A normal body clock and tv scheduling usually dictates that around 10-10.30 at night, it’s time to head up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire. On a good night, you’ll slide under the duvet, read a few pages of your book and then switch the light off to let darkness lead you into the land of nod. But it’s not always like this. Sometimes, having followed the same routine, you don’t fall asleep. You lie on one side, then the other, ending up on your back. And then on your front. Awake. Unable to sleep. Rather than shutting down, your mind finds new life and you start to question why you just can’t seem to go to sleep. Especially, when you felt so tired this afternoon, craving bedtime.
You shift again in your bed, adjusting the pillow, taking it out from under your shoulder to let it fully support your head. A car goes past outside. Your wandering mind has now aroused your senses and now you have bionic hearing. Another car – someone on their way home from the pub, maybe? A loud miaow; next door’s cat. Bet he’s sat on my car again leaving his muddy paw prints all over the roof. How do I stop him doing that?, you wonder. Leaves rustling in the trees means the wind has picked up. What’s the weather doing tomorrow? Blast, you forgot to check. Hope it doesn’t rain cos you’ve left your umbrella at work again. More wind in the trees. Was that an owl hooting? There’s always an owl on the telly when it’s a scene set at night time. You wait, listening, but the owl’s hoot never comes. What little light there was suddenly becomes even less, as the streetlights go out. That means it’s midnight. What? How did that happen? You’ve been lying there for nearly two hours! That means the eight hours’ sleep you had planned is now only six hours. Maximum! It’s now dark at six, when your alarm goes off. When was the last time it was light, you wonder; two weeks ago? No, when was the last time it was properly light, with the sun already in the sky? August, September? You rack your brains…And it’s darker much earlier in the evenings now too. You remember a balmy evening sat in the garden until ten o’clock in the summer. Wow, that seems ages ago. Anyway, six hours’ sleep isn’t so bad, when you were younger you could get away with four hours on a school night, even after a night out. Nights out on school nights are a no-no now. Getting old. Feel rubbish for days after. Too hot now, you kick the duvet off. Ah yes, your missus turned the heating up earlier cos she said it was freezing and right on cue, her icy feet brush against you as she turns in her (very deep) sleep. Suddenly cold, you pull the duvet back over yourself and roll over in the bed. Maybe it’s the mattress? You read somewhere that memory foam mattresses retain your body heat and make you hot. The man in the shop never mentioned that. He told us all about the advanced technology, how it would mould to the exact shape of your body and support you in deep, blissful sleep. Except tonight, it blimmin isn’t! And remember how much it cost? Why did you fall for that? And why were you puffed into buying the memory foam pillows too? Another sound. The dog is having a dream and barking in his sleep downstairs in the hallway. You know it’s a dream, because it’s only a gruffing noise, not like the full bark he does when the postman knocks. You envy his state of slumber. But now what’s this? Movement? The dog’s dreaming has disturbed your wife and she is now getting out of bed to go to the loo. The bathroom light goes on, then off as she returns. Do you let her know you’re still awake, that you heard the dog too? If you do and tell her you also heard the dog, she’ll engage in a lengthy conversation about the dog and then want to know why you can’t sleep, how long you’ve been awake…best not to, eh? You make pretend snoring noises and wait as she falls back to sleep. Waiting for her to fall asleep and also waiting to fall asleep yourself. Waiting, waiting. But there’s no chance. Properly awake, your night vision means you can see all around your room. You make out the wardrobe, the dressing table and mirror. The chair with the pile of yesterday’s clothes. There’s something reflecting in the mirror. A red light. oh, that will be the reflection of the digital clock. The digital clock that is now displaying 02:37. Which means only three and a bit hours till you have to get up. That’s not enough. No way. Panic surges over you. Your bed now feels like some electric torture device, which pulses current after current through your body. You imagine the electric shocks. Twisting and turning, you imagine your body reacting to the torture. You count the intervals between each pulse. Every ten seconds, every ten seconds…every ten seconds…every ten…BEEP…BEEP…BEEP. A red light flashing. Warning, warning, danger, danger! You sit bolt upright, soaked in sweat. And a voice says:
“Good morning, here is the news from the BBC. it’s six o’clock …”.