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Had a Sleepless Night? You Are Not Alone


Jun. 6, 2022 Psychology Today

The Insomnia Diaries: Year Three

29th June

Sleep statistics: 0 hours, 0 minutes: a ‘white night’ (or nuit blanche, as they call it in France)

Eleven forty-seven PM. A door slams as the neighbour’s teenage son comes home from the pub. An hour later, the last Tube rumbles past and I thump my pillow over to find a cool spot. I refuse to open the window because of my fear of hearing the first bird of morning, confirmation that the next day is about to start and I have failed, yet again. Failed. In my quest to sleep, which one would think is a basic human right.

But I am not a POW whose captors breach the Geneva convention. No-one has stolen my sleep from me. I am not wired up to electrodes, a neon light is not shining in my face all night long. I have black-out blinds, and a king-size bed, all to myself. My enemy is my brain, and a body that has forgotten how to shut down.

I turn over again, pulling the duvet with me until it twists up like a chewed stick of Wrigley’s. Where shall I put my thoughts now? I’m too exhausted to read: the words dance in front of my eyes, and it’s physically tiring even holding up the book. Some nights I write novels in my head, with whole character arcs. But I’m too tired to put pen to paper.

Tonight, I switch on the radio station TalkSport, where there is an early-hours show featuring two acerbic DJs called ‘The Two Mikes’. I have no idea why I listen to this, but something about their banter about things so irrelevant to my own life is comforting and nixes the guilt I feel about ‘abandoning’ my family, friends, and work.

Now it’s 03.56: Just me, and the red numbers on my alarm clock. I see some grey light poking under the blinds. Planes start circling overhead. The milkman delivers his cargo (who still gets milk delivered in this day and age?). And now, the kicker: the birds start the dawn chorus that signals the start of another interminable day. 

People the world over salute the sun, and I absolutely hate it.

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