Monday 3 November 2008

White nights

I didn’t sleep last night. Instead I spent virtually the entire night tossing and turning. I also read my way through nearly the whole of Jodi Picault’s latest novel, a curiously uninvolving tale of ghosts and love, made deeply syrupy by huge gobbets of quite inappropriate magic realism.

Every so often my eyelids would droop and I’d gratefully turn off the light and turn over. Squash the pillow and snuggle down. Then turn the other way. No, it wasn’t going to work. On went the light again and back to the ghosts (who did very unghostly things like snogging and digging, poking red rose petals in people’s pockets and misdirecting phone calls). I have the strong suspicion that JP has read some Alice Hoffman and decided she could do with a bit of magic. Wrong, JP, wrong. Leave it to Alice, love.

Down drooped the eyelids, off went the light again. Turned over and…
‘Aaaaghhhhh!’ A shriek broke out next to me.
‘Aaaaghhhh!’ I shrieked in reply.
On went the light and James and I both sat bolt upright staring at one another in terror. At this point I have to explain that James has been sleeping in with me for the last fortnight because his arm has been in a cast (following the day when five boys went to play at one boy’s house and two ended up in casualty while another went home with a bloody nose.) What can you say? Shit happens.

‘It’s not right, you know,’ muttered Adrian (about being cast into the desolate wastes of the spare room, not about the War of C*** Cottage). ‘He’s nearly ten.’
But, to be honest, I’d rather have James (snores; grinds teeth; hogs bed but is reasonably small) than Adrian (snores loudly; thrashes; hogs bed; talks total utter nonsense and is unfeasibly large).

‘What are you doing, Mummy?’
‘I was reading.’
‘But it’s four in the morning.’
‘I know.’
‘Why are you reading when it’s so late?’
‘Because I can’t sleep.’
‘Poor you. Why?’

Why indeed? Is it because I’ve been well and truly credit-crunched? Is it because, for the first time in my life, I don’t have a zillion things to cram into a day? Is it because we have spent our way through an extraordinary amount of money renovating the house – and yet still have walls with huge holes in them, ceilings balancing on rotten rafters and something unspeakably nasty in the cellar? Could it be acute anxiety over a whole phalanx of friends going through hell right now? Or simply that I had one too many cups of coffee or one too many glasses of wine? Or both?

‘I dunno. Sometimes it just happens.’
‘Rotten luck. Can I read for a bit too?’
So we lie there, like an old married couple, me harumphing over JP, him reading The Ashes.
‘I’m tired now, Mum. Hope you get to sleep soon.’
So do I.
‘I will. Night, hon..’

I’ll fall asleep at 4.30am. I nearly always do. I know my insomnia like an old enemy – we go way back. I started not sleeping when I was pregnant with James and never really regained the knack of peaceful slumber. At its worst, I would go for weeks, and sometimes months, without more than two or three hours sleep a night. But for the last year or so, it’s been better and I’ve forgotten just how truly miserable it is when the hours tick by and the hopes of a reasonable next day to follow start to vanish.

I remember once staying at the Lowri Hotel in Manchester in readiness for a live TV interview the next morning. My alarm call was booked for 6.30am and I was tucked up in bed by 10pm. At 1am I remember thinking, ‘Well, it’s fine – five and a half hours would be OK.’ Ever the optimist, a couple of hours later, I was reasoning that I could get by with three hours. My magic witching hour of 4.30 came and went. When it was down to ‘Well, an hour would help,’ I knew I was clutching at straws.

Insomnia sucks the joy out of life. It wrecks your immune system, destroys your sense of humour and turns you into a paranoid, grumpy, spotty haggard old crone. So forgive me if I am not witty and sparkling and amusing today. I have missed blogging and felt that, if I didn’t write something, anything, I would lose the knack forever. What seems funny in the moment loses its lustre if you don’t catch it pretty darn quick and all the curious little incidents of the last month I had been squirreling in readiness of a blog or two have grown boring and tarnished.

So, a sorry little blog today. Will try harder next time.


Faith said...

I picked your blog as my lunchtime read out of the several offered as insomnia has decided I'm one of her gang too. I just don't understand why I can't sleep, and as you say, it makes an old woman of you. I can't even read at night in case I wake up the dog and he wants to go out and wee! Well, you managed to make it interesting, and even a bit funny.... but I know it's not. Hope us insomniacs have a better night tonight!

Sally Townsend said...

Lack of sleep is truly the unfunniest thing in the world, I do hope your insomnia goes away soon. Well done tho' for knocking out a blog, it doesn't have to be wonderful and witty all the time otherwise you wouldn't be real. xx

Frances said...

Jane, how I wish that I could give you some of my ability to sleep deeply through the night. Other than during a menopause year, I have never experienced insomnia. At least I have that year to know what damage it can cause.

Having unloaded that personal history, let me say that this was a lovely blog. Very quiet, contemplative, insightful ... your mind is an intriguing place to visit!

