It has recently been revealed that eight hours sleep is really good for your health and could prolong your life. As a pensioner, I decide that this will do for me. But my dysfunctional lifestyle badly needs re-arranging, so, instead of watching TV in the lounge until 3am and then getting only four hours sleep each night, I plump for a hot chocolate drink, a warm, lavender scented bubble bath and am into bed before twelve.
I couldn’t give up the TV completely so switch on the portable, hoping that an hour’s viewing of boring re-runs of fifty year old films would guarantee a good night’s sleep. I settle down, mesmerised by the flickering screen, and my eyelids soon began to droop. Dopily, I grope for the remote, zap off the TV and snuggle down.
Three seconds later and I’m wide awake. I toss and turn, trying to get comfortable. I settle for the foetal position with my relaxed hands tucked into my legs, and soon come to the conclusion that these lower limbs are in dire need of an intense course of hair removal. I turn over.
I can’t snooze laid on my back, because in this position, at best, I snore loud enough to register on the Richter Scale, at worst, sleep apnoea clutches and closes my throat, causing near suffocation. But, I’ll give it a go for a while.
Laid out like a corpse, I try a deep breathing session, recommended for relaxed sleep. Breathe in, hold for a count of six, breathe out, and hold for another count of six. After a few sessions of sniffing in all the oxygen around the bed, I’m breathless and dizzy.
Then a twinge starts in the big toe of my left foot. After a few painful spasms, it jerks up at right angles to my body. I try pushing it down with the heel of my right foot, but the big toe’s not going to give up without an under-blanket standoff. The cramp spreads to its neighbours, and I’ve now got the agony of all five toes pointing skywards. The threat of more tightening muscles starts to spread up my left leg. I try pointing my left foot, attempting to force the toes back into their natural position, but the pain is so bad, I have to give up. Just as I’m about to leap out of bed and have a go at walking back to normality, the muscles to the five digits suddenly stop pulling, and relax. I breathe a sigh of relief and try to relax.
The clubs and pubs are turning out. Noisy revellers start cavorting down the street. Normally I wouldn’t hear them, being engrossed in some noisy war film on the downstairs TV. But tonight, in the quiet of the bedroom, I can hear every vomit, swear word, giggle and scream. As they pass below my open bedroom window, I hope they won’t ravage my little blue Fiesta parked outside. After a previous drunken session, I found one of my wing mirrors had been torn off and stuffed into the open aperture of a nearby post box. Tonight though, as I look out the window, it was to be ‘kick a garden gnome down the road.’ They soon lost interest when, in a mini-pub-team-knockabout, his head disintegrates, the red hat going down a drain and his beard over a garden wall. I’m not sure what they did with his fishing rod.
I climb back into bed and pull up the bedding, take a deep breath and try to settle. Then my stomach starts a symphony of gurgles, squeaks and whistles, winding up into a cacophony of musical noises any percussion section would have been proud of. The wind section buffets towards a crescendo, which erupts into a trumpeting fanfare of an explosion that ripples odiously through the bedclothes.
By now, the hot chocolate has filtered down to my bladder. I need to go to the loo, but I’m too settled to move. Mind and body are in battle. ‘Hold on, it’s only another three hours until you get up,’ pleads my brain. ‘I’ve got to go,’ cries my bladder. Bladder wins. I swing out of bed, stagger down the landing and switch on the bathroom light. This is an act of cruelty to my eyeballs as the intense brightness sends them whizzing around in the sockets so I can’t see properly. I grope for the toilet lid, pull it up and plonk my bottom on the cold plastic seat. If I had been anywhere near getting to sleep, the sudden chill on my rear end puts all that into reverse. I was now wide awake.
Suitably emptied I climb back into bed. It is getting light. The local birds are tuning up for their dawn chorus, helped by a couple of noisy cockerels in a nearby farm. A pigeon begins cooing on my rooftop, non-stop. I pull the blanket up over my head, trying to block out the noise. Two minutes later, I throw it off because I’m too hot. Two minutes later I pull it up again because I’m getting chilled in the freshening morning air. Commuter traffic is now building up on the nearby motorway. I look at the clock, an hour and a half before I need to get up for work. I can surely cram in 90 minutes of quality sleep.
The alarm rings, ruining my dreams of a passionate embrace with Brad Pitt. I think, ‘I’ll give it five more minute before I get up.’ Forty five minutes later I’m leaping out of bed and having to skip breakfast so I can get to work on time.
Healthy living from a good night’s sleep? It didn’t work for me.
Adapted from my e-book for Kindles – “From Fancy Pants to Getting There.” Available from Amazon. (Humour) You can read the first few chapters for free.