Sleep is one of those things we drastically undervalue in our society. I think about this a lot, as a perpetually sleepy person: how most people are more worried about dehyrdration or sugar addiction than they are their lack of rest.
Mention you have a headache, and you’re immediately blanketed in well-intentioned advice. Someone will demand you drink a pint of water; another person will offer to rub your neck. Depending on the kind of company you keep, prescription painkillers or scented oils will emerge from various handbags, lights will be darkened, care and concern handed your way.
Yet say you feel tired – that you didn’t get enough sleep and you feel bone-weary and sunken – and you’re most likely to be met with an odd sort of disdain. Lack of sleep is the tired person’s fault in a way dehyrdration never is; tiredness a weakness that a headache is never considered to be.
Why are we like this? Why is rest so undervalued – scorned upon, even? Sleep and tiredness sit so comfortably with ‘lazy’, and the lines we draw between the three are hazy and loose. Go to bed early, and you’re virtuous. Sleep late, and you’re a slob – even if both scenarios result in the exact same number of hours in bed.
It doesn’t help that we all respond differently to lack of rest. R, I notice, can bound out of bed after six hours and remain his usual cheerful, washing-up-obsessed self, while anything less than 8 hours makes me intolerably grumpy and pessimistic. Much like a toddler, I’m prone to bouts of tears and tantrums if I’m sleep deprived, and I’m a lot less easily distracted by stickers.
Our resentment of sleep is woven right through our history; it’s right here in the remnants of the Industrial revolution that formed this village. Protestant work ethics and Dickensian mill owners; back to a time when rising early to make the most of the daylight was essential; where there was little to do in those late dark hours but debauchery & booze.
Our lives have changed but our attititides haven’t. We work late into the night, do laundry at 1am. Productivity and positivity are no longer relegated to the sunlit hours, & we need to adjust our sleep schedules and attitudes to fit.
So I’m making an effort to keep my sleep sacrosanct. Not in the strict-9pm-bedtime sense – that doesn’t work with my lifestyle or my brain – but by accepting my need to have enough. Even if that means being antisocial; even if it means sleeping through breakfast & being thought lazy sometimes. Especially if it means a mid-afternoon snooze from time to time. No guilt, just rest.
With that in mind, we’ve finally replaced our old mattresses. Ours have been on our giant, two-singles-build-together bed since before we lived here and I’m increasingly kept awake by the imagery of all the dead dust mites and dried body fluids they must surely have been harbouring. So long sarcophagi for dust; hello soft and springy new Leesa blocks of bliss. These babies are up my street in every way – no visits to those hellish retail park mattress stores, just order online and have a nice UPS man bring them to your door in inconceivably tiny boxes. Splitting the plastic and watching them slowly exhale into life is on that same unique pleasure list as peeling the protective film of an LCD screen and taking the cellophane off a new boardgame as a child. Mmmmm…
Twitter informed me this morning that, in a fashion so timely I’m tempted to pretend it was deliberate, we are in the midst of national sleep week! If you’re tempted to do the same and update your mattress, you can get £50 off at leesa.co.uk/meandorla.
And if you see me on twitter at 1am, tweeting at Mark Hamill or talking nonsense with people from another, daylit hemisphere, please give me a gentle nudge towards my bed.
I really, really need the sleep.