In her book ‘Ice cream for Breakfast,’ the author Laura Jane Williams ruminates on her time as a nanny, and how if we were to listen our inner child we might be a whole lot happier with ourselves. When children, for instance, are in puerile form, it’s often down to a lack of either food or sleep. We find ourselves saying this all the time to ours, who are five and seven. ‘You’re just a bit tired,’ we tell them, when they’re over-wrought and melting us. ‘Scamper up those stairs and you’ll be better in the morning.’ (Or let’s hope to God you are anyway, we sigh.)
Williams makes a fair point though. Sustained periods of sleep deprivation not only makes one feel lethargic, but leads to feelings of depression and an inability to cope. No wonder so many new parents look properly zombie-like, staggering around clutching coffees, ricocheting between caffeine fuelled bursts of mania one moment, and slumped in a corner the next.
I was never great at taking myself to bed early, and it was a revelation just how much better I felt when I did. A pal once remarked that an hour of sleep before twelve counted for two after. I can’t say whether this is true, but I remember the feeling of waking up after a solid nine hours and feeling something close to elation. How wonderful it was to bounce out of bed and have time to make a cafetière of coffee and slather butter and jam onto toast and glide into one’s day. Then I had children and all those feelings were parked for a few years.
Our youngest child is a terrible sleeper, which of course has a direct impact on our slumber too. She likes to come in at three am and thrash about, clouting us on the head with her little fists or positioning herself horizontally across the bed. A particular favourite is pressing the ball of her foot into the scar from my c-section. ‘Remember from whence I came’ the foot seems to say, ‘You brought this torment upon yourself.’
Usually, LSB gives up takes himself off to the other room, unless we’ve got guests in which case he suffers on. The other morning he looked particularly disgruntled, and I remembered I still hadn’t made the bed up after a recent guest had left and I had stripped off the sheets. ‘I swear, you’d get a better night’s sleep in a crack den,’ he grumbled miserably into his porridge the next day.
(Only joking, this isn’t really our house. We have far more clutter.)
Have you ever seen the episode of ‘Everyone loves Raymond’ where they leave the suitcase at the bottom the stairs and a week later it’s still there? Well we manage to take the case UP the stairs, but proceed to leave it sitting in the corner. I decant all the essential things that need washed, lest social services arrive at the door, but often the case itself languishes with bits of random stuff, for anything up to a fortnight. So last week I went to town on our bedroom, clearing surfaces and cupboards and making it all a bit more zen. The youngest has, thanks be to goodness, slept much better the last few weeks. Perhaps we were so used to having our sleep disrupted that we just GAVE UP on making it look nice. Now, to my delight, the room is clutter free and thus calming on the nerves.
In my bedside drawer I have all sorts of delicious unguents: hand-cream from my friend in New Zealand; buttery lip balm from my pal Aisling, and a rich emollient cream for neck and décolletage pressed upon me by the Mothership. Delightfully the small print reads ‘For mature skin.’ Thanks Mum.
However, as I get ready to bed I have a ritual which feels like a little pampering session. As I daub my hands and face with all my potions, I think fondly of my friends who bought me the gifts. It’s a lovely way to go to sIeep.
So tonight’s an easy one. Do One Thing and gift yourself a lovely sleep, if not tonight then soon. No phones, no screens, no mounds of washing on the dreaded ‘chair’ (we all have one). Low lights and maybe a scented candle. Bonne suit, readers.