Thursday, 9 March 2017

The Insomniac’s Guide to Life at 4 am

I’m tired.

Not just tired as in end-of-week tired or I-had-a-rubbish-night’s-sleep tired.

I’m tired as in that-blob-in-the-corner-that-looks-like-a-sack-of-rags-is-me-because-I-can’t-remember-the-last-time-I-slept-for-more-than-three-hours  tired.

Not that I’m complaining. Most of us go through bouts of insomnia from time to time. I just want to share some of the things I have learned from the many nights I have spent awake. Maybe my hard-earned wisdom will make the night-time wakies a little easier for someone else out there …

What to do when insomnia hits:
  • Set yourself a time by which you hope to be asleep (not more than 30 minutes). If you are still awake at the deadline, get up.
  • Drink chamomile tea. Not too big a cup or you’ll have to tinkle just as you’re about to nod off again! (Too much information? I can’t tell because I’m brain-dead from months of insomnia.)
  • Watch a bit of trashy TV. Nothing too exciting or too emotionally taxing. And definitely nothing that flashes bargain prices across the screen, offers free sets of steak knives and has a telephone number that you simply must ring right now if you don’t want to miss out on the bargain of the week/year/century.
  • Read a book. Choose a volume that's not too precious if dropped or dribbled upon when you finally doze off.
  • Exercise. Not outside in the dark where the boogymen are lurking. Just some floor exercises or some weights. The physical motion is meditative and helps settle restless legs.  
  • Crochet or knit something simple that doesn’t involve following a pattern. I crochet cotton dishcloths. I know! It sounds desperate but, like exercising, it is repetitive, meditative and calming. And at the end of the night I have something tangible (if slightly bizarre) to show for my insomnia.

What not to do when insomnia hits:
  • Drink coffee or eat chocolate. If you thought your nerve endings were buzzing before you got out of bed, just wait and see what a hit of caffeine can do!
  • Open a packet of bickies or a bag of chips. I’ve got one word to say to you: Slippery slope! (Okay, that’s two words, but I’m  tired,  remember?)
  • Post on Facebook. People from the other side of the world will post back asking, 'Isn’t it night time there? Why aren’t you asleep?’ You know you have insomnia, but the reminder from the other side of the globe can be terribly disheartening.
  • Write the next chapter of your novel. You will think it is brilliant as you are writing it, but when you look at your work in the cold light of day, you’ll realise that it’s rubbish. And not even the kind of rubbish that you can edit into something beautiful. It’s just a festering pile of bin-worthy slops.
  • Watch the shopping channel on TV. You might not be terribly excited by steam mops, but once they offer to throw  in a set of those steak knives that cut through shoes, bricks and  storm-felled trees you’ll be ringing that phone number and going on a six month payment plan before you can say ‘Steak knives are for steak!’ three times. 

A tad more help:
My sleepless nights are not spent fretting or stressing over work, the price of bread or global warming. Quite the contrary. I harbour grand delusions and vain hopes in my weary breast. Just in case there are any fellow insomniacs who experience 3 am delusions of grandeur, I’m going to finish with some cold hard facts. Plant these in your mind while it is still rested and unaddled. (I don’t think ‘unaddled’ is a word but, again, I’m blaming it on the insomnia):
  • Those twitching leg muscles will not turn you into a world class sprinter. You are not living in the pages of a Marvel comic. You will still be a clumsy loper in the morning. The muscle twitches are the result of bonkers nerve signals caused by your insomnia. 
  • Being awake will not burn up more calories than sleeping thus rendering you model-slender . You will not look like Elle McPherson by the end of the month. Lack of sleep messes with your metabolism so that you are more likely to gain weight than lose it. (The family size bag of crisps you scoff each morning at 4am doesn’t help, either!)
  • You are not becoming one of those rare, enviable people like Winston Churchill who does not need more than a few hours’ sleep a night. You will not be able to fit two days’ worth of work and leisure into every single day. No, no, no, no, no! For a mere mortal like yourself, less sleep will mean you become less productive. Less sleep will turn you into a vegetable. You will turn into a turnip before you turn into Winston Churchill.
    Winston Churchill. This is not you.

    A turnip. This is you.

Any hints to add?
Is anyone reading this at 3am?

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