I would have described myself as a good sleeper. All my life I've been able to drop off at a moments notice: I can sleep on aeroplanes, on trains, on sofas, in strange beds. I can go to sleep for an hour in the afternoon, or twenty minutes before supper, for ten hours of respite after the bone-shaking exhaustion of being awake with a sick child, or for seven hours common or garden beauty sleep.
Sleep is one of those things I've never questioned: however dogged by uncertainty I might be about my ability in other areas, I've always taken sleep for granted. It's true there have been times when I've craved more sleep -during finals; when I was young enough to cope with the physical demands of swotting furiously til 3am, or after the children were born, where dumb with tiredness from the endless night feeds, you find yourself putting your car keys in the fridge and the milk in the bathroom cupboard.
Those periods of sleep deprivation seem voluntary, self-imposed, temporary. But now, as I wave wearily at the bedside clock ticking past four, and yet again I'm stuck in the long dark teatime of the soul, and in the long dark teatime of the soul, all the sandwiches are stale, the scones crumble to dust, and the cake is always seedcake and never coffee-walnut.
I wonder, a little despairingly, if this bloody sleeplessness will ever end.
I've tried the usual things -a warm bath, a cup of cocoa, moving the pile of shoes from the side of the bed in case they were interfering with the feng shui or something. I've tried meditation, counting sheep and self-hypnosis. I've opened windows and tried different combinations of bedclothes. I've listened to The Goldberg Variations, which is my secret instant-calmer & usually works in any situation from childbirth to coping with rush hour on the Central Line. To no avail: I drop off fine, and then I wake up.
And what is it about the wee small hours that's so much more horrid than any other time of day? All the things you haven't done line up around your bed and start pointing at you, muttering about your inadequacies, undermining your ability to believe you can get on and finish anything. So the mind plays games, which is wearing, and the tiredness debilitates, and the jeering creatures around the bed peel off a layer of your skin, so that in the bright of day you're unable to face things with quite the equanimity they require.
Anyway, this four in the morning thing has been going on almost since i came back from holiday and it's driving me demented. It feels like a habit now too, which is even more peeving.
Any good suggestions for knocking it on the head and getting my sanity back?