I can’t imagine not being able to get a good night’s sleep, much less having the chronic problem of never getting a good night’s sleep. I have had sleepless nights in my life that were always stress-or-party-induced, but have never not been able to sleep just because I can’t. So when a friend recently explained exactly how much she’s suffered from a lifetime of sleep deprivation, and how she’s tried everything – simply every possible remedy and legal drug available – and yet still is unable to close her eyes to fall into REM at the same time as the rest of the us sleepers, at first, my heart went out to her.
But then I realized how fortunate she is in having those (many) extra productive hours of peace and quiet in which she may write – time that I sadly lack in my normal life of wake, work, sleep, when I’m constantly grasping for every extra minute I can scrape up in order to get things done before my body gives out on me, and my eyelids drop, hands still gripping a book, every night. Usually six hours uninterrupted sleep is plenty for me, but if I give in to the Sandman and go to bed too early in the evening, I can sleep for eight to ten hours. Meanwhile, during that time, my friend is writing, reading, thinking, planning. I sleep so deeply, in fact, that I seldom remember my dreams any longer – so I don’t even have the benefit of waking with a great idea or story plot. I just sleep. And I often wake thinking that wasn’t much of a night and that I could have actually slept some more.
In Bequia, even the sound of the tree frogs and cicadas are music to my ears, lulling me to sleep with their incessant chirping that begins with sunset at 6-6:30 in the evening, and only ends at sunrise twelve hours later. We’ve been known to hit the sack by 8 p.m. there, and that’s after having had an afternoon nap. The cats pose a sleeping hazard, too, constantly demanding food/attention/a playmate/to be let out, but they know now to poke Dennis first before bothering with me. He reacts; I just roll over. It’s quieter at night in Calgary, surprisingly, and I’ve only been wakened a few times by sirens or the occasional gunshot (but the shooting has always been a couple of blocks away on 4th St., so no worries…), the wobbly wheels of bottle-picker grocery carts being pushed down the back lane (no sound from those in winter with all the snow on the ground), and the couple upstairs fighting-followed-by-making-up (trust me – the fighting was always less noisy than the making up at three in the morning, and she has, thankfully, moved out). Otherwise, I could probably sit outside on the verandah and think I’m the only person awake in this city.
Likely, if I were to spend some of my waking hours exercising, exhausting my body somewhat (not to mention shedding a necessary 5-50 or so pounds), I wouldn’t feel this guilt that I’ve been frittering away a third of my days sawing logs, feeling that I’d earned the right to be so tired. And if I spent those remaining sixteen hours actually doing something productive, then I wouldn’t be considering, as my eyes close, that those hours have largely been time wasted. If I only had a schedule, or a plan. That’s the ticket! But I’d probably lose interest and fall asleep long before I ever managed to put pen to paper to make a list. (Much easier, I’ve found by the by, to put fingers to keyboard when I’m tired. Still, what I write at that time – like during the marathon 3-Day Novel Contest – doesn’t make much sense, but at least it looks as though I’ve written something.)
Meantime, my insomniac friend is beavering away, writing her weekly columns, editing, writing new material, and enjoying quality time with her equally insomniac cats. And all I can show for that same time is a good night’s sleep!
The floor mat is always greener, depending on which side of the bed you get out of, I guess.
And here’s Emme, who has absolutely no problem whatsoever with sleeping deeply, no matter where she perches.
(We caught her just in the nick of time. She came close to rolling over and right off a few moments later.)