The Waking Hours

Credit: Boodle Mcdougall Photography

There is another pandemic happening alongside Corona. Insomnia. This dreaded affliction is also being called ‘Coronasomnia’ by someone who obviously hasn’t had enough sleep to think of a better name. I would have gone for ‘Coronawake’, but I haven’t had much sleep either.

According to a 2020 study by Southampton University, the UK used to have 1 in 6 people experiencing insomnia, but now a quarter of all people experience this wretched thing. That’s a big leap, which I find particularly concerning as our house seems to have 80 per cent of us awake at any one time, (that was a complicated calculation on so little sleep). Percentages aside, four of us are usually wandering the corridors, climbing in and out of beds, or weeing on the floor next to the toilet, between the hours of 10pm-5am.

I feel as if we don’t need the worries of a global pandemic to add to the reasons we don’t sleep, but Mayhem and I had a most alarming conversation on the way back from football one Saturday.

‘Mummy I really want to be nocturnal.’

‘Yes I’ve noticed’ I say through a deep yawn.

‘So I’m practising sleeping at school so I can stay awake at night.’

‘What?!’ I am jolted from my misty thoughts.

Spurred on by the realisation he has my rare, undivided attention Mayhem nods excitedly. ‘Yes, so what I do is, I go to sleep in break times so I can stay awake all night.’

I feel a strange feeling in my throat, as if an invisible hand is squeezing it. ‘Where do you sleep at break times?’ I croak.

‘Well in the bike shed where they keep the tricycles. I just lie down and it’s all quiet and no one goes in there.’

I relay this information to my husband.

‘Well that explains why Mayhem is up. But what about the rest of us. We know Milk is scared of killer robots and Midnight has to be within 1m of you at all times, and I wake every day at 4.30am wondering if I will ever go snowboarding again. What are you worried about?’

I think of the list of things I am worried about. ‘I’ll put the kettle on’ I say.

‘I don’t think caffeine is going to help this particular situation.’ says my husband.

‘Then we all need to get outside,’ I say jumping up. ‘To the beach!’

‘But Midnight will fall asleep in the car and then be in a really bad mood when we get there and then not go to sleep tonight.’

‘He doesn’t sleep at night anyway’ I say.

We drive to the beach. Midnight falls asleep on the way. When we arrive he screams for the first half an hour as the wind rushes across his sleep-crumpled face.

My husband looks miserable, holding Midnight, as I throw stones with Milk.

‘Mummy I can hit that wave’, Milk stretches his arm and flings the stone but instead of going forwards it hurtles sideways towards someone’s dog.

‘Throw underarm,’ I suggest as we hear a yelp.

Eventually Midnight wants to join in and runs in and out of the February sea until he has sucked up all of the water into his clothes and his nappy hangs like a saddlebag between his legs.

Milk has made a dam out of pebbles and Mayhem is throwing a shell into the sea and then squealing with amazement when it returns to him.

My husband and I manage to have a hug and a moment standing still buffeted by the wind, until I nod towards Midnight.

‘I’m doing a poo mummy’ he announces, his face turning a bright red as he concentrates.

I realise the weight of the sea water combined with a large poo is unlikely to end well. My husband has the same thought.

‘Did you bring the nappies?’ He says casually.

‘Did you?’ I reply.

Everyone sleeps through that night. Except for me, wondering how I can buy a house by the sea, or fill our garden with pebbles, sea shells and a wave machine.

Author: Felicity Cousins


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