I’m having an uneasy relationship with sleep at the moment. When I was younger I had post viral syndrome / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome after a throat infection that resulted in my sleeping a large part of my later teenage years away and having to scale back my A Level subjects. I actually fell asleep during class on a regular basis. The school was pretty good about this once I’d been diagnosed, and thankfully the worst of the symptoms passed after 18 months. This may sound like a long time, but for some sufferers CFS (also known as ME) causes an extreme reaction and there are some people who never make any sort of recovery.

Following this I never had the stamina of my friends. Yes, I’d go clubbing but by 1am I’d feel like I’d ran 4 marathons and be slumped in a corner, desperate to go home whilst everyone around me was still going strong. The next day would be a write off. I haven’t really improved – bedtime at 9pm is perfectly acceptable to me – and thankfully Him Underfoot is of a similar inclination so we are usually tucked up under the duvet before the watershed.

The Sleeper & The Spindle (Neil Gaiman)

The Sleeper & The Spindle (Neil Gaiman)

This impacts on social events – we rarely go to concerts these days as bands seem to feel that being onstage before 9pm is not an option. On a work night, it really isn’t. Even on a weekend we struggle but thankfully the venues we tend to see bands in double up as clubs and kick the band crowd out by 10:30.

Yet for the past 3 years I’ve had great difficulty in sleeping. I know when it started – when I became extremely stressed at work and ultimately had to take 4 months off on the sick. I couldn’t sleep for worrying about the volume of work, I couldn’t sleep for worrying about what stick my manager would use to beat me with next, I couldn’t sleep because I knew I couldn’t work the extra unpaid hours he was demanding because my body just can’t be pushed past a certain point without full scale physical collapse – which was why I actively chose to work part time. Oh, and anything chemical to aid sleep is a big no-no due to my body’s delightfully extreme biological response to anything it considers an invader.

So you’d think that now I no longer have to worry about work I’d sleep better. And I do – to a point. One of the reasons I’m taking a break from alcohol is that it is supposed to hinder quality sleep (and I know this to be true, as it also makes me hot and fidgety). And I am sleeping a little better. But the dreams…!

Here be monsters...

Here be monsters…

So last night I was sitting hand feeding Neil Gaiman cheese and pineapple from a 1970’s style party hedgehog. I was stealing scarves from nuns and tripping over a novice’s habit. There was the 12 Nights of Christmas, complete with bells and whistles that I suspect was unduly influenced by my neighbour’s daughter playing the saxophone at ungodly hours. And the night I spent stealing treasure from a round tower on a sandbar under threat of flooding.

I don’t mind this. My brain is having fun. That’s fine, if that were where it ended. But it doesn’t, and I’m also having so many dreams about my dad, who died 11 months ago. And these dreams are often concerned with the morning that he died. I know it’s natural, that I have these dreams. I know it’s part of the grieving process – and there are some of them when he’s positively jolly and full of life. You’d think this would help, but when you wake you are just left with the realisation that’s no, he’s actually not here.

Every night...

Every night…

I’m at the stage now where I’d just like to have a peaceful night’s kip. To lie down, close my eyes and drift off into a state of quiet bliss, like Him Underfoot and the dog manage to do in quite frankly irritatingly short spans of time. Not the stop-start mental battle I have every night, no matter how tired I am, or how comfortable and quiet the room is. To place my head on it’s feather pillow and step off that ledge into sweet easy sleep such as that I had as a teenager.

Fingers crossed, tonight could be the night. Sweets dreams.

NB. All images in this post are by Chris Riddell and are illustrations from his and Neil Gaiman’s The Sleeper and the Spindle. Gorgeous. 


9 thoughts on “Sleep

  1. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been having trouble sleeping, and I am incredibly sorry to hear about your Dad. I’m sending lots of love and thoughts your way and hope it gets easier for you soon.

    I’ve never been able to sleep properly. I spend all day tired (I have mild cerebral palsy which I think contributes to my tiredness) but as soon as I climb into bed I absolutely cannot sleep, so I end up even more exhausted the following day. Of course, my university projects are not helping either, as when I do sleep I wake myself up worrying. I also find that whenever I dream I never feel as well rested. It’s strange. My grandmother used to swear by putting lavender underneath your pillow but I’ve never tried it. I also used the aching muscle soak by Elemis in my bath which helped a lot, but it’s so expensive that I cannot afford to use it regularly!

    I hope you find a solution to your sleeping problems soon!

    • Thank you for your lovely reply. I’ve never tried lavender either – I have quite a bit of it in the yard so think I may give it a go once the weather warms up and it starts blossoming again as I love the smell.

      I know what you mean about the daytime fuzziness, there’s a blur to the day when you don’t feel properly rested. And I sympathise with the thought of uni assignments in your mind – I’m past that stage now but I remember it so well! Particularly when I did a full time masters, the workload was stupendous and there were several modules to juggle all at once – completing it in 12 months was a nightmare!

  2. I often have insane dreams! Last night it was all puzzles I had to solve as part of some game, often they’ re full of magic or ordinary situations somehow made strange. I have trouble getting through the day without a nap. Hope you do ok with sleep! Watching a 10 min medication can help relax your mind. Definitely no Gothic or horror stuff too close to bedtime!

      • The problem is, I’ve tried the meditation route, I’ve tried the scenic visualisation techniques, listening to tapes, doing muscle relaxing exercises, I’ve even been on a sleep therapy course (and have implemented all the practical advice like blackout curtains etc). But when my mind goes to bed it does it’s own wandering thing – and it often goes down the horror route. Like, HU visualises a rather beautiful place we camped on the Isle of Skye, with sheep, heather for miles, the gentle wash of the sea and sky stretching to the north pole. It was gorgeous. Works for him every time.

        Me? In my head we’re being murdered in our tent, chased by zombies, facing the apocalypse, and the occasional mutant sheep may wander into the picture. My imagination goes into overdrive, and often it goes to some pretty nasty places. I don’t know why, it’s like I have to fight world crime when I shut my eyes!

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