Sleep, which knits up the ravelled sleeve of care, to use Shakespeare’s phrase, is sometimes an elusive beast. It sneaks up upon us as we’re watching TV or sitting in a concert. In my case, it tends to happen at the opera, usually in the last act, when things are really hotting up, and we’re sitting in seats for which we’ve paid a lot of money. Why does it happen to me just when I don’t want it to? And why won’t it come when I do want it to, such as now, at 3.30 a.m?
Yes, I know what the experts say. Keep to a nightly routine. No TV or radio in the bedroom. Focus totally on getting ready for bed and going to sleep. Or perhaps have a drink of hot milk (yuk!) before going to bed. No, I’m afraid all that doesn’t work for me. I do have a nightly routine, I confess, and then go to bed and watch TV for an hour or more, and that usually does the trick.
But that ‘usually’ is getting more and more unusual. So, as happened tonight, I wake up after a couple of hours’ sleep and can’t, just can’t, get back to sleep. I suddenly remember that I haven’t done something I should have, and totter off to my study, where I sit down in front of the computer and, lo and behold, the whole world is at my fingertips. After I have checked my e-mails and my favourite sites U-tube beckons me, providing an endless source of diversions. These can be an instructive TED lecture, a funny sketch with Hugh Laurie and Steven Fry, some nostalgia with Danny Kaye, or anything in-between.
I did, I really did, try to coax my mind into the relaxed state that gently guides me back into slumber. I try to recall the names of all the children who were in my class in my last year at primary school, when we were all about ten years old. Miriam Oppenheimer, Naomi Bornstein, and about twelve other little girls. Then come David Elstein and Jonathan Kornbluth and about ten little boys. None of them are little any more, I’m sure, and I don’t know what has become of most of them, though I heard that David Elstein became a BBC producer and I know that Jonathan Kornbluth is a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. But that device doesn’t always do the trick, either, and I get to the end of the list and I’m still wide, wide awake. What a nuisance! Even the mantra I was given at the Trandenscental Meditation group I went to about 40 years ago doesn’t help.
I could, I suppose, even do some work, writing or translating, or adding something new to my blog — as I’m doing at present. The main thing is to keep doing something until, hopefully, I’ll suddenly feel my eyelids drooping and be ready to climb back into bed. But it isn’t happening. My mind flatly refuses to go into shut-down mode, and the thoughts that have been bothering me continue to do so. Even some soothing music on the radio, which thankfully plays all through the night, isn’t helping.
I daren’t take a sleeping pill by this time, because if I do I’ll be asleep for half the coming day, and that would be a total waste. Oh, but hey, I think I can hear the birds beginning to chirp to greet the dawn. That means that the daily paper will soon be delivered to our door and I can honourably go down, have breakfast, and start my day.
Hallelujah! The night is over, and the world is starting to join me in my alert state. Good morning, world. Here comes another day.