EWF blog post ~ You’re getting sleeeepy (or not): sleep, sleeplessness and the brain

I’ve got another essay up on the Emerging Writers’ Festival Blog. This one’s about sleep, sleeplessness and the brain.

~

It’s 3.37am. My bedroom is dark, the edges of all the things in it are fuzzy. I’ve been woken by the whirring of a forklift driving around inside a chicken wholesaler warehouse two doors down from my place in a semi-industrial part of Melbourne’s Brunswick. It beeps as it reverses. Every now and then, someone throws solid objects into a skip that sits outside the business’ front door. I lay awake for hours, fuming, despairing, turning from side to side. I get up a few times to look, unsuccessfully, for the earplugs I know I own.

It’s not a particularly warm night, but at about 4.15am, my body temperature soars, and I have to throw off all the covers, lie in a starfish shape in the middle of the bed, and consciously slow my breath down. I’m overheating because I’m angry. I’m seriously considering going outside in my pyjamas to yell at the forklift driver about noise rules in mixed-zone areas, but then I start to worry about what, exactly, a business is doing moving stock around at that time of day. What is it? Is it part of their legitimate business? Do I live a few doors down from a ‘business man’ rather than a business man? Might I be risking my safety if I complain? And the paranoid spiral continues until the noise finally stops at 6.30am.

Eventually, some time around 7am, I drag myself out of bed and stumble through the day not entirely sure whether I’m awake or asleep. My limbs are heavy and I can feel my body’s exhaustion like the very beginning of pins and needles. I manage, somehow, to call the council and make enough sense that they understand I’m making a noise complaint.

Every now and then I have a bout of sleeplessness, although I’d not go as far as calling myself an insomniac. Most often my sleeplessness is related to noisy neighbours — jackhammers at 7am on a Sunday, idiotic first-home-away-from-homers exploding aerosol cans in a barrel fire under my window late at night in their tiny inner-city back courtyard. Not sleeping fills me with dread; a long-lasting anxiety that, ironically but unsurprisingly, makes it more difficult for me to sleep. I worry about being as useless as I was the day after the all-night forklift.

After that night, I set out to find out what the relationship between my writing work and my sleep (or lack thereof) might be, and ideally to figure out how to encourage a good night’s shut eye.

Read more here.

Advertisements

Packing

I’ve moved house quite a few times now. About ten, I think, in my adult life. And every single time packing completely undoes me. I always reach a point where I am so exhausted that I can’t possibly stand up, can’t possibly put another thing in another box.

I’ve taken more care of myself this time round than I normally do — I’ve allowed more time, I’ve allowed myself plenty of strategic breaks. But I’ve still reached that point. My bed is covered in stuff so I’ve been lying on the floor, curled up in a little ball. At this point it feels like I’ll never finish packing, and I wonder how on earth I can have so much stuff. Where does it all come from? Why does a person accumulate all this crap? Why haven’t I got rid of it before now? Why don’t I just get rid of it now? But it needs sorting through, and some of it I really should keep (important documents, anyone?). Don’t get me wrong — I’m throwing out a lot of stuff. I’ve been pretty ruthless, even with books.

I’m longing now for the time when I’ll walk into my room and it’ll be empty, and there’ll be a pile of neatly labelled boxes in the front room, and my housemate and I will begin cleaning. And, as much as it feels nearly impossible now, I know that time will come. I will, eventually, be packed.

Moving. It’s a process. And it never gets any easier.

Exhaustion

This week things have shifted. I’ve finally let go of some things, and some new opportunities have presented themselves. Work is beginning to pick up more and more, and I start back at uni again next week.

The change of pace, and the shifts in my thinking and doing have found me feeling lighter, and a little bit excited. I’ve found it difficult to sleep this week. As soon as my head hits the pillow, my mind is off, following all sorts of little paths and trails, guessing at how things might unfold now that I’ve thrown off some of the thought-stuff I didn’t need anymore. Each night this week I’ve lain awake for hours, imagining. Just like a child who can’t sleep because something exciting is happening the next day.

I’ve been aware of a lingering tiredness all week, but it hasn’t really bothered me until this afternoon’s yoga practice. I had lots of energy at the beginning, enough even to practice some fairly intense back-bends. Then I lay down in savasana to relax for a few minutes and was surrounded by exhaustion. My legs and arms tingled with it, my head felt suddenly much heavier. It was almost as if I’d just covered myself in a blanket of tiredness. ‘Surprise! You can’t really cope with very little sleep! Had you fooled, didn’t I?’

But this is part of the reason I love working the way I do (all over the place, and at weird hours, in other words): if I’m exhausted on a Friday afternoon, I can usually take it easy. There’s usually some work I can do that involves sitting on the couch with a cup of tea (and maybe a chocolate biscuit from a bout of procrastibaking earlier in the day). And I think I’m getting better at down time. I’m a really active person (hence the active job), and always have been. But I don’t think I’ve ever been particularly good at… well, resting. I guess many of us aren’t.

Next week will be extremely busy. I think an afternoon of reading and writing is justified. So excuse me while I put my feet up, munch on some baked goods, and get some quiet time.

~

This is cross-posted on my yoga blog, om gam yoga.