“you can sleep when you’re dead”

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i know that they say this, but do you believe it?

around the time kevin and i started dating, i had drafted my very own sleep experiment. the basic plan was to get to bed by 9pm every week night. this would grant me eight hours of sleep since my alarm goes off at the godawful hour of five in the morning. i was convinced that getting eight hours of sleep would allow me to feel rested at first and to eventually catch up on my sleep (i know you can’t really make up for a lack of sleep, but you can at least level out, i bet) so that i wasn’t tired and lacking energy all the darn time. the findings of the experiment were meant to show that getting sufficient sleep affects all aspects of life. i’m sure it does.

for example, what happens when we don’t get enough sleep?

  • we’re tired
  • we can be grumpy
  • we move slow
  • we lack energy
pretty universal symptoms of exhaustion, right?
myself, i also notice that i:
  • am positively famished all day long (often leading to poor food choices)
  • my stress coping tools completely break down
  • my memory sucks
  • can be irrational in my reactions or decision making
  • can’t think (or speak) straight
  • am overly emotional
not exactly performing at my best. but, who has time to sleep anymore? something’s gotta give as we try to cram our lives with everything that is meaningful to us.
okay, there’s also a little vanity in there: i’m prone to dark circles under my eyes and i’m curious about whether that is why, but i have never had a period of time in my life to reference that. i have never had enough sleep for more than a few consecutive nights in as long as i can remember.Β isn’t that sick?
here’s the thing: i don’t really like to sleep. i’m okay doing it once i’ve started, but it’s like pulling teeth to get me to turn out the lights. by all accounts, it’s been my nature since i was a child. my folks swear that i wasn’t ever interested in sleeping. when i started to “sleep through the night” i would stay up until the wee hours of the morning, wake up 4-5 hours later and be good to go for the day. that’s it. end of story. that trend remains intact. i go to bed later than i should and i am up early in the morning. sleeping in doesn’t appeal to me because there are just things so much better to do!
my pursuit of sleep began a few years back when i was seeing my first naturopath. she concerned herself greatly over the fact that i would read with the light on in bed until i fell asleep. i realize that, for most people, that means recognizing when eyes get heavy, marking a page in the book and switching off the lamp. not me. i would wake in the morning still holding the book, my fingers securely keeping my spot, the room still illuminated. anyone familiar with circadian rhythm and adrenal function may know how important it is to sleep in a dark room. chantelle was so dedicated to getting me to sleep with the lights off that she even bought me a timer to ensure that it was lights out for me after 11pm.
i’ve gotten much better at sleeping since the days when we first started working on my adrenals. i don’t leave the lights on all night very often anymore and i swear by melatonin, taking the stuff every night between 10 and midnight. one lucky plus is that i have moved away from shift work and now report to a regular day job. in theory that is supposed to be better for me, but it has its drawbacks, too. i am a night owl. it’s just fact. i loved the graveyards and i could do them well while meeting a much lower sleep requirement. even after three plus years of working “normal” hours and having had a good night’s sleep, i don’t often feel as productive as i used to be back in my shift days. at home, if i’m inspired to take on a household project, the majority of the work will be done when my motivation arrives – after dark. i miss the nights.
maybe it’s aging or just gaining a better sense of what is healthy for me, but i’ve started to have sleep fantasies in the last year or so. this makes me want to sleep more (in theory – i like to imagine myself getting more sleep, but i still do almost anything and everything to avoid it.) my vision is that more and better sleep would change the way my life looks. while functioning better at work and at home, i’d have the energy to get the exercise intend and conquer more of the tasks i dream about taking on. exhausted is an awful way to feel. it just adds to the draining.
one word of advice: throw in the towel on any experiments you are planning, particularly ones involving sleep, when you meet and begin a relationship with the love of your life. rest and relaxation do not figure highly on the list of priorities when you’ve got a new someone shiny to explore. now that we’re getting to the point of incorporating our lives to accommodate the necessities that had gone by the wayside (like gym for him, yoga for her) i’m considering another foray into sleep research. got any tips?
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5 responses »

  1. Ah, birds of a feather….

    I’ve always been a night owl and simply have been able to always and forever ignore my, “get to sleep, dumbass”, signals that my body produces. Or rather, I’m able to power through them for the most part and keep going on 2nd, 3rd, 4th…..winds.

    The only part I’m unable to do without coaxing is getting up — late to bed, late to rise, unless I have to, so I set 2 alarm clocks and sometimes not even that works. But I rarely voluntarily get up early. Even today, when I had planned on sleeping in, I’m up and at ’em early because I’m on call and had to handle something.

    That being said, I find more and more that if I sleep in, I feel worse and worse. Sleep till noon, feel like a hangover all day, even if I needed the sleep. I hate it — I’d rather sleep till noon! πŸ™‚

    I’ve tried time and time again to get to bed early, but if I do, I almost certainly sacrifice a great deal of my evenings. I don’t get home till 7 or later most nights and if I went to bed at 9 or 10, I’d have very little time to accomplish anything. Couple that with the fact that both wife and child are on a bed-at-midnight schedule, and it means that not only do I lose hours of play and interaction with my son, but I would dump his care and looking-after and bedtime prep on my wife every night as well. Not feasible, so I stay up.

    I’m not sure “sleep when I’m dead” is something I buy into, but “sleep when it makes more sense”, perhaps. I’d love to be better-slept. I work so much better when I am. But life is rushing by and I’d hate to say I missed a bunch because I was in bed.

    • your last statement, nathan, well, that’s exactly it. i guess maybe i just wonder if the stuff that i didn’t miss would be better experienced if i was in better form.

      we have the same conflict. yes, i get up at 5am, but kevin gets up at 7:30. i get home from work at 4/4:30 and by the time he leaves the office, goes home to feed the cat and gets out to my place, it’s 6-ish. by the time i finish making dinner and we eat and clean up (yes, that happens occasionally,) if i go to bed at nine, we have about 30 minutes to hang out. i’m easily swayed to sacrifice sleep at that point because i want to have some fun, damn it! πŸ˜‰

  2. I’m also a coffee-loving night-owl who works at night and doesn’t like to sleep. And as soon as I awake in my darkened room, I’d pick up the ipod or ipad. I don’t know if it’s the screens’ light or extra brain activity that’s triggered, but I’d be soon out of bed, lacking enough hours of sleep. Recently, after I wake up, I tell myself not to pick up any digital devices. After awhile, some much-needed hours of sleep would follow! Anyway, that’s my lil tip: keep those digital devices at bay, at least for awhile πŸ™‚

  3. good thinking, howie. i’ve noticed that, too. i’m so attached to that stuff. my iphone is actually the first thing i do every morning: email, twitter, facebook. that’s mostly because i can still do it *from* bed.

    it’s not really getting out of bed that is my problem because i know i don’t have a choice. it’s the other end – convincing myself to get to bed on time. for a while, i set an alarm to go off 60 minutes before bed so that i am aware that the day is winding down and that it’s time to start getting ready for bed. thing is, it’s pretty darn easy to just shut an alarm off and continue on with stimulating activity…

  4. I don’t have good sleep habits at all. I have always been a night owl regardless of the time I have to wake up. People tell me it will change when I have kids but my mom was the exact same way and it never changed for her. I don’t know what it is, it’s like if I go to sleep early I am afraid I will miss something.

    As much as I like being a night owl it is something I am trying to change for many reasons. It really isn’t healthy and being healthy is something I am trying to strive for right now. Better sleep has to be part of that journey for me.

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