Perhaps you may have luck with an afternoon nap?


Elizabethd said...

Poor you, nothing is worse than lying there watching the fingers of the clock go round.
Maybe try a lavender pillow or a drop of lavender oil?

Milla said...

never boring, Jane. Ever. Exhausted here, too. And haggard. And no money. And not blogging! Are we twins??

Edward said...

Me Too! Me Too! Got up this morning to take biggest boy to da bus and felt truly more dead than alive. Ok, I was sort of more or less asleep by about 2 am, but it wasn't enough. In our house the initialism MCTS is often used (morning comes too soon). Still, how you managed to write such a great blog on zero sleep - grr.

Lane Mathias said...

Well that's weird. Had my first night of complete sleeplessness last night for ages. It's a bummer and it's exhausting but you've put it much better than me.

Hope it passes soon.

Zoë said...

Just now I don't have any problems sleeping, but don't recommend my remedy to anyone!

I get bouts of insomnia too, things that help are long walks, earlier suppers and no caffiene after 6pm.

Hope you get sorted soon, it is so miserable. xx

Ivy said...

Lucky you that you can switch the light on when you can't sleep, my OH would kill me if I did that.

mountainear said...

Oh, poor you. Not sleeping is horrible and soul destroying. I remember youngest son weeping with frustration when his jag-lag induced insomnia refused to go away after a reasonable time.

And a 'sorry little blog'? Never - as articulate and amusing as ever, even after a sleepless night.

Cait O'Connor said...

Welcome back Jane, I have missed your blogs.
So sorry that you are suffering though; insomnia is horrible, I do suffer from time to time now though I never used to. I sometimes get up and go on to Purplecoo, invariably there is someone else around. A bath before bed might help? Have you tried herbal teas? Sleepy time ones, there was one I used to drink that knocked me out.

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

So sorry to read this jane. It really sucks when you can't sleep. I just give up and get up when it happens to me which is not that often but freaks me out every time.
Only you could write such an elegant and elegiac blog about it though, welcome back.

Fire Byrd said...

Yep I can identify. I can count on the fingers of one hand the nights I sleep all night in a year.
4am and if I'm awake I'm prone to making marmite on toast and having hot water. That usually ensures sleep will happen. And yes those bargins with myself about just coping on those last few hours sleep.....

Hadriana's Treasures said...

I can really sympathise with the effects of the credit crunch and insomnia. That tight hard fist of anxiety in the middle of the stomach in the middle of the night. Oh yes! I'm right with you there. I've reverted to reading "Just William" stories. The huge silliness of it all helps hugely!

FairSailor said...

Wonderful blog, Jane. I'm just sorry it was brought on by such misery for you. How you can turn something so miserable into something entertaining, I'll never know.

Anonymous said...

So nice to see you back!

insomnia is a cruel mistress. You can do all the things they tell you to - hot bath, warm milk blah, blah, blha - and it makes not the blindest bit of difference.

I can't offer a solution - but I know that getting fresh air and exercise helps me.

Good luck!

Wizzard said...

I totally understand how you feel. I have suffered since I was at school and I dont know what the answer is.

Anonymous said...

Your blogs are bloody marvellous, always witty and always a pleasure to read. I have very disturbed sleep too - could do with reading your ghostly book me thinks.

CJ xx

Lois said...

hardly sorry exmore jane. best thing I've read all week! You climb in my head and write words I want to say but cant.

Irish Eyes said...

Innit wonderful eh? We take to the bed, to rest our weary bones, soothe our tired eyes and wham! like a puck in the face we are wide awake!

Have given up getting frustrated with it, have decided to make tea, stare out window and contemplate blog possibilities. This is, naturally, during my sane moments. Reality is more like wishing to howl at the moon, if there is a moon out there to howl at.

Unknown said...

Oh you poor thing - there is nothing worse than insomnia. I experience it sometimes, but never in the way and over such a long time that you seem to do. No wonder you're feeling down and tired and just not like a bright and chipper soul - and that on top of all the other stuff. I do so hope you manage to find a way through the insomnia because it is just thoroughly the worst thing.
I could probably suggest a hundred tricks but I bet you've tried 'em all.
Take care, see.

Lindsay said...

Truly sympathise - I have never ever slept a whole night through - from the day I was born. I spend endless hours tossing and turning, my brain whirling around. Husband and I sleep in separate rooms because I turn the light on and off, on and off -even the dog left my bedroom - he couldn't bear the light in his eyes disturbing his sleep!

Pipany said...

It is a loathsome thing to go through Jane. been there frequently and dread the return. Once went a whole year with no more than 2-3 hours sleep per night which turned me into a demented thing (or maybe the demented thing was there already and caused the insomnia?). No matter, my point is that it is one of the most debilitating things to put up with and I truly do feel for you.
Oh, as for James being 10, Can't see the problem really xx


Oh, Jane - I do sympathise with your insomnia - dreadful, dreadful thing. Wrecks your nights and saps your very lifeblood - hope it soon passes. And love to poor old James in his cast. Lots of love to you all xxxx

Woozle1967 said...

