If there’s one thing I’ve managed to improve in my current life over my life as it was up until 2011… no, that’s a stupid opening line, there’s lots of things I’ve improved, I don’t doubt that for a second. Let me rephrase: one thing I’ve improved, which has very probably helped the other things, is my sleeping pattern. Ever since my second university course in 2003-4, until — at the earliest — 2011, my sleep was deeply troubled and often a futile experience, which seemed to be the result of, at various times and in various combinations:
- Stress, especially over arguments;
- Noisy housemates (having the room above the kitchen when we lived in Wood Green, for example);
- Staying up much too late to watch Family Guy or play games;
- Traffic on Caledonian Road (especially emergency services);
- Burglar alarms (more rare, but certainly a contributing factor);
- Eating too late in the evening (e.g. 8pm), and then just sitting there in front of TV/computer;
- Caffeine, which even today remains the monkey on my back;
- Depression, especially over my lack of romantic success (i.e. it’s another night alone);
- Housemates getting lucky (which I think ought to be banned until it happens to me);
- Going to bed altogether too late, and not “winding down” in time.
Now, a lot of these things would make sleep impossible for most people on one night every so often, but these things all contributed to me almost never having a good night’s sleep, waking up the following morning and dozing through Chris Moyles’ show on Radio 1 and dragging myself to work, usually late.
(It is, however, worth mentioning that in my half-awake state I frequently correctly worked out anagrams in the “Rob DJ Monday Night Pop Quiz” on Tuesday mornings, such as “Halt, Really A Brothel” = “The Royal Albert Hall”! Perhaps I’m a genius when I’m not fully awake?)
Starting in 2011, I made myself take my showers in the evenings instead of just before work, which not only meant I wasn’t late so much (especially since it meant I wasn’t doing it at the same time as “good housemate”, who always ended up stealing the water pressure in the other shower); I also began re-reading the entire series of Discworld novels (but this time in order, instead of the piecemeal way I’d bought them over the years), in the hope that reading something familiar would help me sleep better than reading something brand new. Obviously moving away from Caledonian Road (and noisy “bad housemate”) in 2012 helped considerably, and so today I can sleep properly, at least when I’m not staying up late to write blog entries like this one. Oh, damn!
A noteworthy side effect of my tortured sleeping patterns in the period approximately 2003 to 2011 is that I had some particularly strange dreams. And not just during the night: back at university during my postgrad course, I remember half-waking one morning to hear “Fit But You Know It” by The Streets on my alarm clock radio, and dreamed I was desperately trying to turn the radio off but to no avail, because the world’s most uninspiring rapper just wouldn’t STOP! I also often had nightmares about living in a house that’s collapsing or leaking (or even being invaded by thuggish teenagers), but one night at university I imagined that everyone was smashing up our residence from within (not unlike that dream Bart Simpson had once), and I even saw Chinese students looking up from a hole in the floor, having subconsciously remembered that they were in the flat below!
Some dreams have involved strange journeys, such as realising my Geology field trip had left me behind as it rapidly criss-crossed Britain, or one dream many years ago which almost uncannily seemed to predict events in my May 2013 American holiday (specifically at Yosemite, where we lost some of our party temporarily during a downpour). I really hope the dream about falling down and calling for a rescue helicopter doesn’t come true (especially if it again turns out that I’m back safely and so need to phone again to cancel it)! There was also that dream where I’d been invited back to Michigan just to help my old U-of-M roommate move his stuff out of his dorm, but worried about whether I’d get back to Blighty in time to do the same with my own stuff… where did that come from?!
There are also night terrors, where you wake up paralysed and utterly convinced something evil is nearby; I have them occasionally, and getting scared by Ghostwatch probably didn’t help, but I recall one in particular, where I was truly afraid that Bishop Brennan from Father Ted was about to burst into my room and shout at me! On another occasion, in 2010, I dreamed I was in a coma in hospital (yes, really) and that my grandmother was tucking me in, but then she whispered something to me: not “come back, we miss you”, but “remember your hair”… WHAT?!
