(Planet Me)
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
I Don't Sleep, I Dream

Sleep is the human drug. We all need it : some less than others. But none of us do without it. Margret Thatcher could function capably – if that’s what one can call the way she ran this country – on four hours sleep. In the meantime, some of us, the average person, tend to make do with around seven hours.

Bed before midnight. Up around seven AM. But how much of that time is spent actually asleep. To some people, sleep is a gift. A god given right. To them, a bed is merely a tool. To others, the bed is the nemesis. Wrestling half the night in silent darkness, hoping for the sweet comfort of oblivion. And yet, falling unconscious in the presence of crowded offices.

Sometimes people fall into bed, and the Sleep God toggles their on/off switch. They are oblivious. Unconscious. Mining the sweet fields of nothingness. Dreaming of chasing rabbits, driving tanks, fighting zombie hordes, or whatever it is people dream of. People dream of strange things. My dreams involve twin sons in panda outfits at the top of impossibly high walls. Parking military vehicles imposingly over traffic jams. Flying. Just like Superman.

Dreams are strange things. I fantasise of a pristine, cool duvet. Of eight hours of absolute absence. Some people, they fall into the fabric and sheets, they fall into slumber, and within what feels like milliseconds, the rise and fall of their breath like waves and tornados, the snoring of the blissfully dead. Next to you, luxuriating in the ease with which they hit unconsciousness. Every rise and fall of breath like a thunder crack, a dull punch into consciousness. All we need is quiet and dark. But even that seems like an impossible ambition.

They sleep next to you : their breath rising and falling like storms. Some people can sleep through a storm and never flinch. Others wake in a state of perpetual alertness at the slightest noise. For me, a full nights sleep is an impossible dream. An ambition akin to paying off a mortgage or being ringmaster at an orgy or playing the perfect guitar solo at Madison Square Garden. A chance so slim as to be in all practical terms impossible.

Sure, Elvis could land in a UFO at the gates of The White House, but the odds aren’t good at that either.

In the end I nudge the sleeper, rousing them from their selfish slumber long enough for their breathing to fall shallow and silently, long enough for me to try and not concentrate on sleep, long enough for me to try and not think with all my mind that I really need to sleep, long enough for me to try to relax, to forget, to just switch off. And I would kill for a good nights sleep.

Sure, I could actually sleep eight hours a night. But the odds aren’t good at that either.

Instead, those eight hours are spent normally in five to six hours of fractured sleep, coupled with an hour at either edge of consciousness, trying desperately to find the comfort of nothingness or equally desperately to stay in that sweet pillow of dreams. But my brain is my enemy. My brain sees consciousness as experience and sleep as some kind of poison.

And I stare at the ceiling and try desperately to get a hit of sweet unconsciousness

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