From someone who USED to be able to sleep hanging upside down from a washing line by her toes nails - I so empathise with you Jane. I've lost the knack and have the light on two or three times a night now. It's a bummer, isn't it? You made me smile with the James/Adrian comparisons! J's a snorer and takes up two thirds of the bed with his broad shoulders - and THAT doesn't help with successful sleep either!

Maggie Christie said...

I am totally in awe of someone who can construct such eloquent sentences after such little sleep! Not a 'sorry little blog' at all. I hope you get some better sleep soon.

John said...

hello exmoorjane, I'm over from the God Diaries. I just wanted to thank you for your very kind comments. I am re-energised!

blogthatmama said...

You poor thing Jane, it's awful when you worry about everything, credit crunch is keeping me up too, I could carry the weekly shop in my eye bags. Entertaining blog as always. The fight sounds intriguing, broken arms, blimey! Blogthatmamax

Bluestocking Mum said...

It is amazing how many of us suffer from insomnia. I have periodic spells of it. Like you, I have to 'give in' to it and get up and read/write walk around, or just think...

At present I'm going through a stage of waking every half hour to an hour and having SO many bloomin dreams per night!!

I've recently bought the new Jodi Picoult book and it's on my to read shelf! Hmmm. Presently waylaid with Patrick and Neate and Louise Dean (tutors on the Arvon next week) I have to say they are both fab! Made me feel even more nervous about going on course-could never do anything like their stuff!

Anyway-will give you gory details of course as soon as I'm back.
Take care and it's good to see you blogging-even a sorry little one is a good one m'dear.


LadyLuz said...

So very pleased to see you back on your blog after a gap. And sorry that you are going through a rough time.

As others have said, you still manage to make it interesting and amusing.

Try the Spanish remedy - a little siesta after lunch.

Carah Boden said...

Bet you looked good for that Manchester interview...

God, Jane, miserable. Not the blog. I mean that's how I'm feeling for you. I am COMPLETELY paranoid about lack of sleep. I simply cannot cope on 5 or 6 hours - which is a darn sight better than what you're currently existing on by the sounds of it. I need 8 or 9 hours, but never get them, so constantly on the edge of coping. I wish I could be Margaret Thatcher (from the point of view of her legendary sleep requirements only, mind). I know you know about these things, but lavendar oil and yogic breathing often works....
Good to hear from you again, though, even if all is not entirely well in the Jane camp. Milla, too, it seems is on dodgy sleep territory for rather alarming reasons. Maybe there's something going on with electromagnetic forces - they are deeply disturbing to the sensitive amongst us. I feel crap and exhausted at the moment too for no really good reason. Know what you mean too re the squirrelling away of good blogs. They're all in my head when I drive around the country after children but whenever I have a moment to sit and write they all dry up!!
Anyway, thinking of you. Big hugs.

Ps: sorry to hear of poor James' injury too. I dread the broken bone thing. That's why I hate trampolines.

DJ Kirkby said...

Insomnia is so frustrating and an almost nightly occurance in my life. I love JP's books.

Tessa said...

Okay, now I'm hooked. What a fantastically amusing, thoughtful, articulate, interesting and well written blog. Found you through the Black Box and, boy, am I glad I have! (Oh, and I so agree with you about JP. She and Anita Shreve have wondered down the same ticky-tacky path. First books - brilliant; now it's chick-lit all the way.)

'Spose you've tried all the Chamomile tea tricks to help you sleep? Lavendar on your pillow?

Milla said...

Just had to leave another comment to say how I laugh out loud each time I read that thing about who the puck am I and the pixie being replaced by the stout harridan. very funny.

Chris Stovell said...

Isn't there a widget you can put in your insomina corner? (sorry - that's supposed to sound funny but it doesn't 'write' properly.) Me? I'd go for prescription sleeping pills, works every time, not for the rest of your life but just for a few nights to get you out the sleeplessness pattern. Works for me.

CAMILLA said...

Dear Jane, since I have gone through the menopause I luckily have no problem sleeping but then I am an old owl that just seem to hit the sack when eyelids are drooping.... probably why I look haggard later in the day.

You might not post a blog as often as you like, heck..... I am the same, I'm way behind, but when you do Jane, it is well worth waiting for, wonderful writing.

A remedy......... huge glass of wine before bedtime and Lavender on your pillows, this might be good cure. Hope your sleep patterns soon get better for you Jane.



Arcadian Advocate said...

Well my excuse last night was I had a pig to check on, but 4am sounds awfully familiar. I am so thrilled when I go through to 6am...

Glad to read that you are back blogging, and are able to share your sleeplessness and other matters.
Thank you.