Vicky Ewan: Good sleep is a blessing, I know, but also a curse at times

People need around eight hours sleep a night.

I have an ability to snooze - Credit: Pixabay

I am aware some people consider sleep to be overrated, but I am inclined to disagree.

I suppose I am what you would call a good sleeper.

I don't mean that I sleep heavily - that privilege is reserved for my husband, who is rarely roused by the wrangling of the witching hour.

Babies crying, children falling ill, spider emergencies, puppy lavatory needs - none heaves him from the depths of slumber, to both my incredulity at the given time and his scepticism when informed of the night's activities the following morning.

After more than two decades of marriage, this oblivion has ceased to peeve me; clearly, my irritation would fall on deaf ears.

Rather than sleep quality, it's my ability to snooze at all that is under scrutiny, and I seem to possess a remarkable poise in this area.

Tragedy, comedy, affairs of the heart - none prevents me from succumbing to sleep's sweet embrace.

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It is a blessing, I know, but also a curse at times; I can comfort loved ones afflicted by night-time wakefulness to a degree, but am largely unable to empathise, and this is frustrating for all parties concerned: they can no more comprehend how I can doze in the midst of drama than I can understand how they cannot.

When travelling as a teenager on a train with a friend through the wilds of France - well, Cannes to Paris - I was tasked with staying awake through the night to ensure safe passage to our destination station.

Try as I might, I simply could not keep my eyes open, and my poor beleaguered friend was obliged to take up the slack.

We arrived without incident, but my somnolence was the cause of some later friction.

The older I get, the more easily I seem to be able to drop off: night time - and daytime - reading, cinema trips, meetings... all have set the scene for my slumbers.

My family regularly chides me for my propensity to snooze through a scheduled film or television show; the number of times I have drifted off, woken to find a paused television screen awaiting my waking, protested my alertness, only to doze off again, are too numerous to count - a highly irritating tendency, I ruefully acknowledge, but apparently unavoidable. 

One of my children, however, tolerates this habit. In fact, he actively encourages it.

I try to read to my youngest son at night, a practise which we follow with bedtime prayers.

One recent evening, I settled myself comfortably on the bottom bunk bed, my younger son snuggled up next to me as we plunged into the latest chapter of the current book.

We were warm and comfortable and I began to feel drowsiness stealing over me.

Determined to reach the end of the chapter, I battled on, refocusing my eyes and applying fierce concentration to my task.

Seconds later, I awoke with a start, to find my son giggling next to me.

It seemed that as I had surrendered to sleep, my addled brain, desperately trying to keep the synapses firing, had offered an alternative - and completely nonsensical - interpretation of the written text.

A little later on, during prayers, I was still struggling.

We had developed a habit of saying the Guardian Angel prayer when my son was younger and felt nervous at night; each of us would speak a line in turn, usually beginning with me.

That ill-fated night, my son decided he wanted to say the initial line but, unaccustomed as he was to this sequence, he asked me to remind him of the opening words.

I cannot account for what made me respond in the way I did, and can only plead that my sleepiness was responsible for what came out of my mouth.

Instead of annunciating the beautiful words 'Angel of God', with reverent solemnity but complete foolishness I replied: "Ratburger".

Should you be unfamiliar with children's novels, I can reveal that Ratburger is the name of a story written by the talented David Walliams.

It is the unsavoury tale of an unscrupulous pair of ne'er do wells who feed unwitting children their homemade burgers, the bulk of which consists of… well, the clue is in the name.

What made me intone that word in lieu of 'Angel of God' is anyone's guess, but it delighted my son; I found him cackling with glee when I recovered my sensibilities.

These days, when I perform the bedtime routine, he wickedly watches out for the familiar drooping of eyelids that heralds the arrival of the accompanying linguistic lapses - and I rarely disappoint.

I am glad my unerring slumbers afford him so much amusement; they require such little effort on my part.

Yes; as far as he and I are concerned, sleep is not overrated at all.