Now, I love sleep. Sleeping is ace. I never used to like it. It was a distasteful but necessary waste of time; a way of getting from one day to another. It meant missing out on things I wanted to do, like read, or now and again when I was very low it was an unwanted, terrible thing that made the next day arrive sooner. If I didn’t sleep, tomorrow wouldn’t happen – a charm that never quite worked.
That was before. Now, sweet, uninterrupted sleep and I miss each other terribly. The problem with problems is that they can affect everything; every single aspect of your life. My problem, in the nicest possible way, is my husband, S. Or to be more accurate, the help that he is not getting. But more of that later, and not in this post.
Last night started well. We went to bed at a reasonable-ish time, listened to the radio and fell asleep with some cats on top of us, lulling us with their familiar, hot-water-bottle weights. There is the by-now-usual routine of waking up every time I roll over, aches and pains, which is frequently. But the latest pattern repeats itself as I waken at 4:30 AM to the snarling sounds of sleep apnoea. This is annoying but OK. He has a long-awaited ENT appointment next week. I nudge him, say “S, snoring…” and he groans out a “Sorry” and rolls over. Rinse and repeat. I try to drift off, but I can’t swallow. Ugh. Dry mouth. A side-effect of my new anti-depressants. I suck a sweet and try again. But every time I try, my heart races. I combat it as best I can with pillow rearranging and slow, deep, even breathing but it runs away with me and as soon as I stop the intervention I panic. Time for another sweet. The rustling wakes S up and he says in despairing solemnity, “I’m going to sleep on the sofa; I’m sick of waking you up.” My protestations that it should be me, I’m the one who should move are ignored and he disappears.
Still no sleep! More panic, a spot of gentle thrashing and considering in a wry and forcibly objective way my current feeling of hopelessness in the future, and in the end the only thing for it is the radio. Might as well keep myself occupied and soothed rather than frustrated and lost. I briefly consider Radio 3, but I can’t listen in a panic as it sends me skywards. Instead I plump for the World Service, and after about an hour, not long after Radio 4 starts up again, I’m out. Consequently our curtains, lazy layabouts that we are, remain closed until 11AM. This is about the fourth or fifth time in the last week, with us taking turns on the sofa. I try to beat him to it, but it doesn’t always work.
I support my husband, who until last year was on Incapacity Benefit. He has crushed vertebrae, suffers from moderate to severe depression and is partially sighted. He lives in chronic pain and has memory and concentration problems due to a brain tumour that was removed some years ago. He is now on no money at all after a tribunal decision that we are fighting. I gave up my nursing degree and now work part time, in part due to anxiety and depression that are linked to S’s condition.
The problems with sleep deprivation are well-documented. It can lead to obesity and illness as well as problems with focus and concentration, and can have a detrimental effect on mental health.
Thank you, ATOS.
We do not sleep well.