It has been a shit week for sleep in our house.
Both children have been ill. There have been numerous trips to the toilet, medicine given in the dark, sticky and pink, fresh water cups filled, hair held back over basins, backs rubbed, and in what I can only consider a statistical fuck you from the universe, we’ve had two wet beds in as many nights.
All of which got me thinking at 4am, from behind one closed eye, of course.
Maybe we’re all born with our very own sleep account. Just like a bank account.
For the first few years after you’re born you’re massively in the red (as would your long-suffering parents) but then you start regularly banking more sizeable deposits and things even out.
In your teenage years, you’re sleep-rich, far beyond your wildest dreams. You could wade through the stuff, missing out on Sunday morning bacon rolls, forgoing those Saturday dance classes the 10-year old you lived for, all in favour of your hot little duvet. You’ll be so damn rested you won’t even be able to imagine a time where you could feel so tired that you’d start to see hallucinations out the corner of your eye, or be scared to drive on long straight roads in case you nodded off.
And then, fresh from all those lovely naps, you’ll awake as an adult, which is where that account starts to look a little shaky. Especially for women.
When you’re pregnant your body oh-so-kindly- trains for you years of this shit, by making you get up every 40 minutes to pee, wakes you up early to fit in a few more rounds of morning sickness and gives you such sore hips you’d swear that you were being crushed by some kind of vice while you (finally) slept.
And then after nine months of being so tired that you lose your temper and throw a pizza cutter at your husband’s head (sorry, Dave) you get to have a baby. A baby! It’s all yours; it’s so wonderful, what a magical time. Hospital visitors will gaze at your womanliness in wonder, bring balloons and pretend they don’t know what you’ve yet to discover.
Then you go home. Your first night is spent pacing the hall, first damp, then soaked, while the baby cries, you cry, your milk comes in and the post-birth hormones give you night sweats as a lovely post-labour gift. Get used to it, sister, because this is your life now.
And the next few years fly by. Every night you’re building up your sleep debt. First you’re a little bit overdrawn. Then you’re broke. Then you’re so catastrophically fucked that you can’t remember what your toothbrush is for.
Winning the sleep lottery
So I’m thinking that there must come a time in life where you get the big sleep payout – where you’re not required to be bloody available to everyone at any given moment, and can just shut your bedroom door with no plans to come out again for at least three weeks. A sort of human equivalent of hibernation for the preternaturally exhausted.
But when will that time be? Not now, while the kids are still young. Not when they’re teenagers: I know from experience that mothers don’t sleep until they hear the front door slam shut behind a half-cut daughter. Not even after that – I’ll still have a job to do, bills to pay, a house to clean, laundry to put away, family to care for, just the stuff of life to be getting on with.
I’ll take tired
So I’ve realised, the time we actually get to catch up on all that lost sleep, is when we die. Centuries of sleep we’ll get, our accounts full to bursting with all that peaceful rest, never-ending millennia of silence, nothingness and unconsciousness.
So I’ll take tired. I’ll deplete my account to cuddle up with some midnight puker. I’ll stay up because it’s so nice to go out for a run while the sun sets late in the summer. I’ll forgo sleep to finish that book that I can barely put down. I’ll wake up early when little hands stroke my face. I’ll lie there and listen to childish giggles coming from messy bedrooms. I’ll run my hands across the cool sheets and enjoy the feeling of it on my warm skin. I’ll get by. I’ll be tired. But filling my account for The Big Sleep? No thanks.