Opinion

If nothing else, this lockdown could be when we learn to sleep better

It may just be that we have to accept that discombobulation is a by-product of the time we’re in

I’m becoming obsessed with sleep. Sometimes mine, mostly other people’s.

If the first lockdown was framed by walks, how we went outside and discovered what lay closer than we thought, this one is about what sits waiting in the dark.

So many conversations, remote as they are, have become dominated by chatter around sleep. Social media is buzzing with people who are buzzing at 4am.

We’re a nation that can’t close our eyes.

The evidence is startling.

Dr Guy Meadows, the sleep guru founder of London’s Sleep School, says more than 44 per cent of people surveyed by his organisation said their sleep had worsened since the first lockdown. Even if the survey isn’t extensive enough to allow accurate extrapolation across the population, if still signifies a huge number.

The key block is fear, over work worries, financial worries, loneliness. Probably don’t need a sleep guru to see that arriving. And you could add the worries that school-age children, separated from friends, carry too.

There is a general sense of dislocation around.

So, what does the sleep guru advise? Heading out into the deep dark and walking for some time with the music of Erland Cooper and Philip Glass, on a loop, as company?

He doesn’t. Though he should. It’s a very good thing to do. If you can, safely.

Don’t chase sleep, he urges, unhelpfully. Switch lights low a couple of hours before bed, he says. Get off screens. Avoid alcohol. Clearly, the good doctor believes boredom will send us off.

It may just be that we have to accept that discombobulation and an underlying sense of unease is a by-product of the time we’re in.

Last week, I happened upon the obituary of a woman called Margaret Marilyn DeAdder. She died on January 19 in Moncton, New Brunswick, in Canada. She was 78. I don’t know the cause of death. And I don’t know anything of her or her family except that obituary. But it’s one of the most joyous and moving things I’ve read in a long time. The obituary was written by her sons.

“Marilyn loved all children who weren’t her own and loved her own children relative to how clean-shaven they were,” they wrote. “She excelled at giving the finger, taking no sh!t and laughing at jokes, preferably in the shade of blue. She did not excel at suffering fools, hiding her disdain, and putting her car in reverse.”

I could quote the whole thing. It’s a beautiful piece of writing.

I tried to think of something profound to say about it, but all I came up with was that she seemed like an amazing woman, she lived fully and she was loved.

Out there, among those we can’t quite see at the moment, there are connections we’re just waiting to pick up. Covid has taken the nastiest, heaviest toll, but it will begin to pass. And hopefully things will feel less daunting and we can try to live fully again.

That made me sleep a little better.

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue 

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