Amina, the Sonnambula, sleepwalking on a narrow bridge

Amina, the Sonnambula, sleepwalking on a narrow bridge

I’ve suffered from insomnia for almost as long as I can remember, and this summer was no exception. It wasn’t helped by a hacking cough right into September when I had a fever and was prescribed antibiotics. For years I have occasionally taken a sleeping pill if I was anxious to have a good night’s sleep before a crucial day. I didn’t think it was particularly important that I always had what I came to accept as my sleeping pill party.

This was no ‘dream’ party, nor was it threatening. To begin with, the people in it must have come from some TV series or film I’ve never seen. Their faces were almost like skulls with eyes in deep sockets and mouths that protruded, only slightly. They were unattractive, but hardly repulsive. Their taut skin was a brown grey colour and they were in a sort of cave-like room round a table that was tipped towards me as I swooped into the scene. They babbled and I was included. Usually they were eating, mostly my favourite milk chocolate digestive biscuits – the ones I would guzzle in the early hours of the morning when I couldn’t sleep, if there were any in the house. (I try to stop myself buying them, even after I found a discount shop a five-minute walk away with the best digestives at a discount rate… But sometime I do succumb and buy a packet for a secret midnight feast.) This strange company reappeared every time I took a sleeping pill.

A friend of mine recounted – some years ago now – how she had suffered three near calamities in close succession. One was when the fire in the chimney, which also heated a boiler, burst into sudden a sudden fireball and cinders scattered all over the room. The second when lightning flashed across the room – she lives in a mountainous area. The last was when she found her husband sleepwalking to a second floor window and leaning out…

So in August I took a pill and soon fell into deep sleep and the usual burbling company round the table. Then I found myself on the drive outside the house, trying to walk up it, but sinking to my knees so I could clearly see the striations in the paving stones. I then walked to a terrace above the pool area and remember that I fell somewhere and had a pain in my back. Still sleeping, I knew I was back in bed aware of the pain in my back. Then I woke up. The pain was still there, in exactly the same place as in the dream.

Did I sleepwalk? Or was it all a dream? Why did I wake up with the same pain as in the dream? I didn’t have it when I went to bed. I haven’t taken any sleeping pills since then and I now have been prescribed pills half as strong. I’m still wary of taking one.

Would anyone believe this if I put it into a book?