I am not sure if it is the eye mask or some biological reaction to the annoyance of not being able to fall to sleep, either way my eyes are soaked in moisture and the need to keep wiping them is an irritant amongst a bevy of irritants. I push my fingers beneath my mask and wipes both eyes clean turn around and lie on my back with my arm around my pillow.

This is pointless…I have never fallen asleep on my back. I reach beside the bed, grab my phone press the button and slip my mask to cover my forehead. As the cheap mask smothers my forehead, the elastic cuts into the graze that has developed in the indentation of my ear…another irritation.

The light illuminates a small space in front of my eyes and my mind conjures up images of monsters and ghosts invading and terrifying. I swipe my fingers across the phone until I reach my dream app and I turn it on and return to my previous pose.

As I listen to the calming sounds of the male voice, I tell myself that it is no use that I won’t sleep. The soothing voice starts to annoy me, as does the argument that I have now started in my own mind. I never like to lose an argument so when both figments of my own imagination start to have a go, I know I am in for a long night. I repeat every action the man tells me to complete. I breathe in and out, I slow down my breathing, I relax my muscles and after twenty minutes of soothing music saline sleekly slithers down the side of my face.

I am too hot, and consider taking off my top, but I know I will be cold when I wake in the morning…I leave it on. I am too hot. Every time I breathe through my nose it hurts and I feel like my bogies have gone hard like stalactites and stalagmites. My fingers move inside to break down the chandeliers but there is nothing there but dry arid nothingness tinged with nasal hair. One of them feels slightly longer than the rest and I try to ignore it but now I can’t stop thinking about it. I grip the end with my fingers and I pull…but miss…I pull…but miss…I pull. I roll it between my thumb and forefinger, feeling the coarseness and I start thinking about how long it has taken to grow this long…achew!

I take my top off and turn around and lie on my side. I grab the pillow and draw it in tight with my arm while squeezing it against my groin. My mind is suddenly transported to my son and I see him lying alone in his bed…just like me. I wonder if he is thinking about me at exactly the same time that I am thinking about him. I picture his eyes wide shut and the serenity that accompanies his beautiful face.

It is still too hot. I take of my new pajama bottoms and throw them on the floor. I lie on my back once more and squeeze my eyes shut even harder to create pictures behind my eyelids. I get a kind of kaleidoscopic effects with tinges of orange filling in the darkness and turning into shapes for the briefest of times before vanishing again. This whole process repeats itself over and over again. The wind is battering the window outside and one of its fingers manages to find its way inside a crack and the sharp noise makes my heart jump. My whole chest area is thumping quietly and I focus back on my orange tint and beg to see the sea. I imagine I am sat on the beach, all on my lonesome, and I am trying to turn the sounds of the wind outside into the sounds of waves crashing on the shore of which I am sat. I pretend the orange tinge is a fire I have set but out of the flames come the monsters and the faces. The harder I try to focus on the beach the more monsters come out of the fire. Wait… was that Florence Nightingale? Did I just see Florence Nightingale…too late she is gone?


This is useless…surely if I was tired then my body would just shut down and let me sleep. The fact that I cannot sleep must be an indication that I am not tired…but I have to get up in four hours so I must sleep…can’t sleep…won’t sleep. I am fed up with this argument…I am boring myself.

I need to write and until I write I will not be able to go to sleep. My fingers slips underneath my mask and I wipe the tears from my eyes once more and hope the monsters have gone to sleep as I reach for the laptop lying beside them underneath my bed.


I have struggled to sleep my entire life, especially when I have a reason to wake up. Starting life to the siren of the alarm clock is a horrible way to live. When I quit the railway and started to write I only needed my alarm clock occasionally. I get up when I want and start work I want. I think this is the way life should be.

When I have to work on the poker live tournament circuit I have to use my alarm clock. I need to catch flights and be at the tournament at a certain time. It seems my old problems have resurfaced. I know I need to sleep in order to cram a few hours rest in but I just never feel tired.

I wrote this in a hotel room in Dublin after lying on my back for four hours. In the end I managed to catch two hours sleep before heading to the tournament area to work what turned out to be a fifteen-hour shift. When I climbed back into my bed at the end of the shift I didn’t want to sleep. All I kept thinking about was writing.

Photos courtesy of Tobyotter & Ramon Peco (cc @ flickr)

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