Tuesday Tunes 12: Dreams

As we enter week 12 of what is becoming a diluted lockdown here in the UK some of the side effects of the enforced isolation are beginning to reveal themselves. For example, I have become used to staying up till midnight once a week to book a grocery delivery slot – which are now being offered to me some four weeks ahead. Before all this began it was usually possible to get a next day slot, sometimes even sameday, so that is one obvious change. Having carried out the weekly ritual last Wednesday I then couldn’t sleep until around 3am (not from excitement, I can assure you), and spent Thursday feeling totally wiped out – so much so that I had a nap that afternoon. Even for a decrepit old timer like me that was unusual.

It was therefore a suitable day for Kings College and Ipsos MORI to publish their study on how the lockdown had affected our sleep – it certainly got my befuddled attention. This was covered by several of the papers and also by the BBC, whose report can be found here. Briefly, our sleeping patterns have been buggered – as if I needed telling. We are sleeping less, waking and dreaming more, or sleeping in later than we would usually do. It probably doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that that last point was particularly true for younger age groups, though I admit to elements of all of those factors myself. I thought that sleep would make a good theme for this week’s tunes – and may still do a post on it, as I collected a great many possibilities for it. But that changed when The Times published a follow up article yesterday about how our dreams have been affected. There are some weird and wonderful stories recounted in the piece – I’m not sure how one man would react to being told that his wife had dreamed of decapitating him with a spade – and if you’d like to read more you’ll find it here. I hope that link works, as the paper is behind a paywall, so apologies in advance if it doesn’t. But it settled my choice for this week’s theme: dreams.

In previous weeks people have often commented that one or other of my song choices is new to them. As a little bonus I’m giving you three songs this week, and if any of them is new to you I can only say that you are either young or haven’t been paying attention! I don’t often go for a selection comprising only chart hits but these three were pressing me to choose them – so I have! The songs date back to a six year span, having been released between 1977 and 1983.

To get things off to a rousing start, this is Blondie:

That song was the lead single from the band’s fourth album, Eat To The Beat, and was released in 1979. It continued their habit of doing better in the UK charts than in their native USA: #2 here, but only #27 over there. I’ve always found that pattern strange, but it wasn’t the first (or last) time that we’ve picked up on someone sooner. The same is true in reverse too, in many cases. Weird thing, taste, isn’t it?

My second choice is another absolute stonker, and is the one which gave the Eurythmics their major breakthrough:

They really don’t come much better than that! It was the title track of their second album but, perhaps oddly, was actually the fourth track from that album to be released as a single. They got there in the end, though: #2 in the UK, a US #1, and a massive chart hit in many countries. It’s still one of my all-time favourites, and I love the video.

In generous (indecisive) mood I’m giving you a third song this week. This one should need no introduction as it is from Rumours, one of the biggest selling albums in history:

The album’s stats are incredible: #1 in seven countries, over 40m sales worldwide, countless awards, certified diamond on sales in several countries, and it was all done at a time when the band members’ personal relationships were in chaos. If this wasn’t a themed post I wouldn’t choose this song to represent the album – there are several tracks on it that I prefer, but there really isn’t a dud among them. Rumours was actually the eleventh Fleetwood Mac album – they began as a blues-rock band in the UK – but by the time it was released they were a mixture of Brits and Americans, and the album was recorded in the US. That may have something to do with this being a #1 US single, when it only reached #24 here. Or maybe everyone here had already bought the album!

I hope you have enjoyed this week’s themed selection – there are some pop classics here! As lockdown will be with us for a good while yet I will, like the proverbial bad penny, keep turning up. I hope you stay safe and well, and above all that you find some enjoyment in life – music is a good place to begin! Until next Tuesday: take care.

To Sleep, Perchance To Dream

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “To Sleep, Perchance to Dream.” This invites us to write about sleep, which in theory occupies around a third of our lives. I say “in theory” because that assumes a regular 8 hours per night of sleep, which is something I went for many years without. At its worst, three years ago, I was actually referred to a hospital specialist in sleep as I was having such a  problem with it and they feared I may have been suffering from sleep apnoea. Fortunately I wasn’t! I wrote about this in January 2013, describing how I was and some of the things I had tried, in ever-increasing desperation, to find a way to sleep:

 

 

SLEEPLESS IN EPPING

 

Bad idea

When I started this blog it was to share with you my experience of depression, both going through it and getting over it. But as I’ve said before, there were parts of the experience which didn’t really fit into the main story but may be relevant to others. As well as the main illness I was also suffering from severely disrupted sleeping patterns, which I still have now. So I’m sharing them with you. Aren’t you lucky?

What was wrong?

