Perchance to dream


What’s your sleep been like this past year? Mine’s been all over the place. I suppose it’s hardly surprising, given that 2020 quickly became all about uncertainty and bracing for the worst, and 2021 hasn’t been much better. The problem was that we all needed an extra helping of strength to deal with it, and strength is what good sleep gives you. Without it we are adrift.

I remember the all-nighters at university, trying to finish an essay that had to be on the tutor’s desk by 9am. No problem. Later, in London, I could party all night and still get through a day at work the next day. More recently, I would fly twenty four hours to Australia from London, arrive around 7am, and go straight to work. Somehow I could do that. A bit bleary but I managed. Now, though, a duff night’s sleep has me stumbling around the house like a zombie.

Sometimes it’s mea culpa – like when I’ve drunk too much red wine, which wakens me with a thumping heart, or eaten too late or too much. A snuggly duvet at lights-out can wake you in a sweat in the small hours of the night. But I have control over all that.

The problem, really, is all in the mind. The overactive mind, that is. Instead of floating through pleasant dreams – discovering a lake at the bottom of the garden, having a nice chat with people long dead, that kind of thing – I’ve been waking up at three in the morning and allowing my mind to snap into action. Not big thoughts, either, just processing the status quo. Sometimes it’s been to fume about the awfulness of Trump and the calamity of Brexit, other times it was pondering if there was enough food in the freezer if one of us got Covid. Occasionally I would run through the plotline of the episode of ‘Vera’ or whatever else we’d watched before bed. And often it was to go over the next Design Icons I was about to write for the radio or coming up with the perfect start to a novel. (At 3am, most writers are geniuses. Reality hits when you try to put it down on the page later and can’t quite see what was so brilliant about it in the dark.)

When I lived in London I was often woken by the sound of someone trying to break in, testing the windows or the door. Putting the lights on made them scarper but it was virtually impossible to fall back to sleep after that. No such problems now. Suburban nights are pretty quiet. A few years ago some goon would often let off a single firework nearby which someone told me was a signal that a drug dealer was about but now it’s all very respectable. I might get woken when the possums jump on the roof above the bedroom from a nearby tree. The fruit bats flap about and squeak noisily whenever there’s nectar to be slurped or fruit to snaffle in the garden. On wild stormy nights I can sometimes hear the surf crashing on the beach, which makes it sound much closer that it is. But normally it’s dead quiet and the perfect setting for a good night’s sleep. And yet I lie there awake.

I always advised clients not to put their bed under a window when I was practising feng shui. ‘But I love looking up and seeing the stars,’ one person said to me. ‘Which means you’re not sleeping,’ I replied, in a patronising way. Sorting out the bedroom is half the battle – getting the electronics and flashing lights out, the windows covered, and the bedhead against a solid wall will all help. But sometimes it’s not enough.

Some members of my family will do anything to avoid going to bed. They’re on the computer or watching films until the small hours, and they think nothing of chatting on the phone at midnight. They blink uncomprehendingly when I say I like to be asleep by eleven. One friend uses sleep when she feels overwhelmed or experiences the warning signs of depression. She can sleep for ages and will eventually emerge feeling able to deal with whatever’s next. That’s the wonderful therapy of sleep and I want some of it.

We’re about to move to our place in the country. Whenever we first arrive there I always conk out. It’s like I need time to adjust to the different energy of the place. I usually sleep really well there. I think it’s about being isolated, where the only sounds around me are the sounds of wildlife. Although once the nocturnal calls from the Tawny Frogmouths kept me awake, thinking someone was whispering my name in a hoarse voice. ‘Colin! Colin!’ the voices called, passing overhead. Country life can be spooky.

I’m holding out for a good night’s sleep. In the meantime I have developed a strategy. When I waken then I try to think of a particular day – any day, really – in a foreign place. I conjure up what it felt like sauntering through the Alps or dashing along Piccadilly in the rain and eventually I drift off. It works for me. The past is another country, certainly, but it’s also very good for boring yourself to sleep.

What works for you?

