Remember sleep? I do.
As a small child, I had nightmares. The world was big and scary, and I was a very little girl; monsters were everywhere. Like all little kids, I didn’t want to go to bed. This changed when I hit puberty.
For many of us, sleeping past noon during the teenage years is far from unusual. Medical experts tell us that teens need at least nine hours of sleep because generating strange, new body hair, engaging in extreme risk-taking behaviors, and interacting with peers through painful insecurity is exhausting.
The child-rearing years are especially brutal. During the reproductive moment, we love sleep; we pray for sleep; we crave rest, but there is none. I remember telling my mother, around this time, about a dream I had in which I was sooo tired, but there was nowhere to lie down, except a broken lawn chair in the middle of a crowded room. She laughed before telling me that my dream probably meant I had no rest and no privacy. She was right.
Then the kids grow up, the circus leaves town, and bedtime comes back for the weary, but guess what? Now I’m in my late forties and sleep becomes a myth. No worries; I’ll just go to college. Nobody sleeps in college. I can make this work. Sure, sure, but when college is over and grad school becomes a no-go, then what?
Most mornings, I wake up around three a.m., give or take thirty minutes. Maybe I’ll go the bathroom . . . again. Maybe I’ll lie there thinking of blog posts, work pitches, family, sewing, or any of the thousand-and-one things marching around, tossing beads to the crowd from the guilt parade in my head.
This is not insomnia. I know people with insomnia; this is different. This is not me stumbling around from lack of sleep. This is me becoming an old woman who doesn’t need the same amount of sleep she once needed, long ago. I seem to operate just fine on about five to six hours. Weird.
Weird and Getting Weirder
I love my bed. Wait, lemme rephrase: I used to love my bed. Now my bed is a place of sleep fail. The strangest part of this bizarre dynamic is the fact that I start falling asleep around seven-thirty to eight o’clock at night. By eight-thirty, I’m more-or-less gone.
Yet, come three in the morning, all systems are flickering online.
First, the bathroom for the umpteenth time. Then, the hotness; did I mention the hotness? I’m freezing all the way to the bathroom and back, I get under the covers, and now I’m burning in the deepest realms of hormone hell. Anything that touches anything is suddenly coated in sweat. Good times.
Next, the sinus shifting and throat clearing, signalling the arousal of the ventilation system. After honking my nose (and attending to other lovelies), Mission Control is fully operational and the brain is engaged in the day’s to-do list. At this point, it’s over. Might as well fire up the coffee pot and check emails.
I begin to wonder how this is going to turn out. Will I wake up earlier and earlier in the mornings, only to fall asleep earlier in the evenings? If this keeps up, I could actually get an extra day, here and there. If my days continue to shorten, why not? I might even gain a whole week every few months, right?
Making lemonade out of life’s lemons (or catching what rest I can get on a broken lawn chair) is what I do. If this isn’t working so well, maybe that will work better. Adaptation is far more productive than ritual. Sure, I would love to sleep a solid eight and work a solid sixteen, but that’s not what’s happening, right now. Life does what it wants, and it’s a lot bigger than me and my sleep schedule.
So, staying up late is not in my skill set, anymore. Nothing good happens after midnight, anyway. Besides, sleeping less is kind of cool. Waking up early gives me time to read, write, and pray. Change isn’t necessarily bad, just different.
Maybe I like it. I can like it, if I want to.