Reading our daughter to sleep with one of Joan Aiken’s marvellous Dido and Pa stories, I learned to count sheep.
- Yan, tan, tethera, methera....
It worked for our daughter but it’s never worked for me. For some people recalling or imagining some rural idyll, or seascape, seems efficacious. I’ve put this to the test, too, but sooner or later a nameless menace disturbs the pleasant landscape, or some hideous shape can just be made out beneath the surface of the water. Probably some species of jellyfish. The stuff of my nightmares. Then as W.S Gilbert says, once again I’m lying awake with a dismal headache and repose is taboo’d by anxiety.
My tried and trusted method of getting back to sleep is to recite poetry and sing songs to myself. The longer, or more complicated the more effective they seem to be. Ronald Reagan’s favoured after dinner piece, The Shooting of Dan McGrew, with its ballad rhythm and regular rhyme scheme, is one of my own favourites in this somnolent state. The Jabberwocky is always helpful especially as a continuous loop. The song that Sam reluctantly plays again in Rick’s Café Américain, As Time Goes By, soothes me to sleep as a way of sinking into the familiar and wonderful, black and white sentimentality of Casablanca. The mawkish, unofficial Irish rugby union anthem, The Fields of Athenry, is always useful – especially if I’ve just watched a match where Ireland or Munster have played well.
Sometimes none of this works so I just cut my losses, enough lyrics have been slaughtered, get out of bed and read.