A persistent tugging in the right leg has me awake after an hour. A circuit or two of the house fails to release the spring and I lie in bed again with the coil of muscle tightening and then twanging in release. Reuben comes stumping upstairs, also awake but anxious from the thoughts that stalk about in the dark. So 35 minutes on I’m sitting by his bed waiting for his breathing to deepen and extend in that steady train-on-the-track rhythm so hated by the insomniac lying awake beside a sleeping partner.
Which now it has. Alone again. Back upstairs to fall asleep the other side of the lost hour or to lie in the nearly new moonlight with that leg-spring coiling and releasing every 8, 10, 12 seconds.
Two goodish nights behind. Enough sleep investment to soak up the hours to be lost tonight?Or will the leg, now diverted, unwound, give me a couple more hours before it loosens its newly wound up clockwork (ironic noun) to whir back into life again within 2 or 3 hours?
And so, an hour after waking, to bed…
About Dick Jones
I'm a post-retirement Drama teacher, currently working part-time. I have a grown-up son and daughter, three grandchildren and three young children from my second marriage. I write - principally poetry but prose too, both fitfully published. My poetry collection Ancient Lights is published by Phoenicia Publishing (www.phoeniciapublishing.com) and my translation of Blaise Cendrars' 'Trans-Siberian Prosody and Little Jeanne from France' (illustrated by my friend, the artist, writer and long-time blogger Natalie d'Arbeloff) is published by Old Stile Press (www.oldstilepress.com).
I play bass guitar & bouzouki in the song-based acoustic/electric trio Moorby Jones, playing entirely original material.
I have a dormant blog with posts going back to 2004 at Dick Jones' Patteran Pages - http://patteran.typepad.com - and I'm a radio ham. My callsign is G0EUV
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When I fell sick a few years ago one of the odd symptoms I suffered from was myoclonus (hypnic jerks) which is a fancy expression for jack-knifing as you’re trying to get to asleep. And it wasn’t unusual for them to last for a good fifteen or twenty minutes before I finally fell off and there’s nothing less fun than being kicked in the stomach for twenty minutes I can tell you. After a few weeks they went away and although I’ve experienced the odd one or two every so often since they’ve not been a problem until about six weeks ago when they returned with a vengeance and brought two friends, violent leg and arm spasms. I had about a week of being shaken like a rag doll and then, as mysteriously as they arrived, they went away and I sincerely hope that’s the last I ever see of them. Now I’m back to my old trick of sleeping for a couple of hours and then waking up refreshed and clear-headed at about 1:30 whereupon I work until about 6:30 and then go back to bed until lunchtime (which, today, was at one in the afternoon) after which Carrie goes down for her nap and I try and get another couple of hours in. I’m never as bright in the afternoons but we do what we can. Christ knows how I’d cope if I had to hold down a regular job. I’ve never had a comfortable relationship with sleep and this goes back many, many years. A favourite expression of mine was something along the lines of, “I feel like the night’s give me a good doing.” When the leg jerks started I thought of you and looked up restless legs syndrome but that’s not me although I can sympathise with the “itch you can’t scratch” aspect; I’ve suffered from post-herpetic neuralgia in my legs ever since I had shingles. For a long time I hated that my body dictating to me and I can’t pretend I’m still not a little resentful but I’ve learned to work around it. You cope. What else is there to do? I tried toughing it out and forcing my body to do the “normal” thing but I’ve given up and now it seems conventional wisdom is starting to come round to the fact many people have better lives if they stagger when they sleep. The closest cycle I can relate to is the Segmented Schedule: two 3½ hour major sleep episodes with a break in the middle. I’m just glad I’m not in the Uberman Schedule: six 30-minute naps per day. Never been able to master the power nap although I did doze off in my chair a couple of days back and the first thing I knew about that was Carrie waking up from her nap. That’s new.
Your symptoms certainly have some of the characteristics of periodic limb movement disorder. It can present as spasmodic violent movements rather than the involuntary flexure version that I have. Whatever the cause, if something of the sort takes up residence and gets to work you do indeed just have to cope. Not without taking some defensive action in the form of firing pills of various provenance at it, but when they either produce equally disabling side effects or simply jack it in, as has my clonazepam, you just do what you can. Which in my case is wandering around a darkened house as a means of clambering out of REM sleep and then hoping that I might grab a little sleep before the alarm goes off. With three kids to get up and then off to school between 06.00 and 07.30, such a sleep regime has its drawbacks. I’ve just tracked down a private sleep clinic very close to home so that’ll be the next port of call, which will push up my health insurance premiums, but what can a poor boy do..?