Despite my schizophrenic relationship with it, I like to sleep. I mean, I like to sleep in the way that most people like indoor plumbing and oxygen. This isn’t something that has always been the case, and I don’t know what has changed, other than, well, I guess the obvious (age and motherhood) but it is what it is.
When I was in high school, we lived in a small house and only had one shower and a limited hot water tank. All four of us wanted to take a shower in the morning, and so to ensure that I could get much needed bathroom time and not have to rinse my hair (which was long and plentiful at the time) in ice water I woke up at 5:00 am to take the first shift. I considered myself a ‘morning person’ and was fully functional from the moment I became conscious. I actually liked the quietness of the early morning before most people were up. As a small child I remember being the first one up and wondering why everyone else just wanted to lie in bed and do nothing. My Mother was at the absolute other end of the spectrum, and it was the job of me and my sister to make sure she woke up in time to get to work. This was always something we dreaded doing. At first she’d groan things like, “just five more minutes” but when we got more urgent she’d say things through gritted teeth like, “if you bother me one more time I will put my elbow in your eye.”
In college, I convinced myself that I didn’t need much sleep – or maybe I really didn’t back then. I remember a time when there was no point in going to a party/event/club until 11:00pm because nothing happened before then, and also thinking that was not only reasonable but do-able. I remember studying until about 1:00am, and then going to bed and setting my alarm for 4:00am to finish what I hadn’t gotten done. As long as I got at least three hours of sleep in a row I figured I’d had a good night’s sleep. Of course, that was back in the day where in the Student Center there were couches and chairs (and hideously ugly lamps that were welded to the side tables as if someone were in danger of saying, “I must have that horrible lamp!” and stealing it) all over the place. There were generally people in the couches and chairs sleeping, sometimes with notes pinned to their shirts saying something like, “If I’m still sleeping at 4:30, please wake me.” I was occasionally (ok, often) one of those people.
These days if I am in not in my pjs by 9:30, you know something has gone terribly wrong. If I know ahead of time I am only going to get six or seven hours of sleep I dread the next day, which I know will be a yawn-fest and a real slog to get through. I know for a fact I’m not nearly as quick-witted or able to think on my feet when I’m tired. When the alarm rings it gets snoozed within an inch of its life, and I really truly am not functional until I’ve had a cup (or three) of coffee and some time to clear my head.
All of this might lead you to the conclusion that I am *good* at sleeping, but that’s not true, either. Without the aid of modern medicine, I sleep only intermittently and very shallowly. There are many nights in which I am convinced I didn’t sleep at all. I have contrived elaborate sleep rituals to try to combat this – glass of milk, reading, lavender oils – but they only work a little. I did a sleep study once upon a time to see if there was any physiological reason why this was (there wasn’t.) Of course, if I have trouble sleeping in my own bed, you can only imagine how much trouble I have in a strange bed, especially with about seventy zillion wires glued to different spots all over my body, and with the knowledge that there was someone I had only just met watching me on a monitor all night. I don’t remember the exact number, but after that event I learned that I had something like only 63% sleep efficiency, which was relatively stinky on the relative scale of sleep efficiency.
I’m always surprised after a big [insert exhausting social event like birthday party/trial/wedding/performance here] people want to go out afterwards for a cup of coffee or glass of wine. All I ever want (even without the excuse of a big event) is a nap. Probably because I so rarely get them. It makes me stamp my feet like a three year old about the fact that actual three year olds complain about being forced to take naps.
So here’s my proposal. We should make some kind of regulation, or at the very least make it a social norm, that around 3:00pm every afternoon we are in a state called “quiet time” and we all have to speak in whispers and/or put our heads down on our desks and just chill for a half hour. Kind of like tea time, but without the caffeine, fine china, and crumpets. I honestly think productivity would go up.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it is getting on 9:00pm as I type this, and it is time for me to get my glass of milk.
Lori B. Duff is the author of the Amazon ‘Hot New Release’ Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza, a collection of autobiographical humor essays. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/loribduffauthor