For the first fifty five years of my life I had no idea what people meant when they said they had trouble sleeping. Whatever I had done during the day – sat around watching tv with my family because there wasn’t anything else much to do; tried to teach a rabble of third years the basics of French; spent the day at my allotment – I would get into bed, most likely read for half an hour, turn off the light and go to sleep.
Then it all changed! Life was a bit hectic around that time as I had a young grand-daughter whom I helped look after when her mum was ill (quite often, in those days) or just to give her parents a break. As they lived about two hours away, ‘looking after’ meant first a one hour train ride to London then about an hour’s journey across London to Chiswick, a lovely ‘village’ within London where I had lived for quite a few years. It also meant spending the night there and returning home the next day.
Around the same time my husband’s and my social life had expanded and there were new and exciting outings and people around us which kept us both busy; we started a new business which kept us occupied eighteen hours a day or more and we moved to the busy High Street of a nearby town to carry on said business. I started buying and selling antiques and collectables. I would go to auctions and find the most wonderful (to me) items which I would buy at a reasonable price and sell at a slightly higher but still reasonable price.
Altogether these activities seemed to take their toll on my sleep. First, I would lie in bed thinking about the day’s activities for too long, sometimes three or four hours! Then I started realising that I was still awake at two, three, four, even five o’clock. I now believe that I had been sleeping a bit but not the kind of sleep to dream and so felt as though I had just been lying there.
I took herbal medicine to sleep and found myself even more wakeful; I gave up coffee and found I still couldn’t sleep. I didn’t actually drink alcohol at the time so it wasn’t that; I wasn’t worried or anxious so it wasn’t that. I still don’t know what it was and still is.
Since then I have tried getting really tired, aqua aerobics, the gym, walking, eating carbs last thing at night (supposed to make you tired), flower remedies, other herbal remedies, relaxation techniques……
Some nights I do sleep. I get up, of course, to pee, but can get back to sleep quite quickly but the majority of nights I either go to bed and lie there for two or more hours or I go straight off to sleep and wake up about two hours later. I was awake for the great Broadstairs earthquake (though I had just started to doze!) and I was awake for the great Broadstairs attempted-lead-theft from Pierremont Hall with helicopter hovering and police voices over loud-hailers urging the thieves to remove themselves from the roof, post-haste. Needless to say, sleep eluded me for the remainder of those particular nights.
What has really annoyed me over the years has been the times when I’ve been asleep and then been woken by a sound. In West Malling High Street we lived above our shop. One night I was awoken by a really loud crash. I looked out the small window at the top of our 18th century building and saw what I, in my befuddled state, believed to be a very large and scary animal trying to take bites at a building up the road. As my mind cleared (sleep does strange things to one’s mind!), I realised that the ‘animal’ was a JCB which was attacking a building. My next thought was that it was a disgruntled husband or wife who was trying to hurt their partner but I swiftly came to the conclusion that it was, in fact, an attempt to steal a service till.
I ran down to the next floor where our telephone was, dialled 999, was answered, told the operator what was happening and she did whatever they do when they get that kind of call — but nothing happened! She couldn’t get through to the police. She kept trying, I held on. Eventually she said she’d have to try a different way which she did but there was still no reply. I wanted to hang up, get dressed and sneak up the road to see what was going on (silly me!) but she said I had to stay on the line. In that instance, the police NEVER answered the call but, luckily, someone had been able to contact them (I think via the fire service, though I don’t know how that bit of info entered my mind) and a car with two young police women approached very quietly and calmly from the direction of the A20. The car stopped just about outside our place and the police got out and surveyed the scene. Though I couldn’t see the people with the JCB it was obvious that they could see the police as, quite suddenly, the JCB backed away from the building society it was attacking. I couldn’t see what happened next as that part of the High Street gets wider but I found out later that the JCB, with the important till full of money in its bucket, tried to back down the little road opposite its position and failed because the road was just too narrow. The thieves, apparently, jumped out and got into a Landcover and made a dash for freedom which they achieved. I do hope they are one of the groups who have been picked up since then for the same kind of activity! My sleep that night was wrecked! (An aside: what would have happened if, that night, thieves had broken into our shop thinking that we sold high-end antiques? What if they came looking for safes or jewellery which we have never had?)
This has turned into a short thriller rather than a description of poor sleeping.
Be assured, those of you who have not yet reached old age. Not everyone who gets old(er) has this problem. My husband gets into bed and is asleep within five minutes. He sleeps through everything including the earthquake, the lead-theft and the JCB building attack! He even fell asleep when the ceiling in his studio fell down…..another story for another time!