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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

To Sleep...Perchance To Dream...Or At Least Not Wake Up Every Freaking Hour

I have never been good at the sleep thing.

I have been a nocturnal person for as long as I can remember. My younger days were spent reading books under the covers with a flashlight and feigning sleep with the parents checked in on me, then in high school it was me with headphones listening to music. Sometimes after my parents were asleep, I'd get up and turn the light on and write or read or something or I'd get of bed after my parents went to sleep, sneaking out of the house and walking around town.

The parent I am now cringes at that memory, but I grew up in a beautiful desert town and the stars at 2 am filled the sky and it was better than laying there in bed, feeling bored.

College was filled with lots of all-nighters studying for tests, finishing papers, or late night rehearsals. Oh, and parties. And boyfriends.

Post-college working and married life wasn't much different. I'd be up for hours after the ex sacked out, and when he'd be bright-eyed and ready for our morning commute, I'd be sinking into the car seat and blasting the air conditioner to keep myself awake.

I used to envy my ex, because he'd close his eyes at night and nothing short of a direct blast from a flamethrower could have roused him before about 6am.

He slept like the dead. Of course, this was totally lousy for me when the kids came along since I was essentially a single mother from 10pm to 6am, but really...I was up anyway, whether I wanted to be or not.

Now that the kids are gone every other weekend, I have a real dilemma. On my kid-free weekends (and with no one else around to set a schedule to), my body clock goes haywire. Friday and Saturday nights I usually turn in between four and five the following morning and I cheerfully sleep to noon. Sunday night I force myself into bed for the coming workday, but it's still 2-3am  before I drift off.

I read an interesting discussion the other day about the changing sleep patterns that occurred with the advent of electric lighting. The old "up at dawn, asleep by nightfall" stuff doesn't really apply much anymore, but it turns out that it used to be pretty common to practice something called segmented sleep.

This is how people slept on the farm and small villages. We lost this way of sleeping with the advent of the Industrial Revolution and electric lighting. The entire nature of sleep was changed with the need to clock in at the same time each morning. Then the electric light allowed us to stay up later, further eroding our sleep.

Back then dinner was at five, so most would fall asleep on a full belly. You would sleep for five hours or so, waking around eleven. This was one of the few times you got any privacy, so lots of babies were conceived during this period, or you'd catch up on reading or correspondence by candlelight.Then you would be back asleep around two or three, to sleep another few hours before the rooster crowed.

I think I'm still wired this way. I can drowse here and there on the overnight, but honestly, my deepest sleep hits me in the early morning hours. I almost always awaken from a dream, indicating REM sleep closer to daylight. And on those kid-free weekends when I'm up all night and sleeping the morning away?

I feel great. And I get SO much done after 9pm. My house gets cleaned, I write like a fiend, I watch movies and even take a stroll sometimes.

Let me tell you, friend, if you've never taken a walk under a clear summer sky full of stars, or in the quiet of a snowfall to see the moonlight on the snow and glittering off the ice on the don't know what you're missing.

So you can have your roosters crowing and your sun-saluting daybreak yoga. I'd rather be nestled sound asleep in my bed with The Rock or Brendan Fraser feeding me grapes on a chaise lounge on a beach somewhere in my dreams.

I'll catch up with you later. A lot later.

Am I the only one? Any other night owls out there?

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