Part 36: Sleep

Although sleep is definitely the thing – as I’m sure you’ll agree without any need of a long-winded argument to that effect from me – I’m not a traditionalist. The singularly specific deliciousness of a good night’s sleep is something that often evades me. I have rarely woken from an extended slumber feeling refreshed and ready to start the day with verve and positivity. When I say ‘rarely’, I obviously mean ‘never’. The recommended eight-hour optimum always seems stingy, especially during the winter months (I do wonder if this is because I’m not normal: I’ve become convinced of late that I am directly descended from some breed of tiny, supple mammal that hibernates from late December through to May), when it takes several hours of direct sunlight and intravenous coffee treatment to shake off the heavy post-sleep cowl. But even in summer, I’m sleep greedy; like an obese person tempted with a tray of pasties, I’m unable to have enough. It is not unknown for me to press snooze on my alarm until the sun goes down, and/or ravenous hunger propels me to climb out from under my downy duvet to forage for sustenance.

I’m also not convinced of the bed’s supremacy as a sleeping vehicle. Although I like sleeping in beds, preferably double ones with chintzy, freshly laundered linen and multiple pillows, I do like a bit of variety. Sexy sleepiness has propelled me to slumber underneath piles of coats in the hall at parties, and tables at restaurants, on lawns at Ascot, and crates in nightclubs (earning me the nickname ‘dormouse’ from my friends). And I can attest that random little sleeps in unlikely places add a spicy variety to semiconsciousness which is both bodily and cerebrally stimulating (exactly: vivid dream bonus, especially in clubs).

Sleep is a reason to be single on two main fronts:

1) Sleeping in a bed with someone else is not pleasant

Occasionally, when I’m alone in bed in my flat – which is pretty much every night – I get a bit scared that monsters are going to bite my feet, or that a madman wielding strong, strangly hands is going to smash in through my window and kill me in the darkness. For this reason, I always sleep with several sharp/smashable things by my bedside, so that I can use them as weapons. Even if they aren’t enough to save me, I’ll at least ensure that my killer’s DNA is splattered across the crime scene and thus make life easier for the police trying to catch him. As you can imagine, these kind of dark thoughts do not help sleep to arrive peacefully and cover me in velvet.

On such paranoid nights I find myself thinking that it would all be okay if there was a man in my bed who could help fight the monsters/prize the strangly hands off my neck. Of course, this is just the night-time crazy talking. As I’ve been reminded recently, having shared a bed with some men (yes, like that) after a long time not doing so, sleeping with a man (in the literal sense) is not pleasant, or always possible. Partly, this is my fault, as I’ve never found it easy to fall asleep when there’s someone male in the bed next to me – and not because I want to ravish them. It’s just a bit…embarrassing isn’t it? Naked, unconscious, and totally vulnerable is not how I want to roll with virtual strangers. Plus I usually find that when lying in silence in the dark, the sound of my ‘lover’s’ thoughts beats a steady, distracting rhythm, like a ticking clock.

But it isn’t all my fault. Men are selfish and do numerous things that prevent one from getting a good night’s kip in. The traditional moan at this point is re: cover-hogging, but I’ve got to say I have never found that to be a problem in real life – double bed covers are quite big, and were in fact designed for two people to comfortably fit under. No, it’s the more calculated actions of men that are prohibitive to sleep. For example, my recent bedtime partners have wanted to do things like kiss and touch me right before I’m about to doze off, or roll over and cuddle me in the night, both waking me up and causing an awkward moment where I have to find a suitably polite way of wriggling away from them, and locating a cool space that’s just for me. As I type this I’ve just remembered an ex I had who used to sweat profusely in the night, and who would, every now and then request to swap sides with me so that I’d find myself lying in his sticky, sickly sweat, seething and wide awake. Also: snoring. Apparently it is not acceptable to dig a person in the ribs and tell them to shut up when they are snoring heavily after a night of passion, even if it’s literally keeping you awake.

2) Other people like to be awake during the day, and want you to be awake with them

My mate Gav is one of these nutters who wakes up at 8am on the weekend and spends the remaining hours of daylight doing things like tending to the garden, having a day in town, seeing mates for lunch. When I express my preference for spending the weekends staying in bed till mid-afternoon, getting up to find chocolate/watch the Cube, and then going back to bed again he shakes his head and says, ‘what’s wrong with you? It’s not about wasting the day.’

He’s not alone either – my colleagues and more ambitious friends tend to have abundant tales of weekends spent having brunch, walking in the peaks, attending barbeques, and buying pretty dresses. They usually do these things with a partner, if they’ve got one (I’ve bafflingly heard some of them complain about lazy partners who don’t relish getting out of bed and diving headfirst into two consecutive days of contrived ‘fun’). Astoundingly, other people actually prefer to spend their weekends being up and awake and walking and talking and socialising and spending money (i.e: doing all the things they are forced to on weekdays) under the guise of ‘leisure’, rather than staying in bed, dozing and reading recently released hardbacks.

I don’t know when I stopped seeing weekend days as free-time for fun, and started seeing them as extended night-time, but I do know that it coincided with me being better looking than all the wide-eyed tired people who think they can survive on just eight hours sleep a night. I sincerely hope that if there is, as the country song goes, ‘someone for everyone’, that the person for me will be self-assured and content enough to revel in the pleasures of sleep, as well as the other thing beds were made for. Although, if he’s a snuggler, I might have to insist on separate bedrooms.

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