Sleep is a bewildering thing. Most people regulate their sleep with alarm-clocks, which has always struck me as odd, because it means that they are being woken artificially, obviously because they went to bed too late, which means they didn’t sleep when Morpheus knocked on their mop-tops or bald patches or wherever. One of the bizarre side-effects of being able, for most of the month, to regulate my work-pattern, because I don’t work 9-5, and I work from home, is that I sleep without an alarm-clock. I wake when my body wakes me. It took a long time to wake me today.
From childhood, I remember one very curious incident in the snap-shut of sleep. I went to bed (we are talking at about five years old) at whatever the regulation time was, and I remember it was dusk, and I slept for only three minutes or so, and got up. My mother was going round the house and opening the curtains. It was just light. And it turned out to be morning. I was genuinely confounded. I had had a waking dream that I had just gone to bed. Eight or nine hours would appear to have been stripped from my life. I thought it was a practical joke. But no, I had actually been asleep without realising it. The fact that I can remember my puzzlement tells you that this is the only time in my life that this has happened.
Because I have now unset my body-clock, I can also, almost always, do to it what I want. I can say, ‘put me to sleep’, and sleep. When I am due to be on the road to my physical place of work, rather than communicating with it by computer, I can go to bed and just switch off. People are surprised by this (they say ‘I couldn’t do that’). And I can usually beat the alarm clock by waking by a few minutes earlier than it is due to start its chime (I have to get up at three if I am going to beat the traffic and drive 200 miles). This is completely unlike my life before working from home. It’s as if I see a door marked Sleep, and can walk through it. I am very lucky that this is possible, it would seem.
I have another nine years to retirement. If I am spared, as my mother would have said, I intend to refine my sleep, so that, whenever and wherever I am (unless driving a car, which might be one of the things I give up first), if I want sleep, I will claim the privilege of the elderly and nod off. You have been warned. I can be bloody-minded when I want to be, and I am going to be one of those codgers who says, during an evening meal, if I feel tired, ‘I have to go to bed now.’ I will be a bloody terrible guest. I may carry around a bed on my back, so that I can drift off in a supermarket or a lift or a park.
I will be a somniac.