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ON SLEEP

My mother loves telling tales about the places I fell asleep as a child; at a bowling alley, in shopping trolleys, or leaning up against the booming speakers at a wedding reception. At a very young age, I somehow decided that sleep was non-negotiable, not to be sacrificed. No tantrums before bed, no tears in the bath. I never lingered in the hallway, pressing my toes into the carpet and waiting for a disgruntled parent to hush me back to my room. My bed was my haven. A place of storytelling, dream-making and hot strawberry milk.

As I grew older, my friends quickly realised that I was a terrible companion at sleepovers; the night would draw on and I'd find myself a quiet corner so I could doze off in my sleeping bag, missing out on gossip and snacks. I'd also be up at the crack of dawn making scrambled eggs and drinking orange juice with their parents, which (as I was informed) was not cool.

A few years later, fuelled by an air of rebellion, my eighteen-year-old self could just about reach the stroke of midnight before falling asleep - on buses, on vodka-soaked sofas, whilst eating McDonalds on The Strand. I had become the fairy-tale princess of my childhood bedtime stories, albeit with a splash of alcohol and mascara smeared across my cheek.

And now, at twenty four, I still religiously take myself off to bed at 10 o'clock, even on the weekend. It remains my haven. Who can resist crisp white sheets, absolute quiet and the dim light of a bedside lamp? But four nights ago, sleep was stolen from me. Instead of dreaming away the hours in a heavy slumber, I now lie awake as every muscle in my body begins to twitch, as the lumps in my mattress seem to harden, as I listen to the sounds of mice scuttling across the eaves above my bed. My mind feels as though it's operating at double speed, catching up on everything I might have forgotten throughout the day, scrawling notes on my mental notepad.

It's a cruel affliction, to be banished from the Land of Nod. Exiled like a dishonourable citizen. Perhaps I angered the Sandman by travelling with too much baggage - too much stress, too many obsessive thoughts? Maybe there were complaints made about me? A Disruptor of the Peace, I am. And it's true, I have been distracted. My life has robbed me of dreams and replaced them with troubles - living nightmares, if you will. But this has to end. So, tonight I'm performing a ritual of sorts. A sleep seance to earn my ticket out of the borderlands and through the gates of Nod. I'll light a candle, bless my pillow with lavender, make some hot strawberry milk and ask: 'Mr Sandman, will you please let me in?'

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