Most nights I sleep around. Not how I used to in my twenties; these days when I sleep around it’s just me bed hopping around the house. I don’t remember the last time I went to sleep and woke up the next day and it was morning. That would have happened well over two decades ago. But not any more.
I never appreciated how truly delicious going to bed and waking up was. I call it sleep porn. I constantly fantasise about it but I don’t believe it’s ever going to happen. No matter how well intentioned I am, how focused, I can’t achieve sleep. And I don’t even have babies any more. I remember thinking that when my babies grew up I’d sleep again. I didn’t know this torture would continue for the rest of my adult life.
I remember in my twenties reading magazines full of women complaining they couldn’t achieve orgasm. That’s easy. I can achieve orgasm. I can put on the kettle, crack out a multiple and still have time to make a cup of tea. What I can’t achieve is one solid good night’s sleep without waking up a trillion times, having to put the cat out, or let the cat in, responding to a 2am text from one of my kids, or just lying there staring at the ceiling panicking about how tired I am going to be in the morning. That always seems futile.
Rationally you know the time spent panicking about fatigue could be better spent actually sleeping. But it’s hard to sleep when you’re freaking out. Or even when you’re not freaking out – when you’re awake because your stupid brain won’t stop firing. Last night was typical. I go to bed at 10. That’s reasonable. My phone is always beside my bed because I have adult children who call at odd times. My 17-year-old son is in Byron on his first night of work. I drift off. The phone buzzes. It’s a text from Charlie telling me they’ve been busy and he’s going to be later so he’ll text me when he leaves. I fall asleep again; half an hour later my good son tells me he’s on his way. Now I just drift, because I’m anticipating his car pulling up.
There’s an undercurrent of constant anxiety when you have young people on the road. But I must have fallen asleep while waiting because next thing I know there’s a 6-foot-4 bloke standing at the end of my bed whispering ‘Mum I’m home’. I get up walk out into the kitchen give him a hug and ask about his night. Then I trail back to bed. It’s after 11. Let’s remember I went to bed at 10, a pretty reasonable time.
I have another crack at going to sleep, but this time I feel a bit queasy. I’ve made a Mediterranean lamb salad for dinner and the fat in the lamb makes me feel a bit gross. I get up and have some water. Then I go back to bed. I’m restless now. I can feel the tension in my neck and shoulders making it impossible to find a comfortable position. I start thinking of everything I have to do tomorrow. It makes the queasy feeling worse. Anxiety and lamb are a potent mix, so I get up and heat up a wheat pack.
It’s midnight now and I’m standing there basking in the dull glow of the microwave as it whirls for two-and-a-half minutes. I take my wheat pack back to bed and place it on my shoulders. I fall asleep but I should never sleep on my back because since I broke my nose and can’t breathe out one side, I snore. My husband wakes me: ‘You’re snoring’. I roll over. I pick up my phone and check the time. It’s 1.35. I shuffle around and go back to sleep.
Then there’s someone else in the room. It’s Ivy. She’s had another bad dream. She appears like a ghostly apparition beckoning me. ‘Mum can you sleep with me till I fall asleep?’ Sure. I grab my phone and go to Ivy’s room. I crawl into bed with her. On the way I check the phone. It’s 2.15. Shit. I leave my luxurious king-size bed to crawl in with Ivy. I’ve got Toby the velveteen dog under my arse and a giraffe in striped PJs staring at me with what feels like malice. I fall asleep despite the giraffe psyching me out.
I wake up around 3.30 with no bedcovers and think about going back to my bed but I don’t have the energy. I peg the creepy giraffe at the door. I pass out.
I awake to the dog barking. There’s a hot air balloon in the neighbourhood and he’s intent on bringing it down. I don’t get up for this. I pretend not to hear it, so John can deal with it. After all he’s had the nice long sleep in the king-size bed: Alone! I fall asleep. Then there’s a crash. It’s about 5.45am and Ivy is up looking for her camera. She puts the light on. I groan and beg her to look for it later.
I have my alarm set for 6am because I know I have to write this and send it off by eight. The alarm goes off. I hit snooze. It goes off again. I hit snooze again. I have this tag team of 7-minute micro-sleeps until finally at 6.30 I struggle out into the light.
The army have used this technique for years to break people during interrogation. They don’t need Guantanamo Bay. They should just send people to my house. Their spirit will be broken in a week.