Photo credit: Erik-Jan Leusink
I am, to put it mildly, a very sound sleeper. At various times, I fell asleep – and stayed asleep – despite the noise of house alarms, furious attempts to wake me, sleepwalking episodes, loud music… The list goes on.
I blame my Mum; she maintains that, in order to give yourself an easy life, you should never lower the volume for the sake of a sleeping child. “The best thing, really, is to make sure your baby can sleep through anything,” she’d say, reminiscing about all of the times she put me to sleep in my Moses basket while the dishwasher, washing machine, mixer and Radio One (at top volume) made a hellish cacophony in the background.
The result of her efforts? I could probably sleep through nuclear war – as long as I have my duvet wrapped up around my head and my electric blanket on max.
And while I’m sure this was a very helpful skill (if it could be described as such) when I was a child, as an adult it’s not ideal – I’ve missed out on making several fantastic memories, probably offended people (though they haven’t said as much), and I dread to think what would happen if my house went on fire while I was asleep.
That’s not an exaggeration; I lived in a house in Stoneybatter, in a bedroom at the very front of the bungalow, and slept through my bike being stolen (the lock was cut with an axel grinder) and my car being trashed. Every single window was smashed, and I didn’t so much as roll over.
I fell asleep in the midst of my first panic attack
I’d entirely forgotten about this until the other day, when my sister asked if I’d ever had a panic attack. I wasn’t sure, at first, and then I remembered that time I was lying in bed when my heart begin to beat incredibly fast and my breath quickened, and I felt as if I was stuck in quicksand, unable to move left, right or move my head…
It was weird, actually, because I was simultaneously totally panicked and totally calm. I was probably 99% convinced that I was about to die and, furthermore, that I couldn’t do anything about it, which was kind of relaxing.
In all seriousness, I can imagine that having a panic attack in the midst of everyday life – walking around, at work, standing on the Luas or walking to work – could be totally terrifying. The only thing that kept me from screaming the house down was the fact that I was lying down, and felt like I couldn’t move – I just had to wait for the feeling to pass.
It must have passed eventually, because the next thing I knew, I was waking up the next day. See? Even in the midst of my first panic attack, when my brain was telling me that I pretty much definitely was about to die, I fell asleep. That’s a skill.
I fell asleep while in the middle of an important task
When I was in my early twenties, I lived in shared accommodation with two other young women. Of the three of us, I was the only one in any way adept at rolling spliffs. I’m not quite sure how I got to that point, because I don’t ever remember learning, and to be crystal clear: I was never any good. My spliffs were the size of Super Tampax, and the contents were in no way tightly packed – but they stayed together, and were smoke-able, if only barely.
Anyway, the main issue with me and hash (we smoked hash back in my day, kids, none of this fancy weed) was – aside from it being illegal and very bold and don’t do as I do etc – was that, after I took one drag, I fell fast asleep. Seriously: it doesn’t take much.
So I would roll spliff #1, take a drag or two, and pass it along the line. Then I would be asked to roll spliff #2 – which I would need to do in isolation, in another room, without the possibility of being distracted by the other pair. So I would toddle off to the other bedroom – “back in a second!” – and never return.
The others – slightly stoned and with very little concept of time – would come looking for me eventually, and find me lying face down, with all of my clothes on, sweating and drooling on to my covers, fast asleep.
I fell asleep – and stayed asleep – during several midnight feasts
When I was a little girl – like so many little girls of my generation – I was obsessed with Enid Blyton. More specifically, I had a serious jones for The Twins at St Clare’s and Mallory Towers. In these books, girls played lacrosse and swam in pools cut out from the edge of cliffs (until I was 25, I thought the 40 Foot was exactly as Darrell described the Mallory Towers pool) and drank ginger beer during midnight feasts that just seemed like the best fun ever.
And so, when I was old enough to have birthday parties with sleepovers attached, I would plot to awaken at midnight and trot into the kitchen – with the help of my older sister – to consume all of the delicious things I’d put aside throughout the week. My mum, of course, was in on the act, but the whole joy of it was the fact that it was meant to be elicit, and so she feigned ignorance.
All I remember about those heady nights – pencilled in for midnight celebrations – was the absolute heartbreak of waking up the following morning to realise that all of my friends had woken up for the midnight feast and eaten the treats, while I slumbered away blissfully in my bed.
For years, in fact, I was in an absolute rage with my sister, convinced that she hadn’t even tried to wake me up – but now that I’m old, and have slept through countless things I’d quite like to have woken up for, I believe her. Okay, I’m at about 85% believing her. Because I still remember the sting of opening my eyes to broad daylight, and having to sit through breakfast with my so-called “friends”, telling me about all of the delicious things they’d eaten while I was asleep.