My Waking Nightmare

Written by Simon Jenkins

It's 2am. I've been asleep a couple hours or so but now I'm staring at the ceiling with a raging thirst. I'm wondering whether it will just go away or I'll need to summon the energy for a walk to the bathroom.

I doze for a bit, but thoughts keep poking in. Like "four hours and I'll have to be up for work" and "the MoT's due soon" and "I really am thirsty. I'll have to get a drink". Pizza always gets me this way. And in the end I haul myself out to the bathroom for some water.

I've been back in bed for five minutes and I know the serene spell of sleep is broken. That whatever I do, whatever I think, whatever I try not to think, I have a four-hour sentence of misery, just lying here wishing I could sleep.

I do what I did is a kid. I try to think my mind blank. That everything is white and empty and my bed is infinitely huge, a cool mattress stretching out into a formless waste. There used to be so little rattling around in my head that this would actually work.

But grown-up thoughts creep in. Like bills to pay and jobs to do. In the next room I can hear my son arguing with someone in his dreams. The sound subsides.

I shift position. I change pillows. I finally find comfort arms there, legs like that. And within a minute I'm wriggling again, dog-tired and wide awake.

It's 3:30am. Maybe I've dozed, I'm not sure. Somewhere a car alarm is sounding or a burglar alarm. I peer out of the curtains but I can't see where it's coming from. It stops anyway. It starts again. It stops. And now there's someone else who won't be sleeping for fear it's gonna wake the neighbours a third time.

The road looks eerie and dead. A feathering of snow floats down to be rusted up in the tungsten of the streetlights.

4am... 5am... I'm into politics now, Northern Ireland. It's the darkest dead of my longest night and I'm trying to sort out the peace process. I need sleep.

A gate creaks. Not ours, I know, because ours has a familiar squawking, scraping, screak, like some kid messing with a cello. Maybe it's the milkman - we don't hear him any more. There's no cheery chink as he trudges up the drive now he trades in plastic bottles. And no postman either. Not till lunchtime anyhow.

6am. The central heating fires into life. Hell, is that the time? And then I sleep, that blissful 10 minutes between the dawn signals of the boiler and the alarm clock.

And now it's time for work. I'll try and sleep there.

Simon Jenkins

Thanks Simon, for this humorous (but serious) article

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