Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Sleepless in, um, er, well Kiotari

My right leg is very intelligent. No it is, really it is. When I'm lying there trying to go to sleep it'll wait just long enough before it begins either a regular spasm every, say, twenty seconds, or it'll simply scream at my brain that it has to move, whereupon I'll stretch it out like a ramrod or perhaps stick out of the side of the bed, but not for too long or my calf and foot will get too cold and then I'll have to get up and find my socks or make a hot water bottle anyway, thus surrendering to the leg's vindictiveness and admitting defeat.

That leg has a deal with my right arm too. If the leg decides that it'll give it a rest for a night, invariably it'll have instructed the arm to take over and I won't be able to find a position that's comfortable without it doing something similar to the leg. They're in league, I know they are.

I am an insomniac. When I was much younger I slept like a baby. No, that's not true because a Greek friend once told me (after his wife had produced their first sprog) "I sleep like a baby. I wake up every couple of hours and I cry a lot." No, I used to sleep like a log, that's a better analogy. But these days it's a rare night when I got to bed and sleep the night through, waking up refreshed and ready for another splendid day.

It's no joke having a body that has a sadistic streak I can tell you. This is what usually happens: My wife and I usually go to bed between 9 and 10 in the evening during the winter; maybe a little later in the summer months. Once in bed we'll both have a good book at the ready and we'll read for a while, waiting for that lovely feeling of sleepiness that usually you know has reached the right level when you've re-read the same paragraph four times and still can't get to the end before your eyes are closing. In my wife's case that may be half an hour after we've begun reading, even perhaps an hour. In my case it's invariably not more than fifteen minutes.

Here's where I'll illustrate what I mean about my body being sadistic. I'll be finding it impossible to stay awake while I'm trying to read and so I'll put my book down, take of the old reading glasses and reach for the bedside light switch, to the sound of the better half saying "But you haven't read more than five pages. You CAN'T go to sleep yet!"

I have no choice. At that precise moment I feel I could sleep for a week. So I'll turn off my light, turn over and 'tuck down' as we used to say in deepest Somerset when I was a young lad. For the first five or ten minutes it'll be OK. I'll be able to lie perfectly still and await that glorious moment when sleep drifts over you and you're half awake and half sinking into your first dream of the night. The problem is, just a smidgin before that point, the old right leg will start its party games. Before I know it, half an hour, maybe an hour, will have passed, by which time the other half will have switched off her light and be slumbering sweetly, whilst I'll be wide awake and getting fed up with constantly having to move. I can't stay awake while trying to read, and I can't sleep when I turn out the light. Great, eh?

I do, thankfully, have an iPod loaded with several thousand of my favourite pieces of music. Some nights I'll put in the phones, select 60 minute sleep mode and let the tunes shuffle away. More often than not though, I'll have become so restless within that hour that I find myself turning off the iPod and getting up, fumbling for my dressing gown and slippers in the dark so as not to disturb sleeping beauty beside me, then creeping out and closing the door. It's often at such times that I write this stuff. Just so you know, like.

Now, before, in your deep concern for my welfare, you reach for the keyboard to send me your dead cert solution to my problem, be aware - I've tried 'em all. No, truly, I have. I've tried drinking tonic water before going to bed, a tablet of B-complex vitamins, magnesium, B12 on its own, camomile tea, mountain tea, hot milk and honey, ginkgo biloba, valerian and a whole host of other stuff. I've tried not drinking certain things after midday and drinking other things that are supposed to send you to sleep. I've cut out chocolate and cheese, alcohol and other stuff, then cut them back in again when it made no difference whatsoever. I've researched about restless leg syndrome too, which it appears still really has the experts baffled, although I have a theory of my own that seems to make sense to me and I'l share it with you.

No, don't go away! Please! It helps to talk. See, I know that I am predisposed to low blood pressure. By and large the doctors say that if your blood pressure is on the low side it can be a benefit to your health and longevity. On the other hand, this is how I see it: I'm tall, OK? I'm over 6 foot and so my limbs are long. Now, bear with me on this, but once you get into bed and start trying to sleep your metabolism naturally slows, right? Good, so, see if you don't think this makes sense. As my metabolism slows then my heart rate drops and thus the blood pumping around my extremities begins having a spot of bother making it to the ends and back, thus causing involuntary spasms in a kind of automatic attempt to give the circulation a leg-up (appropriate analogy, eh?).

Also, lending some weight to this argument is the fact that if while in bed I (and I often do, 'cos I'm weird) need to empty my bo... - no, let me re-phrase that - need to pop to the bathroom for a session in the seating position, then that means that the muscles along the colon are working, thus further depleting the circulation to the rest of the body, yea? Cue leg making involuntary movements. I have found, to be honest, that if I make that visit and then go back to bed, sometimes it does result in my getting off to sleep before the leg realises what's happening.

Anyway, why on earth am I burdening you with my problems? Well, simply to say thank goodness for blogs like this one - Olive, Feta and Ouzo, by fellow Rhodes resident Amanda Settle. Then there's of course An Octopus in My Ouzo, by Jen Barclay. Dare I admit too that I do occasionally dip into the Greek Wives Club, run by Ekaterina Botziou. Since kick-starting the Facebook group "A Good Greek Read" almost exactly a year ago I've become acquainted also with blogs and websites by such members as Linda Fagioli-Katsiotas, who writes "The Nifi" from her home in Suffolk County, NY State USA.

Other members of AGGR include Kathryn Gauci, who regularly raises the tone with her fascinating and erudite posts. I have read Symi Dream on and off for many years now, since I've spent so much time on Symi that James' writings always stir a heart flutter in me. Effrosyni Moschoudi has a blog worth checking out too.

So, when I'm up in the wee small hours, at least I'm not short of reading material.

I'm off back to bed again now, it's 2.30am and I'm going to have a shot at beating that right leg at its own game.


  1. Restless leg syndrome. I suffered for years until I started taking vitamin E. Well worth trying though I can't remember dosage but I'm sure Doctor Google could help out with the details.

    1. I appreciate the suggestion, but guess what? I've been on Vitamin E for years!! Maybe I should up the dose!

  2. Thanks so much for the shout-out John! So sorry about your leg. Hope you find some comfort.

    1. Yea, at least it gave me a chance to point some of my readers in a few directions, yours included Linda. Lots of folk who love Greece are hungry for new sources after all. Incidentally, I had a good night last night. The latest thing I've been trying is walnuts!!! they're apparently rich in Melatonin, which the body is meant to produce to induce sleepiness. Seems like insomniacs don't produce enough of it.

    2. Glad to hear you finally got a good night sleep. Also glad to know about walnuts for my own occasional sleepless nights
      : )