Saturday, January 19, 2008


I used to be a Sleep Princess. I could only sleep if lying down in a bed, preferably my own. If there was the slightest noise, I had trouble dropping off. Any discomfort rendered me an insomniac. My husband Fatty joked about checking under the mattress for peas.

And then I had children. Since that fateful day, I have found that nothing much deters me from sleep. I become dimly aware of Fatty snoring at 100 decibels, and I turn over and fall back to sleep. I slumber peacefully through storms. Just like 'normal people', I now may drift off whilst sitting upright, watching a movie. My children wear me out, and now I can sleep.

Except that it is 4am right now (or it was when I gave up on sleep after an hour of tossing and turning) and here I am sitting at the kitchen table. I have a wry neck. Not such a big deal. But I am remembering what it is like to be awake through the night, and how isolating it is, and how I used to not like it!

When I worked nights, I hated the feeling of driving in to work to start a 10pm shift. I experienced a terrible sort of jealousy towards all those who were just about to crawl sleepily into bed. Dreading what cases might come in to the emergency department overnight, often having slept fitfully during the day, I wanted desperately to flop into bed, too. I remember driving to the hospital feeling so alone, with a knot in the centre of my belly.

Other times I lay awake the night before an exam, or after a big spat with a boyfriend. Once I was awake most of the night after having a root canal done the day before. Yet I realise I have nothing to complain about, because these are all fairly isolated incidents, like tonight...or should I say today?! Some people struggle terribly with insomnia. Even the simple process of getting older causes a change in sleep patterns such that people in their 60's or 70's begin to sleep in 2 or 3 blocks of slumber, with periods in between where they are wide awake.

A friend of mine who has fought depression and come through it says the worst thing about her illness was the insomnia. I remember her despair at not being able to get to sleep, and she described her terror each time she woke after only a couple of hours' sleep. She was desperately trying to function on a few snatched hours here and there, and the tiredness and loneliness from being awake all through the night just floored her.

It's good to put one night of poor sleep into perspective. And now that the birds are beginning to chirp, and the panadol is starting to kick in, I may just head back to bed. If there are any peas under the mattress, I'll eat them.

Good night, good morning or good day, depending. I wish you a good night's sleep tonight, wherever you are!


Heidi said...

I started to have really poor sleep when my husband was in his residency. (I could fall asleep easily at 10pm or ealier... and then would wake at 2 or 3 am and not be able to fall back asleep.) I finally kicked with accupuncture treatment that lasted about a year.

It is nice to be back to normal-land (as far as sleep goes! *smile*)

Heidi said...

Ooops! Typos!!! "Earlier" NOT "ealier." And then the second to last sentence should read: I finally kicked the problem with accupuncture...

Maybe I am asleep now!!!

Remiman said...

I'm a block sleeper; I go to bed at 8pm and sleep like a dead man 'til 12 midnight. Then it's toss and turn, drift in and out of light dream type sleep and get up at 4am. I fall asleep instantly.

thisisme said...

Jelly, I'm sure you've heard more than enough about my battles with sleep. There is something about being awake when everyone else is asleep - it is all prowly. I hope last night was just an aberration for you.

Kerri said...

The nice thing about you not being able to sleep in the wee hours is that you wrote to us :)
Yes, a sleepless night (or few hours) is a real pain in the neck, but it's good to put it in perspective as you've done. It must be really dreadful to live with it for a longer period of time.
I'm getting sleepy now.....
Sleep tight Jelly. Don't let the bedbugs bite :)

manababies said...

Insomnia is not such a great thing. I wondered at the start of this entry how you handle the rather varied sleep schedule that your profession entails. I like being awake when everyone is asleep -- but only when I want to be awake. :) Oftentimes I fret over how tired I know I'm going to be due to the lack of sleep, and that makes the insomnia worse!

John Cowart said...

Hi Jellyhead,

I thought this was a very interesting post... till I dozed off reading it.

It's about 6 a.m. our time and I've been up writing since 4.

But first, I slipped outside silently into my neighbor's yard to do some work related to my swimming pool project. (Yes, I have their permission).

Sleep deprivation colors my life on all levels. Maybe it's just old age for me when the grasshopper is a burden (as King Solomon said). I crave peaceful sleep but crazy dreams wake me up all the time, and the fear of them makes me fight going to sleep in the first place.

But, having been like this for years and years, I'm beginning to get used to it.

I hope you never have to.

Puss-in-Boots said...

Sometimes I have a sleepless night (and I guarantee it's a night before I need to go into the city to work). Anyway, I usually read, then I get so engrossed in the book that, far from making me tired, I can't put the book down and the next thing I know the alarm's gone off and I've had about two hours' sleep! However, the next night, I know I'll have a really good night's sleep...

Sandy said...

The only time I have a sleepless night is when I an extremely worried about something or someone. I did have a bit of insomnia during a breakup once, but that was long ago. I'm like you and can normally sleep through storms. A child's cry or a cat's meow can wake me easily.

Hope that you were able to get back to sleep this morning and that Fatty tended to the children while you slept.

Mimi said...

I have been through almost every thing you mention in your post. Most fortunately, I am presently sleeping very well after a few changes and some deep inner reflecting. I have also decided I'm going to stop beating myself up for needing more sleep at this point in my life. It seems everyone I know has gone through insomnia at some point in their lives.


Stacey (Sheeps Clothing) said...

I had no idea so many people suffered with sleep problems until I read this post.
I realise now I'm lucky to nod off the minute my head hits the pillow and sleep soundly until I am woken by little fingers lifting my eye lids and asking "are you awake yet Mum"?
I remember all too well being awake during the middle of the night with babies and feeling as though the whole city was asleep whilst I was awake. There was also that horrible feeling when they finally went back to sleep and then I'd lay there wondering how long it would last!
So glad my boys are past that stage.
I bid you and your readers a good night's sleep.

Stacey (Sheeps Clothing) said...

Hey, I forgot to mention. I saw on your profile that you like the Beautiful South too. I got onto their music a few years ago when we lived in the home town of a few of the band members.
Not often I hear of them these days.

Christine and FAZ said...

We both love to sleep. Faz never seems to have any problems being a cat and on the few occasions when stress at work has stopped me sleeping it has ruined my day, my appetite, my ability to function etc. - to suffer from insomnia regularly must be soul destroying.


meggie said...

I suffer with sleeplessness. Well, I dont really suffer, as now I can sleep during the day if need be. I often get up to read, instead of tossing & turning.
It used to be very hard when I had to work, to be tired. I don't know what the answer is.

fifi said...

I missed this post last time I called!

I'm with you, after a lifetime as a total slep princess, I am now the sleep queen. I spent the last week dead to the world with a rolled up towel instead of a pillow.

I can sleep anywhere, anytime. I believe in power naps, just 20 minutes rids your tires eyes and face of all that nasty stress. Just don't get caught doing it a work.

Anonymous said...