Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Two sleeps good?

I absolutely love reading in bed, which is a good thing because I seem to spend an awful lot of time doing just that. I know that insomnia is incredibly common so I don't feel alone in suffering the trials and tribulations of trying to get a 'decent night's sleep'.
(I've just freaked myself out googling 'wide awake doll'...)
My insomnia follows the pattern of falling asleep easily, sleeping for about four hours, then waking up and having trouble going back to sleep. I often repeat this cycle all over again, waking again at around 5am and sometimes going back to sleep for a third time for what is usually a period of wild and surreal dreams (but I won't bore you with those). This has been labelled 'sleep maintenance insomnia'.
(see what I mean...?)
Last week I came upon an article online that suggests this 'bi-modal sleep pattern' may be a throwback to a time long ago when humans slept more naturally -- in two blocks of around four hours each. In the middle of the night, they awoke quite naturally and either got up and did things, or stayed in bed. Contemplation was often the order of the day -- or, rather, night. Particularly of one's dreams. Or reading, smoking, writing, all manner of entertainment. It seems that the advent of better lighting and, following on from that, more social things to do in the evenings and into the night eventually did away with this natural rhythm: if you stayed up late into the evening carousing in a coffee house, then when you eventually went to bed you would stay asleep for longer, wake later and, little by little, stop enjoying the wide-awake time in the middle of the night. The article puts it much better than this.
How about these glasses from 1936, specially designed for reading in bed?
I decided quite a long time ago not to get het up about being awake in the middle of the night. I have an array of small torches and reading lights (mostly useless, I must say), and I quite enjoy peering at a few pages through a yellowing, chrysanthemum-shaped blob of light -- I feel as though I'm stealing some time back from the hamster-wheel routine of the working day.
If I'm staring at the ceiling trying to get back to sleep, my best tactics -- which I'll share with you -- are 1) mentally reciting all the answers to the times tables, from one to twelve, rhythmically. If you make a mistake you have to start again -- "1, 2, 3, 4... 108, 120, 132, 144!" You'll be lucky if you get to "7, 14, 21..."
2) Starting from the most recent and working backwards, picture all the beds you've ever slept in. That should do the trick. 3) Trying to dream up art projects in my mind's eye...
Anyone who remembers me babbling on, a while ago, about a 'big' idea I'd had might be amused to know that, as predicted, my early efforts to make it come to life as I had imagined it failed spectacularly! It can be dangerous to imagine creative ideas in the vacuum of a darkened room. What seems like a brilliant possibility in the middle of the night turns to disappointment in the light of day. In this particular case, the materials proved impossible to wrangle into shape and it would have been necessary to work on a monumental scale -- far bigger than I can manage in my limited space. But I'm still going to keep my idea alive, somewhere inside my head or in a notebook, for a time when I have a huge studio and a team of willing young men to help me -- just like David Hockney. The pic above is as far as I got... Anyway, I've had another 'great idea' now, so I can enjoy the happy feeling of excitement and anticipation again for a little while before that too, no doubt, goes sour.

Going back to reading in bed, I love this 'book' duvet with pages you can actually read (it tells the story of Sleeping Beauty, of course).

6 comments:

Joanna said...

Those pics of the wide awake dolls made me laugh (nervously). Sleeping always seems such a waste of time but I don't do well with a broken night's sleep. I can't imagine coping with a sleep pattern like yours.

I am partially colour blind that it actually hurt my eyes to look at that face that you're working on. Strange or what?!

Kitsch and Curious said...

I saw that article and was going to send you a link! It's an interesting notion.

I too, often think of creative projects in the night which never seem quite so impressive in the morning! Creative thinking tends to get my brain whirring and keeps me awake, though!

Intrigued by your art idea - any chance of making it work on smaller scale?

LJ said...

Thanks for linking the article - very interesting. I've had insomnia for over ten years (I think it's self-inflicted, starting from all-nighters watching NHL games - the time difference to the UK was a pain!) but I agree with you, these moments of quiet from the humdrum of the day can be inspiring. I've gotten into the habit of keeping scraps of paper next to my bed in case ideas/dreams inspire something.

On a separate note... I really want a duvet like that! Brilliant!

Printed Material said...

Insomnia is something I've rarely suffered thankfully. I'm a regular 8 hour a night sleeper and can wake up and drop off at the drop of a hat. If I have the odd troubled night it is often where my brain is working overtime and won't let the body rest. I think it sounds like you have those days all the time! I suspect you are exercising that grey matter a bit more than the rest of us and maybe why there's no respite? I am intrigued by the coping mechanisms though. You'd think that stimulating the brain would extend the sleeplessness or maybe it just exhausts the sub conscious into letting go? Fascinating post, as ever.

Menopausalmusing said...

I get up and do "stuff" when I can't sleep. I don't really have a sleep "pattern".

That duvet cover at the end was a wonderful end to a fascinating post.

Jane said...

Husband has the same sleep problem - he invariably falls back yo sleep about 6.00 am when he has to get up at around 7.00 am so he's a bad morning person! Perhaps he should have a book duvet - one can't get up in the middle of the night here without M-in-law getting up too!