Sleeping Wide Awake


Most days, I’ll walk to work, which takes about twenty-five minutes. I’ll follow a roundabout route home to add another ten or fifteen minutes to the walk. Being unable to run and limited with what I can do due to the damage to my right leg, walking’s one of the few things I can do as exercise. It also helps to spend some physical energy. Getting to sleep is never easy, but it’s always harder on days I don’t walk.

Like many writers, I’m a tea-drinker. The schedule at work is regimented: it’ll usually be three throughout the workday (two in the morning, and one in the afternoon). Once I get home, it depends on what I do. But it’ll usually be another two or three, although I’ve learned nowadays I can’t drink too many, or have another tea after 7.30pm, because it affects my ability to get to sleep.

The other night, I worked on some writing deep into the night, and chanced a late tea because I really felt like one. I was tired and thought it wouldn’t impact me. But when I climbed into bed at about 11.30, I felt the typical tea restlessness, a sense of tiredness that doesn’t escalate into sleep – or at least into a deep sleep.

I was sure I was awake, turning over what I had to do at work the next day, thrashing out solutions to stuff I was struggling to write, and reflecting upon a pastiche of random thoughts incorporating that day’s events.

And somebody knocked inside my bedroom – a polite little knock that startled me into sitting bolt upright in my bed.

I stared at the open bedroom door, expecting somebody would appear as a silhouette.

While that fear raged, the logical part of my mind asserted itself, considering all the possibilities of who could be knocking and where they could be.

There’s a locked security door, so nobody can get to the front door to knock on it. I have a bell anyway. It wasn’t a knock on the window – I’ve experienced that a couple of times early in the morning, so I know what that sounds like. This also didn’t sound like a knock on a surface that would echo – like on a wall, which will have space behind it, or the bedroom door, which is partly hollow.

This was definitely inside the bedroom.

I thought about BEST FRIEND visiting, although I don’t know if she’d knock like that. I’d like to believe there’s more to life than this, but people often talk about signs and I wonder why those in the afterlife would communicate so cryptically through obscurities, like a fallen feather, or a butterfly, or other things that happen everyday, but are ignored until we search for meaning.

I kept staring at the open doorway, waiting.



Wondering, if I should get up and check out my place just to be safe, while starting to rationalize that it might’ve been a hypnagogic hallucination – I thought I was awake, but perhaps I wasn’t entirely; perhaps I was in that half-state between sleeping and consciousness where the subconscious can impose dream imagery (or in this case audio).

There’s another parasomnia called “exploding head syndrome”, where a bang wakes somebody as they’re drifting off – like a bomb detonating, or cymbals clashing. Another symptom is feeling a stabbing sensation inside the head. I’ve experienced that stabbing repeated times in the past, but never heard a bang. I did hear cymbals once, although that was like ten years ago.

Both conditions are harmless. Usually, stress and/or exhaustion is a contributor. I qualify for those things. I overqualify.

But I’ve had hypnagogic hallucinations so often that they’re identifiable to me. I’ve been able to accept that as an explanation. The one time I heard cymbals I knew it was some quirk of drifting off.

But not this.

This felt different.


I grabbed my phone and checked the time, assuming it was around three or four in the morning, but it was 12.56.

I lay back down, and struggled to get back to sleep.