creative non-fiction Escape

SLEEP | Emma Boyns makes peace with sleep – and herself.

Creative Non-fiction

by Emma Boyns

As a child, sleep is something to avoid. You give in to those heavy waves of fatigue and you miss out on the late summer evening cricket matches in the street, the grown-up dinners downstairs with the clinking glasses and amplified laughter. FOMO before it was even an acronym. I remember wandering downstairs, bleary eyed, the next morning to a pile of dinner plates and half a dozen wine glasses and feeling anger that sleep had stolen my chance to be an adult.

And then there were the nightmares, in which I’d learnt to find a room within the dream and lock myself in, willing myself over and over to wake up, until I eventually did. My mind created creatures from nothing, making monsters from a jumper that had been discarded lazily on the floor.

But then, when reality became harder than those dreams, sleep became the preferable state. I’d lie in bed for hours, fighting the hunger that came from denying myself food, tangled sheets stirring around my restless form. To sleep became the only way to be free. It would be hours of not feeling the flesh on my thighs touching and the unnecessary disgust that came with that. It would be a night of rest from the racing thoughts of food and calories and how many fractions of a kilo I’d gained that day. It was an escape route from everything I feared, an emergency exit from the fire that was burning within my mind.

“But then, when reality became harder than those dreams, sleep became the preferable state.”

And then sleep became a symptom. I would sink into the dark depths of depression, my mattress being the only thing to soften my fall. Some days I was so exhausted from simply breathing, from willing my mind to be hopeful and receiving nothing in return. I’d spend days in bed, desperate for sleep to engulf me and allow my self-critical mind to rest. The feeling of blankets brushing against my skin was a relief, the nest I had made my tiny world was softer and warmer than the outside one could ever be. But then I became sick of the ceiling. I was tired of being tired and tired of the same view, day after day, while everyone else saw so much life and colour.

And so I got out. I got out of the bed and the relationship that had led me there and I started to learn to sleep when my body needed it, not when my mind demanded it. To only want to sleep when exhausted can be an amazing feeling. It is the realisation that you’ve filled a whole day with life, with entertaining your mind and occupying your body and learning that you can live in this reality. However difficult things have felt and however hard it was to keep your head above water, you managed. You can do this. And now, you are so ready and grateful to simply sleep.


Emma Boyns | @emmaboynsphotos | Instagram: @emmaboynsphotos | emmaboyns.co.uk
Emma Boyns is a Sussex-grown country-bumpkin attempting to make it in the Big Smoke. She’s an all-round creative as well as a food lover and is lucky enough to be (eating and) taking pretty of pictures food for a living. Writing is a therapeutic way for Emma to communicate the tangled web of randomness that goes on in her head without expensive therapy bills.

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