Saturday, June 02, 2007

Awake When the World Sleeps

I've never been a good sleeper. My mom always told me the first night she brought me home from the hospital I was awake at night and slept during the day. That seems to have set a pattern for life.

For reasons I don't fully comprehend I love to be awake when the rest of the world is sleeping. I'm not sure why. It's not like I'm doing things that require the cover of darkness. At 1:00 this morning I was working on some MHA projects. At 2:30 I was playing the piano. Then I journaled for a bit and then went upstairs to bed. I have napped a bit but never fully went to sleep. At 5 I decided if I couldn't go to sleep in a few minutes I'd get up. At 5:35 I got up again.

So, here I am, before 6 a.m. on a Saturday, up and about. I've hauled more recycling out to the curb, I've gathered more things to go to Salvation Army and I'm headed out to the backyard in a few minutes to spread mulch. Like I said - not exactly things that require a clandestine lifestyle.

What my deal is with sleep, I don't know. Years and years ago, before anyone had heard of such things, I participated in a sleep study at a University. The results were that I had a sleep disorder - it had a name, but I've long since forgotten it. The upshot of it was that I go into REM sleep quickly and that making my body live on a schedule that's unnatural for it is going to spell disaster at some point.

This was never more apparent to me than when I worked in public radio and had to keep really odd hours during fundraisers. I can keep odd hours - that's no problem - I do that quite well - but it takes me MONTHS to then get back into a regular routine. I was pretty much always in trouble after fundraiser for not being back on a normal 8-5 schedule a day or two after working until midnight or 1, and then sometimes being up for another 2-3-4 hours to calm down enough to sleep. I could never understand how people could do it so quickly - I envied that ability. I just could not physically make myself get out of bed - it was as impossible as if I had been tied down - I just could not do it. And I'd lay there, knowing I was going to be in trouble, and only sleeping fitfully, so not even benefiting from it. It was an unpleasant way to live, and let me tell you there is no sympathy for someone who can't keep "normal" hours - even if you have an "official" diagnosis.

These days I'm very cautious about listening to what my body tells me about sleep because a deprivation can bring on an A-fib attack. I realize now I was having them off and on for years - particularly those mornings after fundraiser hours - I just didn't know what they were. But I didn't know that feeling had a name, and now I do. We live and learn.

I may be up all day today, and then I may crawl back in bed at 9 a.m. - I don't know - it will all depend on how I feel. But I know I get a lot more done letting my body dictate when it wants to sleep. I sleep fewer hours than most people, and therefore have more productive hours each day - but they don't all happen between 8 and 5. Fortunately, today is a Saturday and no one is expecting me anywhere at any particular time.

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