Categories: OtherTags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

6 comments

  1. My sleep is challenged even in a good year. But one of the weird sides of Covid was some especially twisted sleeps with frightening mental confusion in lieu of dreams. Thankful that’s behind me now and I’m back to my regular crazy dreams. The middle-of-the-night brain overdrive hits me a lot too, and the too-much-wine anxiety, but not much helps me beyond waiting it out. Breathing can be good for the anxiety though (2 secs in, 2 secs hold, 2 secs out, 2 secs hold).

  2. I really loved this post, Colin. It felt very gentle.
    The UK is definitely in the grip of Coronasomnia, with many reporting intense dreams. This is certainly true in our house. My younger daughter has always gone to sleep watching something on her phone, but during lockdown I have finally convinced her that reading a book before bed might be more rest inducing.
    I love all the photos. Particularly the red beds – not a good colour for rest at all! Is that something to do with the Papal Conclave?

    • Sleep issues have been quite a theme for these past ten months, certainly, and that’s a great name for it, Coronasomnia… The setting-up for sleep is certainly important, and mobile phones are verboten in my bedroom. Those red beds are quite something, aren’t they! They’re in the Hospices de Beaune, a charitable hospital started in the 15th century, each side of the main ward lined with those cosy beds. An amazing building, too, absolutely brimful with colour, including the roof tiles (check it on google). I suppose red might help keep the heart a-pumping!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Yeah, Another Blogger

An Arts-Filled, Tasty And Sometimes-Loopy Jaunt Through Life

Ananda Only

an empty space between silence & stillness

Are we there yet?

About travelling and how to be completely unprepared for it.

Nick Alexander

Author of The Road to Zoe, You Then Me Now, Things We Never Said, The Bottle of Tears, The Other Son, The Photographer's Wife, The Half-Life of Hannah, the 50 Reasons Series. And more...

Dr David T Evans, OBE NTF PFHEA RN(T)

Sexual health matters! It really does!

Dr. Eric Perry

Psychology to Motivate | Inspire | Uplift

Cole Moreton

Award-winning writer and broadcaster

Wildonline.blog

British Wildlife & Photography

The Art of Blogging

For bloggers who aspire to inspire

La Petite Rue

My life in the Deux-Sevres and France

Colin Bisset

writer, traveller, broadcaster

Place, Plots and Plans

The PlaceMatt Blog

yamey

ADAM YAMEY - Haikus, history and travel .. and much more!

viewer site

Barbara Heath & Malcolm Enright - our viewer site blog

Museum Travelers

Cultural travel for curious minds

kirilson photography

the stories behind the pictures, and vice versa

Not-So-Modern Girl

Thoughts of a twenty-something girl navigating her way one blog post at a time

Anthony Hillin

Training, Facilitation and Policy development

Notes from the U.K.

Exploring the spidery corners of a culture and the weird stuff that tourist brochures ignore.

MOVIE-WARDEN

T.V/Movie News & Reviews

SAVING OUR TREES - Marrickville municipality

Community Tree Watch - working to protect healthy public trees in Marrickville municipality from inappropriate removal

MOVIE MUSIC UK

Film Score Reviews by Jonathan Broxton since 1997

A life in books

Book news, reviews and recommendations

150 great things about the Underground

An unofficial birthday salute to a public transport titan

Mistakes & Adventures

What I've always wanted

Expedictionary

Literary Geography

UNSW Built Environment's Blog

Information from students and staff at Built Environment at the University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia.

joe moran's words

on the everyday, the banal and other important matters

The Back Road Chronicles

Curious soul...and it makes me wanna take the back roads!

Fool for France

A house of one's own

Wee Notions

Notes on a napkin

ABOUT SOMETHING AROUND

There is no time to be bored in a world as beautiful as this.

Philip Butler Photography

Documentary / Architecture / Art

Susie Trexler

Secret Knowledge of Spaces

Rebecca Renner

Welcome to Gator Country

kidlat habagat

Portraits of Urban life

DynamicStasis

DynamicStasis is basically an attempt to think about and discuss integrity, beauty, and delight - in architecture and elsewhere.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: