On Sleep

If I found lamp – you know, one of those ancient, traditional oil lamps that looks suspiciously like a gravy boat – and if on my trying to clean it I accidentally released a genie, I would have only one wish. I wish I could sleep.

That’s not to say I’m biologically incapable of sleeping or that I’m so badly sleep-deprived as to be having waking dreams, but I am typing this with my vision obscured by an eyelid vibrating with fatigue. Unfortunately, I seem to have found myself trapped in a nine-to-five world where I have to be up at seven in the morning to stand a cat in hell’s chance of being at work on time. Although I function a lot better on a bad night’s sleep than many people, if I don’t get enough sleep of a night I get scatterbrained, irritable and uncoordinated, and spend the whole day feeling like I want to cry. This feeling dominates my working week.

Some simplistic people have said to me, “Go to bed earlier.” Oh, how I wish my body clock worked like that. The fact is that I find it damn near impossible to get to sleep before eleven, and some nights my various anxieties and neuroses leave me lying awake for hours once I’ve gone to bed. Unfortunately, a lot of those anxieties stem from fear of sleep itself. When I was a teenager, I had a functional sleep pattern destroyed because my dad decided I had to be out of bed early every morning including Sunday, which was the day I caught up with the sleep I missed midweek. Unfortunately, I couldn’t adapt to sleeping more midweek at the time and thus didn’t get more than a handful of proper nights’ sleep in a four-year period. Then I started work in a cinema and spent a further four years on night shifts.

It doesn’t help my sense of stress about sleep that my current job has me working alongside old-fashioned, working-class types. The prevailing school of thought back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth is that the only healthy way of life is to get up at four in the morning. You see, getting up early is the only demonstration of a true work ethic.

So here I sit, dizzy and sick with eyeballs that feel like they’re about to explode, wishing I could just let go of all the anxieties that keep me awake and wishing that people who don’t know what they’re talking about would stop giving me bad advice. I did see a doctor about all this, but the pills he gave me paralysed my body without actually putting me to sleep. Evidently, the solution is to try and learn to relax so that I can at least get to sleep soon after going to bed. But then, I wonder if it might be easier just to go back to a night-shift job…

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~ by Scary Rob on 14 October, 2009.

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