The joys of spontaneous sleep


The shock of the first warm day of spring seems to have taken its toll on this customer in a coffee shop on Park Street, Bristol. Oblivious to being photographed, I wondered about intruding on his privacy, but he was asleep in full display behind the shop window, that it was irresistible. I love the reflection of the Wills Memorial building on the glass as well as the poster over his sleeping frame.Wake up your senses, it says. All in good time – that mug of herbal tea looks full to me.

What is it about falling asleep in public places that feels so odd to the majority, but completely natural to some others, like me? After all, we contort ourselves on long-haul flights and sleep in full view of fellow travellers. No one’s giving us a choice there.To me, succumbing to slumber when it cannot be overcome is the best surrender there is. A little oblivion and a few restful minutes later, the world is a better place seen with relaxed eyes.

I’ve famously fallen asleep during Maths lessons in school, zillions of years ago, back at Rosary Matriculation in Santhome, Madras. The entire class was punished, for laughing at me. I heard about it later as I was dead to the world at the time. I’ve been jolted awake on top of a double-decker bus when a child has shouted, “Mummy, that lady is sleeping!” Have also slept through many a Dolby surround-sound mega blockbuster – Oceans 13, the Star Wars prequels that came after the originals and even the last Harry Potter film. It is a testament to their entertainment quality – managing to soothe, comfort and do what a lullaby would do to a baby. I have to add here, that not once has my penchant for falling asleep ever provoked a Sleeping Beauty scenario.

Seeing this man lost in dreamland made me yearn for those times. I seem to have lost the habit in recent years – but there is no shame in catching forty winks when you desperately need it, or just need to disengage from the world for a bit. For some reason, the people with me (husband, son and the odd friend) do get quite agitated when they see me nod off – they nudge, prod, poke, urging me to wake up. I become a source of great embarrassment or maybe it is just a bad crisis point for them. It’s as if someone from above is whispering in their ear – You must be SO boring.

The reason for this narcoleptic urge is much more mundane – it is to do with the breakdown of sugar in the bloodstream. Foods such as white rice, white bread, cakes and biscuits break down too soon inside the body, causing instant lethargy.  Now that I’ve switched to a diet that is as close to wood pulp as possible, I’m more awake and alert.

Well, alert enough to appreciate the snowdrops in Ashton Court last week. They normally appear in late January and disappear by February – but here they are jostling with daffodils this spring.

And the crocuses – the rich purple demands attention. If that doesn’t shock you awake as you fade reading this, I don’t know what will.




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  1. From the neutral colours of a land where winter still clings fast, that colour jolt is extraordinaire! Thanks.

  2. I am notorious for falling asleep in even the most action packed films! Will never live down dropping off in Paris during a boat ride on the Seine though. ..
    These days there’s no time even to stand and stare let alone have a snooze in the conservatory on one of the gorgeous sunny afternoons we’ve been having.

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