Illness causes strange visions (my mother confirms this) — as a child I would see my room divided into a three-dimensional grid, and feel I had to work out the exact volume or I wouldn’t make it; in later years this evolved into building a dam or get a space colony working again, or even playing one of the Assassin’s Creed games… and we’ll gloss over the time I ended up with 2Pac reciting Astrophysics-related equations keeping me awake one night during exam revision. But oh, the time I awoke to hear “good housemate” coming into my room, saying my name tauntingly, as though he were about to… well, thank $DEITY I woke up properly after that, and didn’t wake him up in the room downstairs by screaming!
Sometimes dreams are poignant, such as dreaming that someone close has died, but I still remember dreaming that “female best friend” was walking away, apparently forlorn, from what I can only conclude was a paintballing match I was involved in, and feeling desperately sad because I thought she was leaving us forever! I even put together supplies so I could go and search the wilderness for her, but then, er, she turned up fine. Mind you, another time I recall her crying in my dream because she missed “them”, after I’d fought my way through Nazis (?) to reach her (very likely that part was inspired by the original Call of Duty, even down to the MP-43 rifles!).
My mother tells me she sometimes dreams that our dog, Scraps, is sleeping with her and barking softly like she used to; I too have dreamed of our beloved dog many times (as you can tell, I miss her), but one time was particularly weird: apparently she was famous, and had appeared in a Star Trek video game — but only her voice, because she had a “body double”! She wasn’t the only animal to feature, however: when I had rodent problems in my room, I dreamed that I’d caught the mouse and put him in a cage, and that he spoke with an American accent (no, I don’t remember if he sounded like Michael J. Fox), and asked me to let him go.
And then there was the dream of meeting Oy the billy-bumbler (from the Dark Tower novels) in a strange (and not unpopulated) maze, and then sitting with him in my lap while Captain Janeway (from Star Trek: Voyager) gave a rousing speech to me and my companions… my reading and TV-watching habits were clearly driving me insane in 2008! It wasn’t the only time I dreamed of the Dark Tower series, which has had something of a profound effect upon me; I even dreamed I was about to fight alongside Roland of Gilead and his fellow Gunslingers, and was e-mailing my mother to ask her to publish my diary if I didn’t make it back alive… (which is actually a real pledge, Mumsy, if you’re reading!) That’s assuming, of course, that all those dreams about writing “over” my diary don’t come to pass…
Even though I sleep relatively untroubled now, occasionally I dream something particularly weird, especially when sleeping at my folks’ home in Worthing. One time in 2012 I dreamed I was a cop and shot Roger the Alien from American Dad!, apparently in order to help him fake his own death (or that of one of his many, many assumed personas). There was also the one from the night before I wrote this post, when I’d just listened to Gwar’s America Must Be Destroyed for the first time (pay attention, I’m not just mentioning them gratuitously this time), I dreamed that I was being swallowed by a giant T.rex, likely inspired by the artwork of Gor-Gor on the aforementioned CD, and then falling down a long, deep shaft, not unlike the player’s experience in the game Call of Cthulhu entering the Deep Ones’ colony beneath Devil’s Reef, and there encountered a sinister group of people led by Christopher Lee, presumably a memory of The Wicker Man (don’t ask “which version”, clearly only one actually exists). Since that happened just before my foolish anger almost destroyed an expensive wardrobe that Mumsy and I were attempting to build, draw your own conclusions about plunging downwards into despair…
(Don’t worry, that’s the closest I’ve ever come to dreaming about Gwar, even when I’ve put their music on as a lullaby!)
So, you guys have kept me awake tonight; I wonder what I’ll dream about now… girls, hopefully. Or maybe I’ll dream about this post and curse because I’ll remember something I didn’t write down when I had the chance! Well, enough already, I need to sleep… good night, and pleasant dreams.