I’m having palpitations. My doctor suggests turning my phone off at night

Hilary Fannin: I sleep fine – apart from the flatulent cat, the pinging phone with messages from Perth– seriously, I sleep just fine

Turn my phone off at night? There’s an idea.

I go to visit my GP.


“Um, yes.”

“What kind of rhythm?”



“Regular? Irregular?”

“Em, kind of boom-boom, boom-boom, only faster. Kind of boomboomboomboom.”

“Regular then.”


“And you say these palpitations tend to occur at night?”


“How are you sleeping?”

“Okay. Fine. Well, the cat can be a bit flatulent, but I sleep pretty well, apart from being woken up in the middle of the night by my phone, which sometimes bleeps with news alerts.”


“And sometimes dings with messages from my mates in Perth.”


“It’s a city in western Australia.”

“I’m aware of that.”

“My friends have got a big hairy dog and an awful lot of sunshine to contend with, and they go surfing and sometimes their local beach is cordoned off because of shark attacks. It’s fun to hear from them.”

“I see.”

“And sometimes, late at night, my phone also pings with email offers for side-opening bath tubs and stair lifts.”

“Stair lifts?”

“Yep. And sometimes I’m offered the opportunity to buy Velcro slippers and hand gadgets to pick up things on the floor without bending down. Oh, and recently I’ve been getting dire warnings in my late-night inbox about the need to stockpile Viagra before there’s chaos at the ports.”


“And occasionally, deep in the endless night, I receive email inducements to purchase an interest-free deep-seater pillow-back couch with washable covers in soothing vanilla tones.”

“Vanilla? Nothing in turf brown or gun-metal grey, no?”

“Afraid not. But I quite like those discreet sofa advertisements that gently stir me to wakefulness. With the cat slumbering noisily at the end of the bed, I mentally start redecorating the house, throwing out all my old crap and starting again in soft and cloudy hues of cream and cream.

“But then I start worrying about landfill. I mean, where will the old red chair in the kitchen go? And, I ask myself, sitting up and groping around for my dressing-gown and accidentally braining the moggie, while we’re on on the subject of landfill, and environmental destruction, and raging seas and crumbling cliff faces, and burning forests and thirsty deserts, what kind of world my children will inherit. And, should they have the desire to have any, what about their children and their children’s children?”


“Stumbling downstairs in the dark for a glass of water, I speculate whether those unborn generations are going to end up living in sealed underground city-pods, fighting oxygen wars, living on chemical nutrients, eking out water-flavoured water and being governed by cockroaches in polystyrene suits.”

“I see.”

‘My haggard reflection’

“Then I glimpse my haggard reflection in the patio doors, Doctor, and ask myself if avarice and wanton ignorance will force us back into a new Stone Age played out on flooded plains.”

“You do, do you?”

“Will there be a total reversal of humankind’s cultural, artistic and scientific achievements? Will we end up eating lightly poached middle-aged ladies for breakfast?”

“I’m failing to find any relationship between those two questions.”

“I put on the kettle as the clock strikes 4am, Doctor. Reaching for the teabags, I realise that I’ve forgotten to buy the unbleached variety. I’m probably personally responsible for the death of a dozen baby turtles by now.”

“Steady on.”

“Is this it? Is this what the future holds? Is it? Is it? I’m sorry, what was the question? Do I sleep okay? Oh yeah, no, seriously, I do, yeah. I sleep just fine.”

She takes my blood pressure and listens to my heart with her stethoscope. She sits down again.

“Maybe the palpitations are to do with the menopause,” I offer helpfully.

She raises an eyebrow. That ship, she seems to imply, has well and truly sailed.

“Do you drink a lot of coffee?’


“And sleep with your phone beside the bed?”


“Turn off your phone at night and cut down on coffee.”

“Turn it off?”

“Turn off your phone. Go for a walk in the evening, get some air, eat more greens and add turmeric to your diet. And breathe. Breathing helps.”

“Turmeric. Greens. Phone off. Evening walk. Breathe.”


“Brilliant! So I don’t need something big and shiny and medical and expensive and invasive and inconvenient to happen?”

She shakes her head.

I leave the surgery, take my phone out of my pocket and look up the health benefits of turmeric. I find that, according to Doc Google, the gnarly yellow anti-inflammatory antioxidant goddess has the the potential to help prevent all sorts of diseases.

Real or imagined.