Nicola Vincent-Abnett

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

Wednesday 29 May 2019

Sleeplessness is a Desert

I’m back.
Author photo by James K Barnett

Yes, it’s been a while, but there has also been a lot of stuff, and some things.

In the past four years, I’ve had three diagnoses of chronic conditions. I’m getting treatment, but one chronic problem can be tiring, so you can imagine what my energy levels have been like carrying three of them.

Hopefully, this is the beginning of a better phase for me. Trust me when I tell you that I don’t expect my comments section to be full of sympathetic messages. I know that if I state my pain, many of you will feel it. Take it as read.

So, that takes care of the stuff. The things are political.

I used to talk about politics quite a lot on this blog. I tend to be a political person. The past few years have been pretty traumatic when it comes to politics, both here in the UK and globally. We’ve watched things unfold that we were once happy to consign to satire. I have quietly raged over much of it for the past few years, and I’m exhausted.

The bottom line is that I want us all to live in an equitable society, where no one is persecuted for the colour of their skin or their sexual orientation, or for their gender, of course. I want to live in an equitable society where no child goes hungry, uneducated or without medical care. the money is there, but no one wants to use it for good.

There have been highs points, politically. Black Lives Matter and MeToo are causes for good. And, not for nothing, Julian Richer of Richer Sounds just handed his company over to his employees, and retired. Bravo Julian for understanding that with great power comes great responsibility.

Today, what I really want to talk about is sleep.

I was reading the papers this morning, and there was an interview with journalist, broadcaster and novelist Tom Bradby. He was medically signed off work for three months for insomnia. He claimed that his sleeplessness was more frightening than being shot, and he should know, because in 1999 he took a flare in the leg in Jakarta when he was covering the riots. His insomnia led to a nine day stay at the Priory and three months sitting in his garden, and he recovered. I’m thrilled for him. I can totally sympathise.

I’ve never slept well, and I’ve had long periods of time when I have got very little decent sleep. I still count myself extremely fortunate on those nights when I manage to get five hours of sleep. 

Sleeplessness is horrible; why else would sleep deprivation be used as a form of torture.

I don’t sleep, and I’m sure it often shows. I remember a week in Canada when I didn’t sleep for more than an hour or two in any twenty-four hour period. I signed books, sat on panels, gave talks, and generally continued to function. It became a game in the group to guess how many hours of sleep I’d had the night before.

I’m very happy that Tom Bradby got the help that he needed. I wonder how many sleep-deprived people have the resources to get good psychiatric care and take three months off work. I imagine they are few and far between.

The problem is that many of us are sleep-deprived, including every mother of a baby or small children. Many of those new mothers have limited maternity leave on limited pay, and return to work within weeks or months of the birth of their child, and long before they are getting anything like as much sleep as we are told we need. Separation anxiety and sleeplessness are prevalent among these amazing women, and yet they forge ahead, holding down full-time jobs and full-time home lives.

Sleep deprivation is real, and, again, I’m glad that Tom Bradby got the help that he needed. Not for nothing, Tomb Bradby is married and has three children with his wife, Claudia Bradby, who is a jewellery designer. I wonder how sleep deprived she might have been since the births of her children.

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