Sleep, where art thou? In my eyes, for sure. The lids that want to close, close, close. The eyes that blur and ache. You are not in my bed, not on the expensive memory foam mattress with additional box springs for extra comfort. You are not on the Egyptian cotton sheets, so soft and inviting. You are not beneath the summer-weight duck down duvet, so light yet cosy. You are not on the duck down pillows, so soft and yeidling to a tired head. You are not to be found on the firmer mattress of Master Mason’s bed, nor beneath an all-seasons duvet with a view of the night sky if I lie with my eyes open. But they want to close. My limbs hurt. The left side where I had surgery hurts. It hurts to lie on it as though it is bruised. My left arm has lymphoedema and aches, right down into my palm. My right arm is complaining, too, as it dragged a shopping trolley probably over-filled home yesterday as my left arm is banned from doing such things. Normally they would share the chores but the pulling, lifting and carrying is definitely right arm’s job these days.
Sleep is not in the first sleeping pill I take. It laughs in the face of my insomnia and sneers at my tossing and turning. An hour or so later I take another pill and retreat to Master Mason’s bed with my V-shaped pillow. I just want to SLEEP. Sometime in the night, Dog comes upstairs to do what he likes best – stand on Master Mason’s bed and look out of the window to see if any infringements are taking place. He is sometimes known as Police Community Support Officer Dog. He takes his protection duties very seriously. He jumps onto the bed, all 26kg of him and walks towards the head when he realises I am in the bed and he has just committed a major faux pas. He high-tails it out of there and runs downstairs, embarrassed and contrite.
Sleep eventually reveals itself around 3am. It teases for a little while then allows me to settle my tired body comfortably on my V-shaped pillow and gradually fall asleep. It prods me awake a couple of times after that but I go back to sleep.
Apparently sleeplessness is very common after treatment for cancer. At a time when the body and, more importantly perhaps, the mind needs to heal itself, sleeping well becomes the unattainable. I am not one for taking sleeping tablets unless strictly necessary. I do not want to rely on drugs unless I have to. When talking to my GP a while ago about taking sleeping pills and the possibility of addiction she said, probably quite wisely, “At the moment that’s the least of your worries”.
So tonight, what do I do? Climb in confidently and wait to slip into a gentle sleep or take drugs beforehand? I don’t want sleeping to become a battleground. I need 9 hours a night and always have done so at the moment I’m feeling seriously sleep deprived. On nights I sleep well, I tend to continue well on into the following day which I don’t like. Time is precious. Conscious time, as well as sleep time.
I guess this is a battle which will go on for a while yet. And if anyone mentions the phrase ‘sleep hygiene’, I will name and shame you. Don’t get me started.