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Sleepless Nights

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Mark Mark | 15:47 UK time, Wednesday, 16 March 2011


This is my first time writing for the Learning English blog and I'd like to write about three things: my little 5 year old boy, cricket and my biggest gripe - a chronic shortage of sleep!

Tired Man

My little boy, Charlie, doesn't like sleep much, in fact he doesn't like it at all! As a great many parents will know, children are absolutely exhausting, especially at night and Charlie is no exception. Since he was born, Charlie has fallen into the habit of sleeping for just 4 or 5 hours at night before waking up (often around midnight) with bundles of energy and a burning desire to play with some of his favourite toys.

There's not much upside to this night after night, year after year, however recently a surprise fringe benefit emerged.


Any cricket fans amongst you will probably know that some months ago the England cricket team embarked on a mammoth tour of firstly Australia and then Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka for the Cricket World Cup.

England and Australia is the oldest rivalry in cricket and the biennial series of test matches they play, known as The Ashes, is the ultimate sporting highlight for any cricket fan from either country. Although never officially recognised, there is a trophy also colloquially known as The Ashes - a small urn, which legend has it, holds the ashes of a wooden bail that was burned soon after England first lost to Australia back in 1882.

The Ashes

Australia is more or less at the opposite end of the world to England so their daytime is our night time and vice versa. This means that the matches (5 games each lasting up to 5 days) started at about midnight UK time - not generally a convenient time to sit and watch a few hours of cricket. However, thanks to Charlie's insomnia I was often rudely awoken close to the start of play and fortified with copious amounts of black coffee I could keep half an eye on the cricket whilst partially entertaining an overactive 5 year old. To my delight and great surprise, and for the first time in 24 years, England managed to win the Ashes in Australia.

There aren't that many things that I would be happy to get out of bed for in the wee small hours, but Charlie and winning The Ashes are definitely two of them!

How about you? What would you be happy to get out of bed for at midnight?

Language Points:

Gripe: A complaint or moan.

Chronic: Long lasting or continuing or recurring.

Burning Desire: Intense, passionate need or emotion e.g. a burning desire for justice.

Upside: Traditionally means the top or upper surface of something e.g. a desk or table, but can also mean the good or advantageous part of a situation or transaction or the potential for gain.

Fringe Benefit: An incidental or additional advantage.

Biennial: Happening once every two years.

Bail: A cricket term. Small wooden bar that forms part of the wicket.

Vice Versa: Actually Latin - meaning the other way round or relations being reversed.

Insomnia: Inability to fall asleep or remain asleep.

Fortified: Strengthened or secured.

Keep half an eye on. To watch or monitor something whilst primarily concentrating on something else.

The wee small hours: The very early hours of the morning, just after midnight.

Cricket fans can follow the latest news, blogs and coverage on the BBC by clicking here:


  • Comment number 1.

    Hello, Mark

    There’s a proverb that says “''Every cloud has a silver lining.” I don’t know if it is used in UK but I think it fits into your situation very well. Thanks to your little boy you’re able to watch the test matches on TV of England.
    I know nothing about that game but it seems to be a peaceful one.
    Nothing (for the moment) would make me to get out of bed for at midnight happily, I like to sleep all night long.

    Well, I hope your little boy starts to sleep longer than he actually does.
    Please, forgive my mistakes!
    Marcelo from Argentina.

  • Comment number 2.

    Hello Mark,

    I hope you're well and had a good night's sleep last night. A very, very warm welcome to you for this wonderful blog.

    In fact, I don't consider myself at all as a good sleeper. I just don't know why. I am not the sort of person that nods off, or just falls asleep during the daytime. Also, when I am travelling on a plane, I can hardly fall asleep, no matter how exhausted I am.

    To answer your question honestly, I'd be happy to get out of bed for having a delicious glass of milk during the Ramadan. It's my favourite time of the year, however, I am not very religious. In fact, I am used to it from the age of fourteen. And now, I am heading for twenty seven.

    Again, at least I hope you'll get another great night's sleep.