For quite some time, many months at least and maybe years, I have got by with around five hours sleep each night, but in the lead up to my depression diagnosis this got progressively worse. I was managing three hours at best most nights, and not all in the one spell: I would wake up at least once or twice, and sometimes more, every night. Whilst this may not have been the ‘cause’ of depression, it sure as hell didn’t help prevent it! I was asked about this when I first saw my GP, who noticed that I had a slight irregularity in my heartbeat which she thought might be a contributory factor to my nocturnal arousals – the waking up and getting up, even if I didn’t need to pee! So, on top of all the other tests, I was sent for an ECG to see how serious this might be. Fortunately, this confirmed the irregular heartbeat but not to a severe level. So I still have that, untreated, and I know that I’m just going to have to live with it.

The next stage was to be referred to a specialist clinic. I didn’t have to stay in hospital but was invited to add to my apparel for one night – a mini computer, with all sorts of wires and tubes to be attached to my chest, stomach, arms and face (see below). The instructions were like IKEA for sleep disorders, but at least they were in something resembling English and all the parts were there! This test also confirmed the irregular breathing patterns, but nothing more severe. I had been told that I was being tested for sleep apnoea, which was just a name to me, and when the consultant told me the results I said I was almost disappointed – I’d been hoping they would find something wrong so that they could treat it. The look on his face was priceless, somewhere between ‘you have my sympathy’ and ‘you’re a complete imbecile’ and it was then he told me that sleep apnoea can be fatal, so it was just as well I didn’t have it! He also said there was no treatment that would help me, either. So that was it – keep your fingers crossed, lad, you may sleep properly one day!

What the well-dressed insomniac is wearing
What the well-dressed insomniac is wearing

What could I do about it?

I was advised to try sleeping in a chair, rather than my bed, as this might improve airflow though my passages. They thought my irregular heartbeat might be combining with breathing patterns to jolt me awake. As the advice came from a professional I thought it was worth a go, and nearly a year on I’m still doing it. I don’t know if it helps but I’m afraid to stop doing it! I’ve tried a few times to sleep in my bed again, but have still woken up several times in the night and in the mornings I’ve had terrible backache. I must be getting old! But at least chair-sleeping makes it easier to get up in the morning – I just stand up!

I was also advised that weight loss would help, which didn’t really come as a surprise! I’ve lost over three stone in the past seven months and feel much better for it. I’ve no idea if it helps with sleep though, and how could you test it anyway? I don’t think my scales measure sleep times as well as weight.

So I’ve tried a few other things as well, with mixed degrees of failure. To give you an idea:

Sleeping on the settee – mine’s a two-seater, I was constantly moving around trying to get comfortable and keep everything on the settee. I didn’t sleep and I felt like I’d gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson. Not recommended!

Sleeping on the floor – only for the hardy or the terminally stupid. Painful, didn’t work, and guys if you try it be careful to avoid squashing important bits. That doesn’t help you sleep – trust me, I know! Not recommended!

Infusions – I’ve never been much of a fan of the herbal/floral teas. As far as I’m concerned, to be called ‘tea’ it needs to contain ‘tea.’ Grass is for gardens, or for enlivening smoking. But someone recommended lemon and ginger and to my surprise I quite liked it. So I thought I’d try the special  infusions to aid sleep. Verdict? Well, I’ve never drunk liquid compost, but I think I now have an idea of what it would taste like. And it didn’t seem to help me sleep any better either – probably because of the retching. Not recommended!

Herbal sleep tablets – following the ‘it’s good for you’ logic I thought I’d try these. Well, if they’re good enough for Cadfael, why not? They were quite large, it was impossible to swallow them without tongue contact and they tasted like…you guessed it, liquid compost in tablet form. No noticeable difference in sleep either, probably because of the bad taste lingering above toothpaste. Not recommended!

Hot chocolate – tastes much nicer than the shit-in-a-bag stuff. But no noticeable improvement in sleep. Recommended for enjoyment, but not for sleeping.

Keep the TV on with low or no sound – what was I thinking! I just ended up watching movies! Not recommended, well, for sleep anyway. I saw some good films though.

Sleeping with the lights on – also in the ‘what was I thinking’ category. No. Utterly pointless. Not recommended.

Keep the TV and the lights on – see the previous two. Not recommended.

Listen to music – also falls into the ‘enjoyable but didn’t help’ class. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried it with AC/DC? Fun, but not recommended.

Reading to make my brain tired – see watching TV, only in Kindle form. Not recommended.

Going on the computer to make my brain tired – see watching TV, reading etc. Not recommended.

Making the flat very warm, to induce drowsiness – more likely to help with weight loss from the sauna effect. No use whatsoever. Also detrimental to the electricity bill. Not recommended.

Basically, after trying all of these and getting nowhere, I’ve come to the conclusion that my motto should be….

‘I want to go to sleep, but my brain keeps  talking to itself’

So, does anyone know of anything else I could try? I’d love to hear from you if there is, provided it isn’t illegal or immoral.  I think the only thing I haven’t tried is normal sleeping pills from my GP. We’ve discussed it several times but always agreed that they may not work either, they may react with my anti-depressants, and they can be addictive. But I’m going in the morning so I’ll ask again. If you don’t hear from me for a while it will mean I’ve got some and they worked! And if not, I may see you on Twitter at 3am one morning.

