It's fair to say I've never slept well. Decades of insomnia, night terrors, sleep walking, sleep talking, sleep apnoea, sleep paralysis and sleep paranoia means, if nothing else, it's a laugh riot sharing a bed with me.
Sleep problems are fairly common. They vary from person to person, but I'd say I have more than most. The ones that fascinate people are the stranger ones. Night terrors probably win out in this category. Night terrors also vary from person to person, anything from screams and squirms in the night to, like me, full blown hallucinations and panics that have me leaping from the bed. Over the years I've had spiders hatch on me, snakes writhe under the duvet, old women pin me down by my chest, creatures attack me, giraffes walk by, arms through the wall grabbing me, spooky children watching me when I wake and many, many other weird things all of which seemed, at the time, very real.
Over the years I've met a few people who suffer with these sleep problems too. We've exchanged similar stories, and realised that we have similar triggers, all of which range from the bizarre to the hilarious. Oddity aside, thankfully there is a funny side. My girlfriend's favourite is probably watching me sit bolt upright and proclaiming I have wings, only to faux fly around the bed. Old housemates have had me burst into their room at 2am, holding nothing but making out I was, and proclaiming "look I'm not crazy!" They may have found it less funny during the incident, but eight years on they're still laughing. Then there are the times outside of your own home. For instance, living in and out of hostels when travelling, well, that was a series of explanations dished out on an as and when basis. It's hard to explain to strangers that the reason you jumped off your bunk and started spraying deodorant on yourself was because you were convinced you were covered in ants.
I could go on here giving you example after example. If you really want to, you can head here and listen to a few of the sleep talks I've uploaded onto my website (more to come). So, why write about this now? Well, I've used them for my latest Edinburgh show (yes sorry this is a plug) and have discovered there are so many people who go insane after dark. In the show I play some of my sleep talks to the audience and go in to a few of the funnier moments of having these types of disorders. Just doing the previews over the past few months, it is amazing to see how many people will come up and share their own late night quirks or experiences of sleeping by someone else's.
There are barkers, biters, spitters and farters. Sleep eaters, runners, masturbators and singers. I've heard stories of people waking up in cars, fields and roads. Friends of friends tell me how, when they go somewhere new, they need to physically tether their ankle with a surfboard chord in order to not attempt escape through the window... No matter what I'm told I'm constantly surprised and unsurprisingly can relate.
Sleep has a massive effect on your psyche. Insomnia can drive you to the brink of insanity. Disrupted sleep from terrors or paranoia, can make you edgy for days after and, not only that, further your insomnia because there's nothing to keep you awake like a shot of adrenaline after you think an alligator has slithered under the bed or you felt a swarm of wasps zip by. I'm not playing for sympathy here, there are methods and controls I employ to reduce them. There are probably medicines to almost eradicate them entirely, but the truth is I've never hurt anyone (except myself once when I was convinced I could fly, but in fact simply rolled down some stairs) and they give me something to talk about on stage.
If you have any weird sleep problems, I'd love to read them in the comments. The most unusual I've heard so far for you to beat is from an audience member who wrote a note to themselves in their sleep, which warned them of impending danger. If you're interested in hearing more, you can always come check out my show (details below).
Matthew Highton will be performing his solo show Good Luck Sleeping Jerks as part of the Edinburgh Fringe 3pm, The Hive, Nidry Street 4th-24th August Free PWYW (or £5 reserve)
He'll also be part of.
Knightmare Live 5:30pm at the Pleasance Courtyard
Comedian's Cinema Club 3:40pm at the The Tron