I think I often surprise people when I say that I resent sleep. It seems that almost everyone I know likes to have a good sleep in – if not regularly, then once in a while. So when I tell people that I resent sleep, the reaction is usually one of outright horror.
So, why would I resent something which is a natural, required function? And I’ll say outright – I acknowledge the need for sleep; I just wish it were otherwise.
Well, settle back and I’ll tell a little story. It may even be relevant to the question at hand.
A lot of people remember their dreams – at least partially, of course. They’re such fragmentary things that they start slip from our minds as soon as we’re even partially awake. So listening to someone trying to describe a dream is like hearing a description of an art-house/surreal foreign-language movie from someone who was only partially watching it in the first place.
For the most part, I don’t remember dreams.
I do, however, remember nightmares.
The funny thing about nightmares is that most people, when you mention the word, immediately think of frantic situations involving death, or monsters, or sadness. And I’ve certainly been known to have those nightmares from time to time, and it’s those sort of nightmares that I remember earliest. In fact, one of my first sleep-memories is of going to bed once with Ugg boots on and waking up screaming that a tiger was eating me, because the boots had got tangled in the sheets and I couldn’t move.
But by age 8 or 9 I’d mostly graduated from monster-nightmares to a more ‘interesting’ kind. At the time I had no way of describing them, and trying to explain it to my parents was practically impossible, so I learnt to just shut-the-fuck-up about them. In fact, for the longest time I actually simply assumed that everyone had them, but people just didn’t talk about them. Turns out that like my name, I was probably largely unique in it.
You see, I started having existential nightmares. Not nightmares about monsters, or being eaten by tigers, or other such events, but effectively, nightmares about infinity and/or self identity. (Looking back, I wonder whether the existential nightmares played a part in my early ascent to atheism.)
The self-identity nightmares are the simplest to discuss – I’d basically dream that I was waking up, and I was 4-5 years younger and the intervening time was a dream and I’d have to go through all of it again. I always found that significantly disturbing. Life is meant to be lived once, not twice – and the notion of having to go through it again was repugnant.
The infinity ones? They were a whole different kettle of fish. Have you ever looked up at the night sky on a brilliantly crisp night in the middle of the country, with minimal light pollution – stared into the depths and had that momentary sense of panic from a feeling of nothingness? I guess it’s what nihilophobiacs would experience all the time, and maybe subconsciously I have both nihilophobia and apeirophobia. Certainly at a conscious level I have neither. At a conscious level I find both the concepts of nothingness and infinity to be remarkably beautiful things.
(Monsters of the Id! I hear someone cry sardonically with perhaps a significant eye-roll.)
So what’s an apeirophobic nightmare? The most common one as a kid was the sensation of being on vast, undulating plains that stretched as far as the eye could see. They were rippled, slightly wet and the same dark green/grey appearance, and I knew in my dreams that no matter how far I walked, no matter how far I ran, no matter how quickly I moved in any direction, nothing would ever change – it would always be exactly the same.
A nihilophobic nightmare? More difficult to describe. Maybe embryonic. Darkness, nothing to see, no sensations at all. Maybe there’s no more description than that. (The old philosophical situation of “the only thing in the universe is a hand … can you tell whether it’s a left or a right hand?” … except I was the hand, of course.)
I didn’t have these nightmares just every now and then.
I had them every. single. night.
After a while my sleep patterns actually just simply adjusted around them. Sleep. Nightmare. Wake up. Shudder. Drift back to sleep. Only during periods of illness did they become particularly problematic – that apeirophobic nightmare I described was a frequent visitor, sometimes 5 times a night, when I was sick with a cold, or a flu. And don’t ask me how I went with glandular fever in my late high school years. That was, truth be told, an unmitigated horror.
Now, some people when I describe these nightmares ask me whether I’m more meaning night terrors. No – I actually experienced those a few times in my early twenties, and I know the difference. They’re nasty fuckers indeed. I’m glad to say I’ve not experienced one of those monsters for over a decade, and I’d like to keep it that way, thank-you very much…
For a lot of people, a great night’s sleep is when they can wake up and describe a really nice dream they had. On the other hand, based on all the above, as you can well imagine, a great night’s sleep for me was when I could wake up and say that I remembered nothing from the night before. Those nights were few, and very far between.
Earlier this year though I did finally discover some respite. I was away for work, for two and a half weeks in fact, and I was going through a particularly bad run of nightmares. Not the once-a-night scenario, but at times waking every few hours to them. I’d always found sleep easier more comfortable when I had a fan going for that little touch of white noise, and like many people with sleep problems there was something extremely comforting about the sound of rain, but I’d never really thought to look into any “white noise” solutions. With little to lose other than a few dollars and much to gain – like being able to rest properly each night for the major project I was working on – I invested the $4 or so for White Noise Pro. A couple of nights of experimentation showed that the sounds that worked the most was a mix of rain/thunder and cats purring. Yes, that’s weird. Then again, so am I.
I can now go months between nightmares. It’s actually a pretty weird sensation for me.
Back however, onto the subject of resenting sleep.
I’m done. Or I should be, at least. Anyone reading this should easily understand why after practically three decades of near-nightly nightmares, someone would resent sleep.
Current status aside, sleep remains an enemy for me. So when I say “I resent sleep”, you now know why.