Remember when sleeping was just a matter of lying down and shutting your eyes? I was brilliant at it – talented. My only concern was that I wasn’t particularly good at doing it on public transport or for all that long after the sun came up. But I could do it pretty much anywhere else – the deck of boats, in hammocks, on sofas, in sleeping bags on floors, on piles of coats are parties. (Remember parties?)
Then there were the nappy years when I felt like I was the butt of a not very funny joke. It goes like this – You’re tired because you’re looking after a baby and then the baby wakes up in the middle of the night, when you’re fastest asleep, just to make sure you never get any less tired. But just when you think it’ll never end, you’ve got a house full of teenagers that never seem to be keen to get out of their scratchers. Time, you might think, for some well-earned kip for yourself. A long lie, even.
That’s when you discover that you’re still at the mercy of Mother Nature’s twisted sense of humour – bring on the menopause. I had a smug couple of months when it was just me and Morpheus, romping through the REM. Then, all of a sudden, I found myself wide awake and too hot, too cold, needing a wee, hungry and worried about something I’ve forgotten. All at the same time.
This miserable and bad-tempered state of affairs went on for a very long time. In the interests of avoiding acts of violence (my own) I saw my GP and was prescribed Fluoxetine, which helps with the hot flushes some of the time. This means that sleep isn’t quite so difficult to do, but it’s still nothing like the instant, wonderful rest it was 20 years ago.
Tne solution might be to spend all my available time – the hours not spent earning a living or finding other people’s lost possessions – sleeping. However, while my reproductive system is retiring, the rest of me isn’t. I’ve got far too much to do to, what with having been unable to change the world for a few years because I couldn’t get a babysitter and all. I have much diem to carpe.
Instead, the answer must lie in sleeping smarter. By which I mean making sure that the sleep I do get is refreshing enough to allow me to get up before everyone else and make it through the day at full speed without resorting to drugs or inappropriate swearing. (Muttering ‘sake under your breath doesn’t count, obviously.)
Here are the things I’ve found helped to shape-up my snoozing and nuance my napping:
Keep a fan by the bed. If it’s going to be a sweaty night, then switch the fan on earlier rather than doing the duvet on, duvet off dance.
Exercise. Yes. There’s no doubt about it, a bit of running around during the day makes for a better night’s kip. Proven to work with children and dogs, it applies to the middle-aged too.
Relaxation. Yoga, meditation, crosswords, retail therapy, counting your chins. Whatever the thing you do to still your mind and slow down, do it before you go to bed.
A good bed. The best you can afford and nice sheets a fluffy duvet and solid/soft pillows as you prefer. (I hear these ones are great) You spend a long time lying down – even when you get up early. A poem about beds.
Getting retro with the tech. My best Christmas present was an alarm clock. A couple of years ago the last clock-radio slunk off to the charity shop, replaced by a smartphone by the bed. However, after ignoring dozens of articles about the adverse effect of screens in the bedroom, I got the message. So I now leave my phone downstairs and go to bed with a good book instead. I’ve only been doing this for a week or so but already I’ve noticed that I don’t waste so much time faffing about on social media first and last thing, and, probably as a consequence, I feel more refreshed.
A glass of milk. Yes, I know, hardly the leather trousers of the night-cap world, but it really helps. I don’t feel peckish and it has some chemical in it that helps you drop off.