Chasing Sleep


I’ve haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in three years.

The primary reason for my sleep disturbance/insomnia is actually the menopause or the ‘this effing menopause’ as I affectionately refer to it now. Before this I had no problem getting my eight hours in. I had my fair share of racy dreams (mostly about Nick Rhodes) but then my hormones decided to revolt and nowadays I’m lucky if I can get two hours in between hormone induced panic attacks and when I do dream I’m usually naked on a public toilet or being chased by tidal waves.

There are many reasons why people struggle to get a good nights sleep.

Daytime Habits

Loafing in front of the TV all day watching Jeremy Kyle and doing sod all in the way of exercise.

Watching TV, playing video games or social networking in bed.

Guzzling down copious amounts of coffee (or gin) – key word is STIMULANT.

Working nights or shifts

Having a bedroom that’s not conducive to a good night’s sleep, as in, total shit-hole with crap curtains and last months undies decomposing in the corner. So grand a scale of shit-hole is your boudoir that the rats evict themselves!

Psychological Problems

Stress is a major reason for insomnia and there are many reasons why people get stressed.

Health Problems

Asthma, allergies, Parkinson’s disease, hyperthyroidism, acid reflux, kidney disease, cancer, and chronic pain. Common medications such as antidepressants, cold and flu medications that contain alcohol, pain relievers that contain caffeine, diuretics, corticosteroids, thyroid hormone, and high blood pressure medications can also interfere with your sleep. I’ll include menopause here because, although it isn’t an technically an illness, it does create a whole heap of shitty symptoms and insomnia is one of them.

So what can we do?

The Effect of Music on Sleep

A survey of 6,000 British adults by Travelodge showed that 20 per cent like to listen to classical music before bedtime with the most popular sleep-inducing composers being Beethoven, Mozart and Bach. The study also revealed that 85 per cent of Brits listen to music to help them get to sleep with 13 per cent reporting that they have sweet dreams if they fall asleep when music is on. I’m presuming they don’t mean Slipknot?


Sweet dreams are made of this?

The hotel chain put together a Top Ten ‘Kip Chart’ from the findings. Mozart came in at number seven, making him the top sleep-inducing composer. Coldplay smashed it at number one making them the band most likely to send you to sleep. Not entirely sure that’s an accolade they ever hoped for but there yer go.

I’ve known about the calming effect that classical music has on babies since I had my little man and Classic FM has been lulling him off for the last six years. It also helps me to nod off, mostly. However, staying in the land of nod is generally my problem and that’s down to dips in my blood sugar levels causing adrenaline surges which trigger panic attacks. Listening to classical music helps calm me down during an attack, especially the choral stuff. Maybe I was a nun in a past life?

Last week BBC Radio Three looked into the effect that music has on the subconscious via the Why Music weekend with the centerpiece being an all night performance by composer Max Richter. In the longest single continuous piece of music ever broadcast live by the BBC (eight hours to be exact) King of Kip, Max, was joined by soprano Grace Davidson, five string players and an audience (complete with beds) who were encouraged to experience the music through the state of sleep. The piece is called, er, Sleep.

I also feel that there is an intuitive connection between sleeping and music beyond this – and this connection is summed up by the tradition of the lullaby, which seems to be a universal in human culture ~ Max Richter

Having nodded off fairly quickly that night, I woke up at 12.08am having an encounter of the panic kind so I went downstairs armed with my pillows and radio. Having apologised to the lurcher for waking her up (costing me a Bonio) I curled up on the sofa. Having remembered about the BBC programme, I listened to that in the hope that it would distract me from the familiar yet unpleasant sensations that come with a panic attack. The music was almost ethereal in parts especially when the soprano was giving it some and it evoked something within me which made me cry but in a good way. Most importantly I found myself calming down quite quickly. Nice one, Max!

I’ve since downloaded a condensed hour version of Sleep and can honestly say the combination of making sure that I had a small snack (some rancid organic sugar free peanut butter on toast) before bed to help with the blood sugar levels and listening to the music helped me sleep all night.


I had another one of my naked on the toilet dreams but to be fair I did need a wee. Not sure why I was naked though?

So, after trial and error, here are my kip tips..

  • Make your bedroom a haven of tranquility.
  • Have a light snack before bed. Note – kebabs aren’t light snacks.
  • If your OH snores – sod him off into the shed.
  • No caffeine after six or at all.
  • Ease up on the gin or abstain altogether. Alcohol sends you to sleep alright but you’ll be up at 2am with a mouth drier than a popcorn fart.
  • Leave the electronics downstairs (except a radio)
  • Use that radio to listen to classical music (or Coldplay)

Night Bless and don’t let the sandman throw sand in your eyes!

