Sleep sliding away

Out there
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
Trying to sleep is a contradiction in terms, of course, but lately I've been doing just that. Concentrating on sleep, trying to get better at it, while trying not to try too hard. Hot baths, camomile tea, deep breathing, five-finger exercises, a few pages of one of those great self- improvement books - all to no avail. Shut-eye refuses to see me; I've been deserted by the Sandman.

I used to be the Ace of Zeds: during my twenties I could have slept for Britain. But now my body won't rest more than six hours every 24, despite the fact that it never feels fully refreshed. The mind's internal chatter drags on into the night, though tears of weariness roll down my cheeks. Imagine. You endure this column once a week. But I'm doing life with some pompous oaf who has an opinion on everything, and will find infinite ways to express it, no matter how trite and irrelevant or how late the hour.

I have to kill this bastard or go insane. But before I can dispatch him I need rest and recuperation, in order to harness my energies for the brutal act. And so we chase each other around this endless spiral, in our slow descent into hell. It seems funny when I remember that I used to be frightened of having bad dreams. Right now I'd welcome the opportunity to have a nightmare. I have a dim memory of a time when staying awake meant finding something to stay awake for, but maybe that's just something I dreamt up.

My days of fear and loathing are over; this sardonic grin is all that remains of a life spent in the fast lane. Even that is wearing off, as the full extent of the damage makes itself known in its spiteful little ways.

My bones are beginning to stiffen, my limbs are getting taut and dry. I can feel myself wearing out. Small cuts and grazes take longer to heal, and often seem to mend imperfectly; my latest scars look like the work of a cowboy builder. There is always a problem area: sore eyes, cracked lips, ragged fingers, gelatinous knees, aching shins, bloodless arse, chafed chin; another mole, another crease; the persistent, sinewy crack in the left ankle (though this, being painless, provides a small and curious measure of comfort, its anodyne quality surely signalling a process of decay not yet so advanced as to be impervious to some imminent wonder of modern science); silver hairs poking through an increasingly pale thatch where once there was a lustrous mane; feet that feel as if they've been baked... the list goes on and on.

Every time I get the urge to have some fun, my body sighs and nags me: "Go ahead, stay out/ask her/take it... But don't blame me/But remember last time/But you'll be sorry in the morning." It's a slow and tortuous demise, this death by a thousand buts. Naturally, I'd like to spend more time unconscious, if only to get some relief. But as I say, sleep won't come.

My wardrobe mocks me. Fake fur and PVC, bottle green velvet. Disco clothes droop next to my crisp new black suit, draped like rainbow flags of surrender, hanging at half- mast following my resignation from the Nightclub Lodge and the Disunited Nations of House. This stuff is drag, after all. By rights it should be cast back into the Stream of Silly Clothes, whence it will flow steadily into the Ocean of Fashion, evaporate and one day recondense, before falling like the gentle rain upon those sweet St Martin's students.

Something had to give. Others have rationalised, but not me, I kept pushing, further and further, into this no-man's-land of outgrown adolescence. Standing in the mirror is The Baby Boomer That Time Forgot, looking every bit as shocked as I feel, staring back at me. It's like confronting the caretaker of a run-down council estate. My sense of outrage demands an explanation, but I know he won't have one.

I'm doing OK in certain areas, though. I'm eating well, mainly between midnight and three. And using a clever dietary technique I've attained maximum oral gratification with minimum calorie intake. It's called smoking. I might even write a cookbook called You May Scoff, which would be full of clever things to do with avocados, yoghurt and Coco-Pops in the hours just before dawn. If you think you could use a copy, then memorise this number: 0345-909090. That's the Samaritans. You may need them, too.

What I really want is melatonin, a synthetic analogue of the natural hormone produced by the pineal gland which regulates the sleep cycle. However, it's almost impossible to find in this country, and anyway the big pharmaceutical companies, recognising its potential, have started to carve up the market. At present, melatonin is unpatented and anyone can produce it. In 16 months' time, when the multinational drug barons have finished their long-term trials, they'll unleash their newly-patented version of melatonin and force the cheaper brands off the market. Then they'll be able to charge what they want.

You see? They know what's going on. Pretty soon we'll all be paying for our sleep. What a thought. Enough to keep you awake at night

Comments