I rarely need to use an alarm. And you can bet your bottom dollar that if I do set one – and if it wakes me - it will be one of those rare occasions when I could have slept longer. If I’m lucky, I sleep for five or six hours a night (with a big 'catch up once a week, because I'm so exhausted), which isn’t really enough; but, as I rarely awake feeling refreshed, I don’t think the length of time I’m unconscious is significant. There’s neither rhyme nor reason to it.
I used to sleep really well and once my head hit the pillow I was out: like a light. Unfortunately sleep gets more fragile with age and during the last few years I’ve begun suffering with sleep maintenance insomnia.
When I worked full-time it was a different story. Sleep was a luxury that I didn't get enough of - not that I promoted it: I burnt my candles at both ends – and in the middle. In those days the only way I ensured that I got up and out of bed, and on the way to work, was to put the alarm clock on the other side of the room; it meant that I had to get out of bed - to switch it off. I did not go back to bed, for obvious reasons (!)
The first thing I do on waking is to look at my smartphone to check my emails and I sometimes write a couple of sentences. This will take about five minutes at most. Years ago, if I was on holiday – or had no reason to get up - I would pray, first thing, and very occasionally read for a while.
But it was more usual, as now, to get up immediately. I have never enjoyed just lying around in bed – in fact I have a deep resistance to going to bed in the first place! I’m not convinced I’m an owl, though – I like being up early in the morning and going to bed late.
My mobility is very bad for the first couple of hours, so I am staggering around like a drunk until my body catches on that my brain is telling it, “This is the way we walk.” I take my medication and immediately head for the kitchen. I drink a large glass of orange juice (diluted with water) and put the kettle on. Whilst I wait for it to boil I eat a couple of Digestive biscuits. I then carry my two mugs of tea (don’t ask!) outside and sit on the back porch to enjoy the view and cogitate. I do this, whatever the weather, winter or summer; and no matter where I am. I have mild claustrophobia and spend as much time out of doors as I can.
When I worked I still had two cups of tea, but I didn’t manage to get outside until I began my journey to work. I have always been lucky enough that my place of work has been within walking distance. This is not just because I have never driven; it’s because of where I have lived, up until now: in small towns or in city centers. This walking time used to give me a good ten to fifteen minutes to clear my head. I really needed this space and used to decline offers of lifts to work even if it was raining or snowing. It was that important.
And then - as now - after my morning constitutional, I was set up and ready for whatever the day was going to throw at me.