The sudden transition from cold weather to hot this week prompted a hasty reassessment of my wardrobe – including bedding and pyjamas. A good night’s sleep is dependent on many factors, some of which are psychological and difficult if not impossible to control. But the physical ones can be addressed and so I went shopping for cooler pyjamas. I could have gone online but, when it comes to clothing, I prefer to feel the quality before buying and, fortunately, there are still some shops in town despite Amazon. Gents’ outfitters have long since been incorporated into big department stores, where pyjamas may be found in the “sleepwear” section. Sleepwear, these days, covers a wide range of options, so it took a while before I decided on the (for me) radical choice of cotton shorts. In and of themselves, they will not guarantee a good night’s sleep, though the promise is seductive.
Sometimes sleep comes effortlessly, especially when unscheduled. This happened the other evening while I sat watching an episode of Civilisations on TV. The last thing I remember is seeing huge statues of Egyptian pharaohs – selfies in stone – and contemplating a celebration of the fact that the smart-phone has finally brought egalitarianism to the art of self-promotion. When I awoke, another programme had begun and I had pins-and-needles in one arm. I retired to bed, where I spent the next two hours trying to induce a return to slumber, during which time I tried not to fret, for fretting about sleeplessness, as we all know, only exacerbates the problem.
As with sleep, so with wakefulness: you make all the preparations you can to create your ideal conditions but a positive, happy result cannot be guaranteed. “Life,” as they say,” is what happens to you when you are busy making plans” and it is sometimes advisable, therefore, to go with the flow. Nobody, however, can be fully prepared for the unexpected, as is illustrated by a certain news story I picked up. A householder came home to find an intruder taking a bath in his tub, cocktail in hand. He called the police, who arrived in time to apprehend the naked, fleeing bather, saying afterwards “the man’s safeguarding needs were addressed.” Just how the householder reacted subsequently, one can only guess: I suppose he fitted extra security locks to the premises but it would have been heartening to learn that his experience had led him to a different conclusion and that he had decided to hold regular ‘open bath’ days to celebrate the occurrence. Naturally, prudence would require that he make some sort of identity check prior to admitting strangers but bath nights could be a fun way to meet new people. He could even extend them to friends, instigating an evening of socialising, Finnish style, but without going to the expense of installing a sauna.
Such a course of action might be held up as an example of questioning the assumptions and habits upon which one’s lifestyle is founded. Experimenting in this manner is a healthy exercise in combating complacency and encouraging the spirit of empathy in the interest of social harmony. Some of us are keen to challenge ourselves in this way in order to jolt our systems, get out of a rut, or simply test our capabilities. However, I would not include bungee-jumping or other forms of extreme physical activity, as these fall more into the category of ‘gambling with death’, where the reward for winning is euphoria and the ultimate adrenaline buzz requires an ever-escalating stake. No. What I have in mind is a more cerebral kind of challenge: ordering something new in a restaurant; visiting an unfamiliar place, where everyone but you has a weird haircut; or diversifying into a new style of sleepwear, for example.