Don’t let the bedbugs bite.’
Children’s rhyme from Emma Mersereau Newton’s novel Bascobel (1881).
I’ve become somewhat obsessed with sleep – mainly because I’m not getting enough of it.
In the past, the act of sleeping was something aggressive CEO’s and macho politicians derided in interviews. Elon Musk stated he spent 120 hours a week of his life working. This leaves a mere seven hours a day when he isn’t working. However, he’s made time to father eleven children. The youngest being a boy named, Techno Mechanicus.
Back to the insomnia problem. A peaceful nourishing sleep is essential for restoring both body and mind. For while we sleep the brain sorts out our tangled thoughts and soothes us.
Current research about lack of sleep lists all kinds of health problems: memory deficiency, skin problems, increase of cancer risks and heart disease, lowered immunity, muscle atrophy and slowed down reactions leading to accidents. The list goes on.
Delta sleep – slow wave sleep – occurs when your brain moves into slow delta waves. This is preceded by two previous transitions which leads you to the land of Delta. If you’re lucky.
The final stage is when you get to dream – REM – Rapid Eye Movement lasts up to about an hour. But because our minds are astonishingly active it’s easy to wake up.
In my case, it seems my REM sleep is in a cycle with the nocturnal possums who like to congregate under my bedroom room. So my head is only two metres away from their Spring partying. Nice.
I’m in danger of becoming a wild woman who charges into her garden screeching in the midnight hours. The only thing that deters me is our Spring nights are still on the chill side. And one’s toes tend to ice up when the mighty ocean winds blow in from the beach.
But I do admit on occasion I’ve made aggressive growling and cackling noises out the bedroom window at the possum intruders. This has been surprisingly successful on a few occasions. It seems the possums and I are getting to know each other’s moves.
Unfortunately however, they also seem to know they’re an Australian protected species in my state. Even if I arrange for a licensed wildlife officer to have them tricked into a cage – with chunks of ripe fruit – legally they can be only be released no further than fifty metres from where they were caught. And Possums have outstanding homing instincts.
There are also ethical issues around trapping possums in the first place. Being highly territorial they become acutely stressed when removed from their natural habitat.
A local tradie told me he simply gave into the possums who noisily inhabit one of his fruit trees. As he put it, ‘They’re welcome. I’ve got lots of fruit trees. They let me pat them sometimes and they’ve befriended my four-year-old son, who thinks they’re fantastic.’
So the question remains – exactly how does one slide into a deeply nutritious sleep? Insomnia cures can be dodgy. Many insomniacs swear by their nightly sleeping pill, which unfortunately can create health issues.
The famous English writer, Charles Dickens, successfully came up with a cure for his insomnia. Frankly, I was a tad surprised to learn Dickens experienced insomnia, given he took exceedingly long walks around London, day and night. For hours. You think he’d have worn himself out.
But some researchers believe creative types need more sleep than the rest of the population. Apparently it’s something to do with intense, prolonged, heavy-duty, thinking.
So, how did Charles Dickens cure his insomnia? Well, he’d get out of his cosy, warm bed in winter and stand around getting nice and chilly for quite some time. All the while exposing his body, sheets and blankets to London’s cold, damp night air.
Then he’d get back into bed and sleep like a baby.
photo: detail from Possum by Ran Fuchs (flickr).
Fuchs wrote he was poked in the back of the head by a possum while preparing to photograph a house. He just had time to take one photo before the cheeky possum scarpered.