring activities in life. Counting sheep, cows, cats, dogs or camels doesn't have any affect at all. Neither do the herbal sleep remedies I've tried.

As I'm writing this after 4:00 a.m. without having been to bed, let alone sleep, you can see the sort of problem I have. Even when I feel tired and am yawning my head off, I still can't sleep. One reason is having an overactive brain that is always thinking about something or other – even if it's thoughts that are nonsensical. Sometimes, my train of thoughts just go around and around repeating themselves for hours. Invariably, I get up and head downstairs for a cup of tea and something to eat. Is it any wonder I'm getting fatter?

It's now got to the point where, much of the time, I don't even go to bed at all. As I don't wish to disturb Grace, who never has any trouble in sleeping, I stay downstairs and just sleep on the sofa whenever I eventually decide I need to get my head down. Our dog, Kanga, isn't impressed at all as I keep her awake at all sorts of strange times when she should be fast asleep and in dreamland – she does so love her normal 22 hours sleep per day!

The worst experience of my life was that of losing our little girl after almost a year of nursing her 24 hours a day throughout that time. One of the real surprises of this period was realising just how little sleep I needed to keep going. There were times when I only had two to three hours sleep over a period of fifty to sixty hours. How did I cope with that? I don't have an answer; I just did. Sometimes we were administering food or medicine every hour throughout the night and dealing with that and everything else during the day – for almost a whole year. I'm not saying it was easy – far from it – but I coped far better than I should have done. Maybe this experience has changed something in me that now enables me to endure little sleep for extended periods – just having a short snooze while sitting in the chair seems to help me wonderfully well. If I get three to four hours continuous sleep during the night, I find I can still function during the day – albeit that I'm not doing anything physically demanding.

The one attractive aspect about not having to go to bed / sleep at a particular time is the freedom this gives me to do whatever I want to during the night, whether it be reading, writing, eating, drinking or even sleeping. Of course, I have to be aware that the rest of the family is sleeping so I can't play Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture at full volume as the firing of the cannons would have everyone out of bed in a shot! Silence is a virtue that I can easily live with in my nocturnal activities. In fact, it's of considerable benefit as it allows my mind to focus more easily on my writing, in particular, as there are no distractions to disrupt the flow of words.

Maybe all of us could achieve more in the extra hours we're awake than we would normally expect possible. I spend much of my nights reading books and writing – both of which I love and are activities that are quiet enough not to disturb the rest of the family – except Kanga, our lovely dog who loyally watches over me throughout the night, as well as the day.

Dream on!

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