Image Credit Eirik Newth via Creative Commons
Slipknot Image – Bill – via Creative Commons


The Great Escape

Garden Spid (531x800)blogIt’s commonly known that the only fears we are born with are the fear of loud noises and the fear of falling. Any other phobia is learned..

My phobia of spiders can’t have been learned from my parents as neither were afraid of them. However, I do remember my brother screaming like a girl at a One Direction concert at the sight of the teeniest one on his bedroom wall..

So I’ll blame him.

My earliest memory is when I felt one crawling around in my nightie. Long story short, I screamed the place down, My mother ran in and mashed it into the carpet. Hello, phobia!

Every time I screamed at the sight of a spider, Mum would storm in, grab it with a piece of bog roll and fling it down the toilet. With each flush, I felt a pang of guilt that a life had been ended because of my irrational fear. At least Dad used to liberate them back into the garden.

Spray it. Swot it. Annihilate it. That was Mum’s motto.

Rumour had it that my mother had had a bit of an unfavourable experience with an Alsatian once and it made her intolerant to anything with more than two legs. Also, she couldn’t be arsed coaxing insects into glasses when Corrie was about to come on. No live pause in those days!

But karma is a bitch because one summers day, Mum had been gardening and she’d kicked her slippers off in the garage. Task completed, she went to put a slipper back on and was stung on the toe by a startled bee who’d crawled inside. We heard her shout ‘YOU LITTLE SOD!!’ (which instantly put us kids on the defensive) and then she went Chuck Norris on it with the other slipper. My mother would have had a shit load of apologising to do before she got to go through those heavenly gates, eh?

But THE incident which still leaves me cold is this..

Tarantulas first came into my life in 1987 when ex-hubs bought one after his father had died. Despite being phobic, I didn’t have the heart to argue. Sadly, after a few years of trying to cope (and the knowledge that females can live for 25 years) my anxiety got the better of me and hub’s brother adopted her.


Fast forward to 2007 where in a cruel twist of fate I discovered that the new man in my life had FOUR of the bastards In his BEDROOM!

I had a choice. I could either put as much distance between him and his crawlies as possible or I could try to conquer this phobia once and for all. Again, I tried but despite my best efforts, the anxieties crept in and the paranoia of one of them escaping and suffocating me in my sleep terrified me. Obviously I wasn’t the spider’s biggest fan but it was a sad day when I saw that one had joined the choir invisible. There was no chance of me putting my hand in and fishing it out but I did feel a twang of sadness that this little creature’s demise.

We lost another after we moved house. The shock of being carted about may have proved too much for it or maybe it was a male who had simply come to the end of his life as they have a significantly shorter life span compared to females. My bet was the years of trauma on having to see OH’s arse peeking out from under the duvet had finally seen it off?

By the time we had The Boy we were down to two spiders (in tanks) still in the bedroom. I piled books onto the lids to thwart any attempts at escape and slept with one eye open. All was well. As well as it can be in a room with fucking arachnids, that is. Except that OH didn’t quite close the lid properly one night and I woke up to the sight of a couple of tarantula legs doing the can-can through the smallest of gaps. I was rendered motionless with fear. My WORST nightmare was coming true…

It was ESCAPING!!!

Before long, there were SIX legs poking out and I broke all kinds of world records getting out of bed. I grabbed The Boy out of his cot and on last glance before slamming the door shut – the cheeky sod was legging it along the bookcase. The spider, not my son.

Hysteria kicked in and I kept slapping my face to make sure I hadn’t actually died? I was on my own, with a baby, and OH was stuck in a meeting miles away so I phoned the only other spider appreciator that I knew.. ex hubs!

The spider was now at large in the bedroom but EH strode in there like Bear Grylls. Granted, he almost trod on him as the spider was the same shade as the carpet, but he captured him and bunged him back in his tank. For this, I am eternally grateful for him and his lovely partner for coming to my rescue.

OH got the bollocking of his life when he got back home..

I named the spider, ‘Cooler King’ after Steve McQueen’s character in the Great Escape because, as escapes go, it’s up there with the very best.

I don’t know if it was the excitement of the escape or the shock of coming into direct contact with OH’s dirty undies but Cooler King didn’t live much longer before scuttling off into that big old web in the sky. The ultimate escape, bless ‘im.

Having faced my worst nightmare (sort of) I’m not as scared of them as I was but I’d probably still die if one dropped onto my face.

Not to mention the dreams I occasionally have of spiders escaping from tanks…

Hopefully, this post wont give YOU nightmares?


Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now..


I was crap at PE. Not only was I crap at it, but I hated it as well. I hated everything about it down to those horrible scratchy pants we had to wear. Having been blessed with the coordination of Frank Gallagher after a few hours in the Jockey, it’s safe to say that sports were NOT my forte!