As they say..

’Dear 3am. We have to stop meeting like this. I’d much rather sleep with you.’

A BRIEF FOOTNOTE

Much has changed in my life since I wrote that piece, and I’m happy to say that getting much more sleep on a regular basis is one of the improvements in my life. After all those things that I tried I finally came up with the solution: retire! It really has been that simple for me, and I wish I could have done it many years earlier. It may not be a solution currently available to you but I can thoroughly recommend it!

No Sleep Till Bedtime

Do you ever look back at a time in your life and think about how much has changed since then? I’m not sufficiently dedicated to keep a daily diary and since I’ve retired there would be a similarity in the entries anyway. To be honest, there are days when I have to check the paper just to see what day it is! However, having started this blog just over two years ago I have a number of pieces I can look back on and, for me at least, they make for an interesting comparison. For example, at the time I was ill with depression I also had major sleep problems, and I wrote about these in January 2013 in my post Sleepless In Epping. I had intended to reproduce it now, but it is quite a long post so instead I’m just giving you an extract:

For quite some time, many months at least and maybe years, I have got by with around five hours sleep each night, but in the lead up to my depression diagnosis this got progressively worse. I was managing three hours at best most nights, and not all in the one spell: I would wake up at least once or twice, and sometimes more, every night. Whilst this may not have been the ‘cause’ of depression, it sure as hell didn’t help prevent it! I was asked about this when I first saw my GP, who noticed that I had a slight irregularity in my heartbeat which she thought might be a contributory factor to my nocturnal arousals – the waking up and getting up, even if I didn’t need to pee! So, on top of all the other tests, I was sent for an ECG to see how serious this might be. Fortunately, this confirmed the irregular heartbeat but not to a severe level. So I still have that, untreated, and I know that I’m just going to have to live with it.

The next stage was to be referred to a specialist clinic. I didn’t have to stay in hospital but was invited to add to my apparel for one night – a mini computer, with all sorts of wires and tubes to be attached to my chest, stomach, arms and face. The instructions were like IKEA for sleep disorders, but at least they were in something resembling English and all the parts were there! This test also confirmed the irregular breathing patterns, but nothing more severe.

I was advised to try sleeping in a chair, rather than my bed, as this might improve airflow though my passages. They thought my irregular heartbeat might be combining with breathing patterns to jolt me awake. As the advice came from a professional I thought it was worth a go…..I’ve tried a few other things as well, with mixed degrees of failure. To give you an idea:

Infusions – I’ve never been much of a fan of the herbal/floral teas. As far as I’m concerned, to be called ‘tea’ it needs to contain ‘tea.’ Grass is for gardens, or for enlivening smoking. But someone recommended lemon and ginger and to my surprise I quite liked it. So I thought I’d try the special  infusions to aid sleep. Verdict? Well, I’ve never drunk liquid compost, but I think I now have an idea of what it would taste like. And it didn’t seem to help me sleep any better either – probably because of the retching. Not recommended!

Herbal sleep tablets – following the ‘it’s good for you’ logic I thought I’d try these. Well, if they’re good enough for Cadfael, why not? They were quite large, it was impossible to swallow them without tongue contact and they tasted like…you guessed it, liquid compost in tablet form. No noticeable difference in sleep either, probably because of the bad taste lingering above toothpaste. Not recommended!

Hot chocolate – tastes much nicer than the shit-in-a-bag stuff. But no noticeable improvement in sleep. Recommended for enjoyment, but not for sleeping.

Keep the TV on with low or no sound – what was I thinking! I just ended up watching movies! Not recommended, well, for sleep anyway. I saw some good films though.

Listen to music – also falls into the ‘enjoyable but didn’t help’ class. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried it with AC/DC? Fun, but not recommended.

I told you it was a long post! If you do want to read the original it can be found here.

The period I described in that piece was in late 2011/early 2012. It seems like a lifetime ago! I still live in the same flat and am still on anti-depressants to control the depression, but much else has changed. I managed to become well enough to go back to work until I retired, in September 2013, and since then I have been sleeping a lot more. It is still erratic, and I usually wake at least twice every night, but the big difference is that I don’t have to get up and go to work, so if I need to I can sleep during the day – I don’t have to wait till bedtime! I’m generally much happier nowadays, too.

My point in telling you this is that over time my memory of the difficult period will decline, and it is so helpful for me to have this reference to look back on, to remind me of what I went through and have largely overcome. I’m not recommending that you start  a diary, but I hope you recognise the value of retaining some stimuli to recall your previous life events. This is not to wallow in the past, it is more to give you a sense of where you were and how you have improved your life, how your experiences have shaped the person you are, and what they may give you to understand and help others if they need it.

It works for me!