A sleepyhead on Sunday morning, I can’t seem to wake up. Stood staring at a mug of coffee in the kitchen, half-dressed in black leggings spoiled with dog hairs and a pyjama top that reads ‘Late Night Experience’ in Art Nouveau lettering. Bare feet because the Great Dane has hidden my slippers somewhere. Or eaten them. Had a long dream about a fabulous coffee walnut cake my friend J took along to her AA meeting. I was there right next to the cake waiting for someone to cut me a slice, but it never happened and just as I was about to help myself, I woke up.
For those who still drink nightcaps, a reason not to drink nightcaps.
If a lot is bad, a little is … not as bad, but still not helping the overall situation. That’s underscored this week by forthcoming research from the London Sleep Centre and University of Toronto. They describe, among other effects of alcohol on sleep, that as we drink more, we get less REM sleep early in the night. That means less dreaming. You’re just sort of hurtled into this conscious-less void.
Instead of REM, that time is spent in deeper sleep phases — which they say, interestingly, increases our likelihood of snoring. (Snoring can of course destroy relationships between entirely reasonable people.) And we don’t even get the benefit from that extra deep sleep, because once the alcohol wears off, those deep sleep phases are so disrupted that the net overall effect is a less restorative night.
A neighbour tells me she can’t sleep owing to the onset of depression and again I find myself thinking about Aaron Swartz and depression as a malignant force in society:
On his blog, Swartz mentioned the conclusions of Richard Layard, a British economist who in recent years has focused on promoting happiness in society:
Depression causes nearly half of all disability, it affects one in six, and explains more current unhappiness than poverty. And (important for public policy) Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy has a short-term success rate of 50 percent. Sadly, depression (like other mental illnesses, especially addiction) is not seen as “real” enough to deserve the investment and awareness of conditions like breast cancer (1 in 8) or AIDS (1 in 150). And there is, of course, the shame.
Depression doesn’t just make life miserable. Worldwide, it is one of the leading causes of death. For young people, who otherwise are at a much lower risk of serious illness, it is in the top three causes of death. Around 2 million young Americans attempt to take their lives each year. Can we honestly say that we are doing enough to decrease the number of tragic deaths that result? Despite the best efforts of organizations and dedicated activists seeking to prevent suicide, the answer is clearly no.
But here we are, yawning in the sunshine and admiring the white flowers of rocket bolting from pots, church bells clanging away from two different churches in the village. My small dancing dog Chloe is capering around on her hind legs for no reason except that she feels that way. There is a large box of sticky dates on the kitchen table alongside a crate of ripe clingstone peaches. I think of Yeats’ Sailing to Byzantium, the gold mosaic and holy fire, and hope I shall still be eating peaches and dancing around the kitchen for no reason when I am an old woman with warty bumps on her chin and a fierce cackle of a laugh.
An aged man is but a paltry thing, A tattered coat upon a stick, unless Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing For every tatter in its mortal dress,