Aaccording to Observer’s Magazine on May 1, 1988, one in six people had difficulty sleeping, which, from the perspective of the climate emergency and the pandemic, seems like a relatively small percentage of nature’s sweet nurse.
A list of “restless spirits” included Kafka, who sometimes went four consecutive nights without sleep, lamenting in his diary: “Towards morning I sigh into the pillow.” Kipling suffered from insomnia, from the age of 12, and so did Proust, and Lord Rosebery was forced to resign as Prime Minister because of it. “I can’t forget 1895,” he wrote. “Lie, night after night, eyes awake…” We suspect that our outgoing Prime Minister does not have this kind of problem.
Slightly more troubling was the case of Magdi Yacoub. “When not in the operating room, our senior cardiac surgeon is rarely in bed.” Peter Conrad wrote of his own insomnia (“the body’s revenge on me”) and how he kept a cache of Minstrels and queen handy (“uninteresting… without being boring”), recommending “Jennifer’s Diary” – “Its breathless lists of noble names, hyphen-spliced and ceremoniously punctuated, serve my purpose exactly.”
Another article analyzed the meaning of common dream symbols. Fire? Sex. Swimming? Sex (“the smoothness of the movement in the water indicates the feelings of the dreamers about the act”). Keys and locks? Sex. Drowning? Sex. Doors? Sex (“the front door is the vagina and the back door is the anus”). You had the idea.
How much sleep did we need? About six hours, said Dr. Jim Horne. But could we do anything else with the extra hour or two we didn’t need? Unfortunately, some sort of Parkinson’s Law kicked in, where sleep extended to fill the extra time it had. “In other words, unless you have a very strong motivation to do something over time, you might as well accept that the sleep you get, whether necessary or not, is enjoyable.” So enjoy your lazy Sunday morning and know that “drowsiness is the litmus test of whether you’re getting enough sleep.”