The Luxury of Time

In Winter - Matt Gemmell

As I reach the depth of my sleep, in that period from around 3AM to 4AM, I see some awful things. I couldn’t begin to count the number of mornings where I’ve sat on the side of the bed, feet gratefully on the floor, shivering in the dark (and hoping I haven’t woken my wife). I’ve watched 5AM arrive on the bedside alarm clock so many times that it’s become seasonally normal. I always get back to sleep afterwards, at least, which is a mixed blessing.


I return to bed, and watch the clock, and eventually I sleep again - with more strange surroundings, uncertain motives, and unfamiliar landscapes. When dawn creeps under the curtains and I wake up, I’m profoundly grateful for the daylight. I get up, and for the first half an hour or so my emotions are uncomfortably close to the surface.

Only Matt could write about nightmares and still make it a beautiful piece of prose.

I suspect more people than we imagine do the waking bolt upright at 4.00am thing - following an unpleasant or terrifying dream.

I do it. I used to do it a lot. It happens a lot less now and seems to have improved through two things I do. These work for me. I have no idea whether they would help others similarly.

1) I restrict myself to two cups of coffee a day, (whether caffeinated or not) one when I rise and one no later than midday and normally earlier. No tea. When everyone else is drinking tea and coffee, I default to hot water.

2) I have turned the context around about waking in the night (or finding it hard to get off to sleep). I have convinced myself about a truth. The truth is; I don't have enough time in my life. I don't have enough time to read all the books I want to read or listen to all the podcasts I want to hear or a million other things.

So, I have genuinely changed my attitude to being awake from - 'what a pain, I should be asleep' to 'OK, good, an opportunity to listen to an other hour of....'

I keep an old iPad by my bed, with a very comfortable, soft, tiny in ear headphone and when I wake at 4.00am, I don't dwell on the dream, I don't wonder about how long it will take me to get back to sleep, I listen to Siracusa arguing with Gruber about file systems or the Football Weekly crew arguing about whether Spurs are any good. I enjoy the time rather than regret it.

Obviously, no Twitter clients, email or any sort of reading or notifications. And, with all due respect to the podcasts mentioned above - the more banal - the better. This is not intense time. This is my luxury time. This is my luxury time to spend on gentle, frivolous, insignificant but interesting things.

I can chose to think about what ever I wish and at four am I chose frippery.