Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Tuesday 22 January 2013

To Sleep...

I’ve never been much of a sleeper. Even as a child, I struggled to sleep, with all the junk whirling around my head, keeping my mind too busy for the good stuff.

In my teens it wasn’t so bad. The young are tough, and who needs sleep when you can be partying? Besides, isn’t that what Sunday mornings are for? Most school nights I’d be up reading ’til three or four in the morning and struggle out of bed at the last minute, never quite late for school. In my twenties with two babies my sleeplessness stood me in good stead. My oldest dort woke every couple of hours all night until she could read herself to sleep, and she never really napped, either. So, like mother, like daughter, I guess. 

By my thirties I had more of a routine, and I honestly believed that if I could only get five hours sleep a night, fairly regularly, I could do anything. I was probably kidding myself.

I believe it’s been five nights since I last slept anything like five hours, and I feel a little dull, a little woolly in the head. I don’t feel stressed or particularly tired, and I don’t feel snappish or ragged or strung out. I’d like to sleep, and I know that I will... eventually.

Finally, in my forties, I learned that there is only one way to deal with a lack of sleep, and that is to relax, and to get as much rest as humanly possible. I try not to think about the sleep I am not getting. I try not to clock-watch, I try not to become anxious. I keep my routine just as it is. I go to bed at the same time, and I get up at the same time, and I resist napping. I have books on my little i-pad so I don’t have to turn on a light and wake up the husband, and I have a mini-dvd player on my nightstand with earbuds, loaded with old favourite tv shows on dvd, nothing I haven’t seen before, and nothing too exciting, and I watch that. I might get up and make a hot drink, never caffeinated, but I don’t turn on lights, because it’s still night time and I don’t want to stimulate myself into activity.

I might not be able to sleep, but I can have some peace and quiet, and I can rest, and that has a value all of its own. One day, soon, the sleep will return, and I’ll feel great again for a little while. There’s no way to catch up; lost sleep is lost forever, but I don’t have to be stressed about it. This too shall pass.

Wish me luck for tonight.


  1. It's a bit rubbish, isn't it? My husband and all the kids could sleep the clock round and have to be booted out of bed at a sensible time. Me, on the other hand...when I was younger I would write it out, just type all night and then catch up the next night. But now I'm too tired to do any useful work and anyway, I don't want to lose what sleep pattern I do have! After ten days of constant waking and lying awake worrying (it does feel like I'm the only person in the world who's awake)last night I only woke three times and was out between 2 and 6, then fell asleep again! Brilliant! I shall remember that I may not be the only wakeful three a.m. failed sleeper and celebrate my active imagination...

  2. Interestingly enough, before alarms, electric lighting and other false ways of forcing people to go to sleep, we followed a much more different pattern.

    People would go to bed when it got dark. They would sleep for a few hours, then they would wake up. Some would go and visit friends, others would write letters, others would do what comes naturally (;)) and then they would go back to sleep and wake up when it was light.

  3. I sympathise. Normally I'm a great sleeper. Six to seven hours is plenty and I sleep right through. Recently, however, stress has caused me to wake at all hours of the night and I lay there tossing and turning, finally going back to sleep only to be woken by the alarm what feels like moments later to get the kids to school. Hopefully this too will pass, as, I hope, will the stress.