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!