Before January 17th, 2012, I was ambivalent about sleep. Compared to my wife who could sleep in for a week if given half a chance, I’d be up and out of bed the minute my eyes opened. I laughed in the face of sleep. Sniggered at those who needed an afternoon snooze. I was the Donald Trump of sleep trolls. Faced with baby-filled, sleepless nights I was going to be the strong one.
Except I wasn’t. Very fucking far from it. Point Nemo far, in fact (thanks QI).
Seems I should have been grasping at every little bit of available sleep like a desperate politician clinging on to the last vestiges of power. I should have been begging it to stay like a pathetic boyfriend caught cheating who knows he’s lost The One for good. I should have been storing sleep like a squirrel stores nuts because I was about to be hit with three years of (mostly) sleepless, hallucinogenic misery.
Weirdly accurate representation of me after 3h sleep (by Harry, aged 3 at the time)
From that first night of sheer, naked, blind panic (whatdowedowhatdowedowhatdoweDOMAKEHIMSTOPCRYING! NCT never told us what to do when they actually came OUT!), until somewhere around my eldest son’s 3rd birthday, I enjoyed an average of 5 hours sleep a night. I even had a spectacular week when I went to work on 3 hours’ sleep on 4 consecutive days. I vaguely remember trying to write an email on day 4 and rewriting the same paragraph 5 times. It was a bit like one of those dreams when you’re running up a down escalator and not getting anywhere. In all honesty, I’d probably have been more effective at work if I’d drunk half a bottle of gin for breakfast and followed it with a few shots of Absinthe.
Now, 4 hours may have been enough for Margaret Thatcher but I’m not even half the woman she was. Apparently only about 1% of the population can get by on 4 hours sleep and it’s considered a sleep disorder (lucky freaks). I realise now that I need a solid 7 hours. Seven hours stops me turning into this (in terms of inanimate object breakage, not musculature). Seven hours keeps a roof over my head (my wife has understandably little tolerance for a 46 year old who behaves like an irrational toddler). It stops me losing my shit over something trivial like someone not waving thanks when I pull in to let them past on the road or a commuter standing on the left (WHY DO THEY DO THAT??).
Aside from weathering the storm, avoiding friends whose kids sleep well and storing foam earplugs like a crazy American survivalist, the only way I have been able to deal with the Death of Sleep has been to come to an ‘Alternate Weekend Morning Lie-in’ agreement with my wife, realise that I was not alone (this is my gift to you) and become that which I have always looked down upon with derision – an Afternoon Snoozer.