BUSHWHACKED | The renovation of our sleep architecture

Although in my memory I did not have a particularly fulfilling time as a young bloke – short, tubby, one-eyed, awkward, go figure – there is one aspect of my late teens and early 20s that I deeply miss. Sleep.

In my 60s I find that my idea of what happens at various times of the day keeps changing.

I go to bed very early. After spending one decade as an editor when I never once went to bed before midnight, now I see midnight only because I either can’t get to sleep, or have been asleep for an hour or two and am wide awake again.

Sleep is such as annoyance for ageing people.

All the research says we have more trouble getting into a satisfying sleep, more trouble staying there, wake up far too frequently, fret a lot while staring at the ceiling at 3am, and then can’t function for an hour or so after lunch without a nana nap.

In my uncertain memory, the only time I ever saw 5am as a young bloke was when I was just getting home from a night out, or getting up to help Dad with his early morning dairy or bread delivery work.

Apart from that, I could sleep like the dead until at least 11am – about the time Dad would start the mower right outside my bedroom window.

It took a nuclear blast to wake me.

Now, like so many of my peers, I skim through sleep, like a nocturnal dolphin, leaping into full wakefulness and then eventually sliding beneath the surface again.

Any sound will wake me.

Pat The Cat scruffling around in the laundry, or Max the younger corgi changing his position on his blanket will drag me to wakefulness and I’ll lie there, trying to be utterly still and silent to see if there was some other cause such as a home intruder or a fox in the chook house.

Of course, there wouldn’t be, because if there was, the dogs would go off like the hounds of hell.

Now, I see 5am on most days and have discovered it’s really a very interesting part of the day. You get a better indication of the changing seasons at 5am. In winter, it’s absolute darkness with the only light in the sky coming from reflected light from the CBD.

At this time of the year there’s a promising hint of light in the east, and the gum trees are just silhouettes. By the end of the year, it will be almost full daylight.

It’s also a surprisingly creative time of the day. A person can sit in front of the computer and work away for at least two hours without any diversions or distractions. Luckily, no-one rings at 5am. No annoying people knock at the door and the only background sound comes from the nearby magpies warming up their vocal chords.

Studies have shown that we don’t get less sleep as we age, but we just change what they call “sleep architecture”. The idea for this Bushwhacked began at 3.30am and was almost fully formed by 5am.

By 6am, it was simply a matter of transcribing it from the memory bank to the PC.

But it meant that by 1.30pm I’d nodded off in front of ABC News 24 again and I know it’s pointless to put a DVD on after 7pm because I won’t make it to the end. Mrs Whacked frequently remarks that I have watched films I claimed I had no memory of.

Oddly, I have clear memories of the opening half hour.

I have had four goes at watching Sense and Sensibility but failed to go the distance each time.

Hey, there’s an idea. I could decorate the bedroom as a cottage in Devonshire.

WAYNE GREGSON