Don’t Dream It’s Over

You know, if I was a different kind of person, I’d wake up bright and early – at 7am, say, even on a day off.

I’d stagger out of bed, lumber downstairs to the kitchen to make coffee, and sit at my kitchen bench, marvelling at the sounds of birds singing in the trees, while I started planning my day. By 7.30am I’d be outside watering the plants, or inside dusting the bookshelves, or heading off to the gym, or whatever early-risers do. I’d use my time to the fullest, every day, in ways that other people could see and appreciate.

But alas, I’m not that kind of person. I’m the kind of person who sleeps till 9am on a day off and thinks it’s extra nice to go back to bed with a cup of tea and a book until 12. No wonder I’ve achieved so little in life.

To anyone observing my sleep – ASIO for example, if I was under investigation – it would look as though I spend an average of 9 hours a night fast asleep. In reality however, on a weekly basis, a reasonable proportion of that time is spent lying in bed with my eyes shut, breathing slowly and engaging in encouraging, comforting self-talk.  It’s ok not to be asleep, just relaaaax. Relaxing is nearly as good as being asleep. Maybe I even am asleep, just really lightly asleep. I’ll count backwards from 100, here we go. 100. 99. 98. 97. 96. 95. …..

Another proportion of those 9 hrs is spent less calmly, tossing and turning while the self-talk changes tone to something like this: Well I slept from about 11 to 12, and it’s only 4am now so it’s still possible to get another 3 and a half good hours if I can JUST GO TO SLEEP RIGHT THIS MOMENT…..ok, calm down, that’s not going to help. Let’s think about words starting with P. Pumpkin. Porpoise. Particular. Pedantic. Personify. Personal. Patriachal. Puppy. Playful. Pantomine. Pendulum. Piston. Palpable. Pretty. Pod. Perfect. Plait. Plate. Pine. Pour. Pout. Prefect. Plum. Pudding….THIS ISN”T GETTING ME ANYWHERE, I”M STILL WIDE AWAKE!!!

At least one night a week I go to bed about 10.30 feeling tired, but find that I can’t go to sleep. Instead I toss and turn until my partner comes to bed at some time around 1am, and starts snoring about 4.5 minutes later. Meanwhile, I continue to toss and turn. On a night like this, tiny noises that probably occur every night, jolt me out of any semi-sleep state I might be about to drift into. But sometimes, I might only toss and turn for another half an hour or so, and finally nod off to sleep about 1.30am. Hurrah, success!

But not for long. Inevitably after a bad night of sleep, I wake the second it starts to become light outside. Noooooooooo!

One moment I’m lost somewhere deep within a dream, the next moment my mind is awake and conscious that there is light in the room. I don’t want to register that fact! I keep my eyes closed, and try to calmly grasp onto that feeling I had one second ago – that warm, comfortable, sleepiness. Stay comfortable, stay relaxed.

What was I just dreaming?

Don't even start me on that damn violinist who wanders through my room. No wonder I've got a hat jammed down over my ears.

How’s a girl supposed to sleep with  that damn violinist wandering around the room?

pic: Wikimedia Commons

I desperately try to manipulate my mind into slipping back into the dream I was just having, as if it’s as easy as taking the pause button off on a movie. But of course on this particular morning, when I’ve had little sleep at the other end of the night, there seems to be no in-between state available. My mind has gone from unconscious dream-state to switched on in an instant. At one level I know I won’t be able to get back to sleep but I try for a while anyway. Ok, this doesn’t matter. I’ve thought before that I’ll never get back to sleep, and I have. I”m sure that’s happened. At least once. Just relax. Relaaaax. Relaxing is almost as good as being asleep. Listen to the birds. Soon it will be time to go to work. Don’t think about work. Of course today I’ve got that meeting with that difficult client who – shhhhh. No thoughts about work. Relaxing thoughts. Deep breathing…..OH BUGGER WHAT”S THE POINT??? I may as well get up.

All of us wake up all through the night, but those people lucky enough to sleep soundly usually don’t recall waking. Most mornings I recall multiple times where I woke up through the night. To me it’s a good night’s sleep if I woke up multiple times but got straight back to sleep. Having had periods in my life where I had chronic insomnia, I feel pleased if I can get to sleep in less than an hour, or if total sleep over the night equals 6 hours or more. It doesn’t mean I feel great the next day, but I take some comfort from getting those 6 hours because I know from experience that being awake night after night, until 5.30am, when you have to be up again at 7.30am, is very bad for your mental health.

The bonus is that all the failures in my ability to sleep make sleeping a valuable pastime that I appreciate. Man, I do love to sleep! I love the creative time that my mind takes to wander in that hazy half-world known as dreams. Almost every morning I wake up recalling a dream, or multiple dreams from the night before. I think it’s partly because I wake up throughout the night that I recall my dreams so well, because when I wake out of a dream in the night, for a second or two it enters into my conscious mind.

We know that the brain is very busy at night, connecting neural pathways, storing away memories, and categorising and filing information, and that dreams play a part in all of that. But I also just simply enjoy recalling dreams. Frequently they interest or amuse me. “On paper”, the content of a dream may seem nonsensical, or banal, yet often the memory of a dream is accompanied by feelings that are harder to convey or even recall accurately, and that fade quickly from the memory. It could be a feeling of cosiness, or security, or a sense that something interesting is happening just outside of my focus. Perhaps the dream was of an ex work colleague of mine, but with only one eye, which was big and bejewelled and possibly had a laser beam coming out of it. (*True recent dream). Yet this weird image could have been accompanied by a feeling of anticipation that something exciting was going to happen. (*feeling is fictional and concocted for the purposes of illustrating this point.) It’s often that feeling that makes me want to go back to my dream on waking, so that I can continue on with it.

So in reality, I may appear to be much lazier than the energetic person who leaps out of bed at 7am, goes for a half hour run, and by 8am has had a coffee and a shower and sold some shares, but I actually expend a lot of effort on trying to sleep, and on trying to dream. I hope that my efforts at sleeping to the best of my limited abilities will put my neural pathways in at least equal condition to early risers, by the time we are both 85.

Of course, that probably won’t be the case, since I notice that those annoyingly cheerful, early-rising, high achieving people are always inevitably the ones who never have the slightest bit of trouble sleeping, so they probably do all of that hard brain work too, just without ever waking and being aware of it. Damn them!

 *

**In keeping with the frequent-but-not-always theme of this blog, this post is named after a song. This particular song is by popular New Zealand band Crowded House.

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5 Comments

  1. The Crowded House song is on replay in my head. HA. It’s one of my favorites! 🙂

    I am one of those early risers who gets up and wants to start doing things right away. but unfortunately, that tends to accidentally happen around 4 am or thereabouts, when everyone else is fast asleep. By the time everyone else is raring to go, on a project, I start to get grumpy and sprout devil horns because I’ve already been awake for half the day. HA! 😛

    You write the most entertaining and engaging posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    • Sometimes I name my post after a really annoying song & then find it very irritating when that song is stuck in my head for the next week or so while I get notifications relating to the post! But I can live with Don’t Dream It’s Over, it is a lovely song as all of Neil Finn’s songs are.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. Hilarious to me because you read the inside of my brain at night. 🙂

    Like

    Reply

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