This post sums up my sporting achievements and woes (mostly woes) throughout my school life.

~ Infants ~

Lets face it, It’s OK to be crap at PE when you’re five.

GymnasticsOnce a week we went down the local drill hall to do gymnastics. The smell of feet was overwhelming along with the whiff of sick where someone had barfed up their Spam fritter after doing a forward roll. Mum bought me a black leotard, which I spent a lot of time extracting from up my bum! My one and only BAGA award was for a near perfect bridge. GO ME!

~ Juniors ~

The ante was upped in the juniors. Suddenly sport got serious and we were placed into houses, like in Harry Potter, only, shit. I was in yellow house, so in Potter world that would be Hufflepuff..

Rounders – The rounders kit came out and we were picked in teams. Fully expecting to be crap at it, I amazed myself by not being totally crap.

For every few miss-hits, the bat would connect with the ball and I would wallop it across the road. I even managed to win my team a game or two which ensured me being picked by choice the following week instead of being picked last, which was the norm for me.

Things were relatively bearable until we moved across the other side of the city. It was a new house, new school, new people and I was a walking mood, having just started my periods. The new school was big on sports. It had a massive brag cabinet with trophies and row upon row of team photographs (with some hilarious hairstyles) taken over the years.

Dance – All legwarmers and leotards with a really annoying teacher who fancied herself as Lydia (the dance teacher) from Fame. We didn’t pay with sweat. We paid with detention. She soon realised that I looked shite in a leotard and was about as coordinated as a fly after it’s been blasted with Raid.

HockeyI knocked a girl’s tooth out the first time I played.

JavelinI gave myself a nasty clout round the back of the head first throw and nearly impaled one of the teachers with the second.

High JumpSpent more time face-planting the safety mat than I did in the air.

Long Jump –  First (and only) attempt required first aid.

HurdlesAfter knocking them all down (and bleeding all over the PE instructor) it was decided that my talents did not lie in hurdling.

Shot-putt – Hand to eye coordination issues nearly rendered a fellow pupil unconscious.

100 metre sprint  –  Feeling thoroughly dejected by this point, I found myself back on the track (plasters on both knees) with the PE teacher (lets call him Teach for simplicity) shouting ‘For crying out loud, just run when you hear the bang, OK?!!’

Teach fired the starter gun and I ran like my mother had just caught me with one of her fags. Seconds later I was rolling around on the ground trying to get my breath back (I genuinely thought I was dying) when he sprinted over in his obscenely tight tracksuit bottoms and slapped me on the back saying. ‘1st place! You’re in the athletics team!’

I momentarily basked in the glory of actually winning something. But as Mozzer from The Smiths so eloquently puts it…

I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour But heaven knows I’m miserable now

Because within a short time, I found myself racked with anxiety as I was loaded onto a bus on route to the local athletics stadium to run for my town and county.

I didn’t want to be in the athletics team, truth be told. I was agoraphobic even then and the thought of running in front of hundreds of people had me dry heaving for weeks before the events. In his infinite wisdom, Teach put me down for the 4 times 100 metre relay race as well as the 100 metre sprint because, well, he was a bit of a twat. I was still having baton issues in the practice runs before the race. Hadn’t I already proved that I was rubbish at relay?

In the event, it was a fumbled baton exchange. On seeing my team-mate sprinting towards me (all red faced and jowly) I assumed the position, stuck my arse out and prayed that I wouldn’t drop the sodding thing. Somehow I managed to keep hold of it and pass it on to my teammate. I think we came fourth and I can’t remember where I came in the 100 metre but it’s safe to say I didn’t win or even come a close second. Teach (NOT a happy bunny) was sulking away in his X rated track suit.

The euphoria of my sports day win had turned to a misery worthy of a Smiths song. Here was something that I was genuinely good at but my useless brain wouldn’t allow me to take it further without sending my anxiety levels through the roof. So I gave up.

It isn’t just about confidence. It’s about having a brain that doesn’t cope well under pressure. All my life, this is how it’s been. Maybe if I’d have persevered I would have found a way to cope? But the truth is that I didn’t even enjoy running because I was self-conscious of my Brad Pitts and the fact that I wasn’t allowed to run in my cardi.

High School

My sports life consisted of a series of excuse me notes (thanks to Mum), a near drowning incident, a nervous twitch every time I heard a starter pistol and a phobia of batons for life.

Nuff said?

Creative Commons Photo Credit ~ ‘Pete’


You Want To Put That Camera Up My What?


I saw the gastroenterologist on Monday and gave him my list of symptoms that I’d typed up via a Word document. Mr Gastro was most impressed with my graphic descriptions. “Well described!”, he said. I preened a bit.

