I’ve been tired for my whole life.
No, I know, you have been too. But really, I really, really have been. My tiredness beats yours. (Yes it’s a competition, and for the purposes of this blog post, let me win this one please).
As a teenager, I used to come home from school and fall asleep at about half past four. I remember this really clearly because I was breaking in a pair of ice skates at the time, so invariably I’d fall asleep in my uniform, legs bent at an awkward angle above a pair of shiny white boots (complete with shocking pink blade guards). Then wake up an hour or so later with numb feet and a headache.
As an eight-year-old – you know, the age at which really you should be springing out of bed at 6am and irritating your knackered parents with demands to put children’s telly on, my mum had to bribe me to come down for breakfast on time because I was always late for school. If I managed to make it downstairs by ten past 7, I was given 10p. I think by the time she gave up with that little experiment, I was in debt by about £3000.
(Actually one of my saddest everyday-tragedy memories is making a promise to my Dad, who I worshipped and adored, to have breakfast with him the next morning before he went abroad for work for a week. Predictably, I overslept, and scrambled downstairs at about half seven, only to find he’d carefully prepared my bowl of cocoa pops, spoon sticking out, glass of juice next to it, and left them sitting sad and forlorn on their own. Dad was long gone. I had Let Him Down and I cried with a devastation rarely matched before or since).
At university, it was OK, because everyone was tired. Everyone was out all night, drinking and having fun (this is something else I am terrible at FYI), so I just pretended the reason I was knackered was the same as them – because I’d been busy doing Cool Stuff and Being A Cool Student. This wasn’t true, however, because I mostly spent every night arguing with my boyfriend and crying and getting stressed about the aorist form of Ancient Greek verbs.
After my first year at university, I got an internship at an investment bank in the city, and most of my memories of that experience revolve around me desperately trying to blowdry my hair under the hand-dryers in the loos, having not had time to do it at home. The whole working hours thing was a fresh hell. I was late EVERY day.
And thus it has been ever since. I simply cannot get out of bed in the mornings on time. I don’t think I’m lazy – I don’t think having written three novels by the age of 30 is possible if you are. I’m just tired. I like my sleep. I’ve tried going to bed early and all that jazz, but it just doesn’t make a difference – I just sleep for longer. My optimum time to wake up is around 8.30. Unfortunately this isn’t really conducive to working hours.
I’ve always worked 9.30-5.30, except for when I worked for Housetohome.co.uk and my editor (who was also one of my best friends, helpfully), frustrated at me shamefacedly rolling in at 9.45 every day, asked me if I’d like to work 10-6 instead. It changed my life. It was a revelation – I was more efficient, happier, never late…
I was checked for various things as a kid – people thought I was anaemic (I was very pale), anorexic (I was very skinny), had heart problems – I’ve had an ECG, which revealed an inverted T wave, and an echocardiagram, but nothing serious was found. I do have low blood pressure, and tend to pass out with too much exertion, but other than that I’m healthy. Ridiculously so, actually – I was discussing with a friend the fact that I’ve not been to the doctor’s since 2004 the other day.
But I just can’t get enough sleep.
Anyway, I know, it’s a high-class problem. I should shut up my spoilt whinging. I agree with you to some extent. But feeling absolutely exhausted all the time isn’t fun. It’s almost like feeling permanently a bit ill. And more than anything else, it means I’m absolutely terrified about having children. I barely function as it is – what on earth will I do when I’m truly sleep deprived? I’m totally going to end up being one of those mothers who has a mental breakdown and starts hallucinating… But maybe I’ll be so tired I won’t care.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think it’s time for a nap…
PS check out this interesting article on Sunday night insomnia – apparently common in working Londoners. A quick poll of my friends revealed that 99% of us agreed we suffered from it.