    It's been good meeting you over this great blog. My name is Abdisamad, and I am from Somalia. I have been an online student since 2007.It all started as I was reading the news in my language at BBCSOMALI website, when I saw a link to LEARNING ENGLISH! And then realised how lucky I was to be able to improve my English and at the same time meet some wonderful people over the internet.

    All the very best,


  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Mark,

    You are obviously a good father and I bet that you love him very much. At such an age, kid are usually very active, eager to learn new things and very noisy as well. You must be patient, gentle to be happy getting out of bed in the early morning with Charlie. You make me a little bit shameful knowing that I was not always pleased whenever my little girl wanted to play with me, especially when I returned from a stressful working day.

    You also remind me of the vietnamese man, most of them think that kid caring is duty of the wife, and they hardly share the job with their woman. How to change their mind? Big question, isn't it?

    I don't know much about cricket but sleepless. I am facing the problem for almost 8 years and don't know why. I usually have dreams, both nice and bad ones, during my sleeping time which makes me heavy headache when waking up. That's horrible. Hope you can find a suitable time to sleep and have a good sleep.


    Tran Thi Hong

  • Comment number 4.

    Hello Marcelo,
    Thanks for your comment and what an apt one it was. Every cloud has a silver lining is a very popular idiom in England. The phrase is believed to derive from a poem by John Milton, a famous 17th century British poet. I hope you continue to enjoy many more nights of peaceful sleep.

  • Comment number 5.

    Hello Abdisamad,
    Thanks for your comment. I know just how you feel on aeroplanes - I too, really struggle to get any sleep no matter how tired I am. Happily, my little boy slept quite well last night, so I have a little more energy today than normal.
    I'm delighted you find the website so useful - your English is excellent and I'm glad if we've been able to help.
    Kind regards,

  • Comment number 6.

    Dear Tran Thi Hong,
    Thank you for writing. Please don't be ashamed in any way - I'm often not pleased that my little boy wants to play when I'm very tired too. No-one can be a perfect parent all the time.
    I'm sorry you're not sleeping very well - I hope that your dreams will be peaceful ones.
    Best wishes,

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi, Mark!

    I don't know if you live with your son's mother, but what about breastfeeding 5 or even 8 times per night for 6 months, at least?

    In Brazil we have a popular proverb that says " Since I had a child, I couldn't eat or sleep anymore..." That's quite true! It's difficult to find time to take care of yourself.

    I have 2 daughters. One of them seemed to be overactive too. Today she is 10 and sleeps very early. At 08h30 p.m. And I will tell you the secret.

    I think a very helpful activity for your son is to tell him stories and singing lullabies, touching his little feet, his hands, his breast, his back... very softly, till he gets asleep.

    No videogames, no TV (films or cartoons), nothing that stimulates his brain at night.

    Don't give up. You will see the diference as he grows up. He will be involved with new activities at school and his preferences will change.
    Give him as many books as you can. This is extremely important to his development, and once he learns how to read, he will spend hours and hours discovering this universe of reading. My daughter just loves reading, and now she is very calm. She takes a book to bed, reads some pages, then sleeps all night long.

    Why don't you try it? Tell me what a diference it has made.

    Best wishes for you and all your family.

    Ana, from Rio de Janeiro.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi Mark,

    I think that the best way to overcome a problem is to manage it in a positive way. So, that's what you've done. Anyways, I'm habit to sleep at midnight, and I love it, but I haven't yet a kid.... Maybe the solution is to establish a rule between wife and husband, planning days in which one or the other must stay awake...
    Best wishes,

    Maddalena (Rome)

  • Comment number 9.

    Hi Mark

    It is very happy to see your problem and thank you for sharing your
    child's thing.I think you must be a nice man and very love your family.
    Because,I do not have any children ,I hardly imagine that a five-year-
    old child jumps up and down at midnight. However, I also have some
    problems about my sleep quality. I dream the same thing every night. It
    is about the man who is very ugly and horrible. He always appears in my
    dream and says the strange language which I can not understand. This
    horrible dream has disturbed me for a long time.I try every methods
    which I can do but it is not better than before . I hope that this
    serious problems can be solved someday.

    Best wishes
    By annoyed Darren


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