Mark Barrott’s Insomnia In Deepest South America


I’ve been thinking about what to write about in this column for a few days and had kind of settled on the weird little idiosyncrasies (or foibles if, like my mother, you’re Barnsley mental,­ don’t ask) of everyday life (well my life) and out of nowhere as I was falling asleep last night, I remembered my period of insomnia in Uruguay a few years ago (obviously, great timing on the cusp of never never land, but still…)

Insomnia is totally, 100% f*cking horrible, building up a cumulative force of rancid Goat Scheisse (hmmm aren’t we showing our multiculturalism today) all around you, so that you’re tired all day and then your head touches the pillow and bang….wide awake club…..again (and again and again and again). I knew it had gotten serious when I fell asleep over dinner at a friends place one night, so being (more than a bit) obsessive I started googling sleep clinics in the neighbourhood (the neighbourhood in this case being South America), eventually finding an english speaking clinic in southern Brazil.

One plane journey later and I’m sat in front of a Harvard educated Brazilian sleep doctor telling me whats going to happen to me in the next 24 hours. I’m told that I have to be at the ‘laboratory bedrooms’ at 9pm sharp otherwise I’ll be locked out. The plan is (for those of you that are not versed in ‘sleep medicine’) that you go to bed and sleep (no shit…really, but I can’t..honest) and they put this weird contraption around your head with more wires than Richard Devine’s Modular Set up and this goes to a monitoring box strapped to your PJ bottoms. Pyjamas at my age…in South America in the summer? Ah well… All of this then sends brain wave patterns to a central computer monitored throughout the night by two medical students, one of whom is rather hot. 

So I arrive at 9pm thinking OK, listen to an audiobook, have a sneaky bifter in the bathroom, go to bed around 2am like I normally do and see what’s what in the morning. 9.15 comes around and in come the two students (one of whom is rather hot) to start applying all the technology ­ no no I say, I agreed with your boss that you’d do this at 1am before I went to bed, no no they say we’re doing it now, no no I say (again) call your boss at home, I’ll never get to sleep (even with insomnia, at this time of night, it’s like mid afternoon for me). ­ They call the Doctor, Doctor says "ah yes, ah well, tough shit, go to bed". 

I manage to negotiate an extra 30 mins and have a very hot shower (in Brazil in the summer) two (yes two) sneaky bifters without setting off the smoke alarm in the bathroom and then sit for 45 mins on the bed, being connected up to GCHQ. Little do I realise that for the next 10 hours, if I want to piss (lets not even think about the other), cos of all the wires and cables I have to hit a call button and be accompanied to the bathroom (by the hot one maybe ?) and even turning over in bed is harder than getting a penny out of a Yorkshireman.

Anyway, I’m rather hot (the shower not the student) and more than a little stoned, so irony of ironies, guess what (drum roll) I fall asleep within 30 mins or so…finally…bliss….I’m sleeping… aaaaaahhhhhhh.

Aw Fuck…..what’s that banging on the door, is it morning all ready ­ nope it’s 20 mins later ­ I hit the call button by accident (apparently not just the call button but the emergency call button) and in come the stormtroopers to wake me up.

Now I’m very very very hot and pissed off (like when you fall asleep on the train or plane for 10 mins and then wake up all flustered) and actually, you know what, I’ve fu**ing had it ­ I start ripping off all the gizmos (cue panic from students) as they call their boss (now it’s 11pm ish) and I ask (well order actually) them to call me a taxi. ­ They look more than a little bemused/freaked out and 15 mins later I’m in a taxi on the way to the local Sheraton where I book the best suite they have available, order chocolate room service deserts by the barrel­load, smoke some more and promptly fall into bed for the best night’s sleep of the past 4 months. 

Out of some twisted sense of misplaced loyalty (?), I do see the doctor in the morning and (adopting concerned tone) he says:

“You’ll still need to pay for the full service” ­

So what, just get me to the airport, but wait, there’s more…..

“I think we can assume you have a mild sleep disorder." So (and wait for this one)…

"I’ll just prescribe you a mild dose of anti depressants,­ don’t worry it’s a really small dose,­ the same one I give to babies to stop them crying and annoying their parents”

And that, boys and girls, is Big Pharma, alive and kicking, showing it’s true colours in the mid summer heat in Southern Brazil. As an end note, I did eventually self cure my insomnia by:

A] Finally understanding that most doctors are just drugs salesman with degrees

B] We all need to take 100% responsibility for our own health and bodies and

C] Natural medicine is 98 times out of a 100 the best solution…in my case I had a severe D3 and Vitamin B12 deficiency don’t ya know and guess what, those two vitamins (well D3 is a hormone actually ­ pedantic self editor) combine to effect the sleep receptors around your Brain Stem and stop proper Delta Sleep, but maybe thats another story for another day.

Until next time…..

Mark Barrott's latest EP can be found HERE. The next release as part of the Sketches For An Island series is expected later this year. 

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