Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Fractured Sleep

They’re churning round in my head. The reading I’ve recently done, the future in front of me, the way the days are so different now from anything like I’d imagined they would be. Thoughts that won’t lie down. Although that’s just what I’m doing. Trying for the Prednisolone sleep, this new thing. It’s something with which I’ll have to come to terms.

Everyone has had periods when they can’t sleep. I can recall desperate times years back when worry about life keep me up for hours. I ended up trying out the whole range of devices to make me sleep: herbal calm you downs, long walks just before bed, no caffeine after four pm, no food in the evening, warm room, massage, think your way through your entire body muscle system relaxing techniques, chanting, tai chi, singing, smelling things, rubbing on oils, playing soft music, having the windows open, having them closed, having a serious talk with the neighbours about getting their teenage son to stop playing his Stone Roses records so loudly, hot milk at dusk, tapes of elderly ladies trying to talk me into slumber, ambient sonics, recordings of the sea slowly sloshing onto the shoreline on some distant beach where sheep leap in slow streams over gates and white paling fences. None of this ever worked. I always ended up as wide awake at 2.00 am as I’d been at 10. Hopeless.

Sleeping tablets were worse. They might have occasionally worked – (but who is really to know? I might have gone to sleep on that occasion anyway) – but the after effects, the fuzzy head and inability to concentrate for hours made the whole thing untenable.

Now I’ve got Prednisolone. My new friend. And what does it do? Fractures the sleeping pattern.

The night becomes a stream of sitting upright in the bed totally awake with very little transition from the preceding somnambulant bliss. This can happen three, four, five times through a typical night. You wake, then you go back to sleep, then you wake again. Eventually it approaches dawn. Dim light. 5.00 am. You wake again and you stay that way. Get up, prowl about. Visit the toilet for another long session. Come back and turn the bedside light on. 5.30 am and you are reading. 6.00 am and you are writing. Time trickles on as the day out beyond the window slowly strengthens. Eventually, somewhere near 7.00 am you give into it and, having heard the milkman delivering and the heavy lorries out there in the distance on the Newport Road and perhaps the bloke next door arriving home after a long night out on the razzle, you get up. Tea and tablets. Food and more tablets. Prednisolone again, another handful, write it down on the back of the packet just to be sure you don’t forget what you’ve taken.

In effect I’ve replaced sleep by lying in bed reading or thinking. The strange thing is that with such a fractured sleeping pattern and so much actual sleep not taken I ought to feel washed out. In pre-Prednisolone times I certainly would have felt it. But not now. It’s almost as if I have become Margaret Thatcher. She was famously able to get through the night on just four or five hours actual sleep. It’s a bonus. Isn’t it? Maybe. But given the other major Prednisolone disadvantages I think that on balance I’d prefer to be tired.

By 7.45 am I’m at my desk writing up this blog. SAD lamp on full blast and the cat watching and wondering why I’m in action so early. She’s going to have to get used to this. And for a time too I predict.

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