But then along came the distance swimming, which completely transformed the quality of my sleep. I've done other endurance sports - marathon, triathlon - but while I've found these exhausting, I've never really found them restful. But swimming....well, that's a different thing altogether. As my openwater training escalated in 2009, I noticed a distinct dropping off in my novel reading, going from reading several books a week in bed before sleep, to barely a few pages each night before falling asleep, often with book in hand. I knocked my sunset light off the bedside table accidentally one day and it broke, but I didn't replace it - I was no longer awake for long enough to even remember to switch it on. After long sea swims, I started to experience an utterly delicious, fully-body tiredness that made every surface look like I could curl up on it for a nap. Even in the middle of the intensifying pressures of work, I slept more profoundly than I could ever remember.
Fast-forward to the present. The stroke correction programme I've been following has been engaging and productive, but it's not "swimming" - not enough to produce the lovely easy sleep of long distance training. And I've been running, but only 3-4 miles a few times a week, and in any case, running just doesn't work in the same way for me. And so, as the stresses of term have intensified, my quality of sleep has declined; the herbal sleeping pills are back, and I had to buy a new sunset light. But then, last week, I decided that it was time to reintroduce swimming (as opposed to just drilling) into my training, and have started doing sets on top of my daily drills - only 2-3km at a time for now, and always trying to swim mindful of my stroke corrections, but swimming, nevertheless. And lo and behold...my swim-sleep has returned - something which has been aided by my fairly poor swim-specific fitness, meaning that I get nicely tired even at relatively low distances. Bad news for my hopes of keeping up with contemporary fiction; but great news for my general well-being. Here's to sleeping like a swimmer.