‘Noth­ing helps me get a de­cent night’s kip’

The Guardian - G2 - - Women - Michele Han­son

Isn’t it fas­ci­nat­ing to read all the re­cent re­search on sleep, fruit flies and cir­ca­dian rhythms? But it isn’t help­ing me to get a de­cent night’s kip. I try. I don’t drink caf­feine af­ter lunch, I eat early, I read a calm­ing book in bed.

But the harder I try to sleep, the less I can, be­cause I’m wor­ry­ing about what I now know will hap­pen to me if I can’t make my­self conk out: in­creased risk of stroke, obe­sity, di­a­betes, de­pres­sion, cancer, a shorter life and, worst of all, cog­ni­tive de­cline. Then, if I’m still awake at 2am, sweat­ing, brain fizzing and swirling, I switch on the wire­less, which even­tu­ally sends me to sleep, but prob­a­bly not the re­quired sort of lovely deep sleep, so I wake up knack­ered.

This means I need a sleep in the af­ter­noon, be­cause my cir­ca­dian rhythm is ap­par­ently dip­ping and I haven’t the strength to do any­thing else any­way, so I have a nap and then I can’t sleep at bed time. And even if I can sleep, some­thing may wake me. I live on a cor­ner at ground level, rev­ellers of­ten pass by, laugh­ing and shout­ing; the dog may start dream­ing and twitch­ing, or want to go out to re­lieve it­self; the neigh­bours may have a row, or a party; or the very un­likely can hap­pen, as it did last De­cem­ber.

There I was, fast asleep, when this strange rustling and tin­kling noise started up. What ever could it be?

It was the mice, who had found the gin­ger­bread stars on the Christ­mas tree, scrab­bling about nib­bling the stars and shak­ing the glass ornaments.

Who would have imag­ined that com­ing? And even if no per­son or an­i­mal makes the slight­est move­ment or sound, how do I know they won’t? So I’m wait­ing to see if they do, which makes re­lax­ing im­pos­si­ble, and I am not even a shift worker with my cir­ca­dian rhythms shot to hell. What chance for them of a long, healthy life? I don’t even have to worry about get­ting up early in the morn­ing. I can write this in the af­ter­noon noon. Or can I? Zzz …

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