Friday, February 27, 2004

It’s quite exciting to be sleeping 

I have two kids, aged 2 and nearly 4. One of the side effects of this is that I have had an uninterrupted night’s sleep on only a few occasions since the turn of the century. Some people claim to be able to survive on 4 or 5 hours of sleep a night. Not me. Left in peace, I will be unconscious for a good 9 or 10 hours. These days, though, the nights that provide a good rest are few and far between, which is why I, and most parents of young children, often look a bit ropey. There is a twilight period between the birth of your first child, and around the 4th birthday of your last, when you are never completely refreshed. Instead of having the stamina that you fondly remember from your relative youth, you are tiptoeing along the edge of exhaustion. One good party and you’re finished.

This may go some way to explaining my fascination with sleep. Apart from the debilitating effects of long term deprivation, I also spend a fair bit of reading time trying to work out how to deal with the latest permutation of night terrors, nightmares, insomnia, or “Daddy, I’m thirsty”. It makes it all worthwhile, though, when they do finally nod off. To see someone sleeping is to truly see their face. There are no expressions, no reactions – just their features pure and clear. And the occasional dribble.

What made me think of all this was being awoken last night by a noise outside the window. I was completely zonked (which is a technical sleep term), and dragged my eyelids open to gaze blurrily at the curtains, trying to work out what was behind them. When I pictured the window and what was behind it, the first images that crawled into my mind were of the house I grew up in. This was very disorienting, and mildly disconcerting – why does my night-time brain assume that I am still living in my folks’ house? I’ve spent a only few dozen nights there in the last 10 years or so, and even then the room I pictured wasn’t even my bedroom. Strange where sleep can take you.

The noise, by the way, was nothing sinister, just somebody heading off early to the airport or a meeting. In some clapped out old banger.

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