‘Are you thinking cancer?’, he asked. I answered truthfully, ‘Yes!’.

Mr Gastro then ordered a colonoscopy.

At the mere mention of the word, my bum cheeks involuntarily clenched and my bum-hole snapped shut faster than a Venus Flytrap. You see, I’d consulted Dr Google a few (hundred) times leading up to the appointment so I knew exactly what it entailed.

Mr Gastro told me that he doesn’t think it’s cancer. I told him that while I appreciated that he was trying to put my mind at ease..both my parents had cancer. Dad’s being the aggressive kind which saw him trundling along the conveyor belt in the crematorium within six months of being diagnosed.

He didn’t try and fob me off with IBS. In fact, he never mentioned it. He thinks my symptoms require a closer look and by closer look, it means shoving a camera up my bum.

He proceeded to tell me what he thinks it is. Which is that my bum and stomach are ‘not communicating with each other. Typical, even my insides have social interaction issues!

At this point he told the nurse to make it a combined colonoscopy and gastroscopy. Basically, a camera up the chuff and one down the throat in the same appointment, folks.

If the tests come back clear, he will refer me to a specialist to sort out the ‘communication’ problems.

So I’ve been issued with some preparation (stuff what gives you the shits) and I have to wait a decade for an appointment to come through, as there is apparently a huge waiting list. I’ll probably die of old age before I get one. Or the Tories will have killed off the NHS in which case, I’ll have to flog a kidney to sort my bowels out.

In the meantime, I am tormenting myself with the gloom and doom from off the net…

Colonoscopies aren’t the most pleasant (or dignified) of procedures. You have to eat a special diet two days before the test and then you drink the preparation and wait for the world to fall out of your backside. Not looking forward to that, truth be told, but at least I’ll briefly be able to get into those skinny jeans I bought in a moment of denial last year.

No doubt I’ll be made to wear one of those ridiculous gowns that make you look like a complete twonk. Incidentally, I put one on the wrong way for a gynae examination and ended up flashing my minnie to a corridor full of old people. The nurse frog marched me back into the cubicle before one of them had a coronary.

To say I’m anxious is an understatement of massive proportions. They’ll be no need for that preparation because I’ll have shit myself dry with worry by then.

I’ve had procedures done before. I’ve been under GA twice and had umpteen people poking around in my insides. I’ve had an emergency C section and given birth TWICE, all without fear but now I’m a wimp and I blame the menopause because when my oestrogen buggered off, so did my bottle!

A colonoscopy involves a thin flexible tube being coaxed around the bowel. It allows them to see what’s what and you can watch it on the monitor if you wish…

Er, no ta.

I’d rather watch the box set of Geordie Shore, without sedation.

It can find ulcers, polyps, inflammation and tumors. It is the most effective way to diagnose cancer of the bowel.

My Googling sessions have advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages are the numerous people who say ‘colonoscopy? Walk in the park! Didn’t even know they’d been in!’ He he.

The disadvantages are the people who, for whatever reason, have had the experience from hell and feel the need to put the fear of God into everybody else.

There will always be these stories, not just to do with colonoscopies, but with most things. There are risks with this procedure but there are risks with all procedures. My dad’s misdiagnosis’s shook my faith in doctors but maybe I should focus instead on the fact that they probably saved the life of my youngest son who had to be born via emergency C section because I was bleeding internally, my eldest who had a testicular torsion and my middle son who was hospitalised as a baby with gastroenteritis. Mum’s cancer was caught early. My dad was extremely unlucky but I do have more to be thankful for than not.

I rationalise that given my symptoms, it’s probably wise to go through with it. Chances are it’s not anything sinister but leaving it to chance isn’t a risk I should be taking given my family history.

So I have to find a way to keep myself relatively calm over the next few months until it’s all over. My coping mechanism is to find the humour in the situation. Tell a few crap jokes. (ha ha) Also, I make no apologies for talking about matters of the arse because I think that we don’t talk about it enough. We get embarrassed about bum stuff and that costs time and ultimately, lives.

If you haven’t already guessed, I’m bricking it, and I’ll probably have talked myself out of doing it by the time the appointment comes. So I need people to tell me to stop being such a silly cow about it.

I’ll tell myself it will all be OK. I’ll wear the silly pants and try not to die of embarrassment when the air that’s been pumped into my bowels explodes in the consultant’s face. Another perk..

When I saw Sara’s (Mumturnedmom) prompt was calm, it reminded me that I must try to be as calm as possible or I’ll end up running out of the hospital still wearing my paper pants and flashers gown.

Going for an Eartha Kitt ~ Jim Royle