I feel that I have been programmed with a five hour down time since birth. Some of this has to do with my childhood fears
of going to bed at night and my parents choice to expose me to almost any kind of television and movies I wanted, even if the movie Poltergeist
kept me rigid in my bed at the age of nine, eternally afraid of clowns from that moment on. From even the age of 2 I remember sneaking into my bathroom after bed time
and flipping through picture books to pass the time
until I was ready to sleep.
I was put through the rigors of private school my whole life and, when I hit high school, the closest private school my parents could afford was an hour away. I soon became accustomed to getting up almost before dawn and sleeping all the way to school in my carpool. At night, I would often creep out into the living room and watch TV on mute or wake up at ungodly hours of the morning, unable to sleep.
College allowed me a lull in this pattern, as it tends to do because it invites so many opportunities for self inflicted sleep deprivation and/or odd timing of unconsciousness. Even still, I worked a part time job all through college, and so sleep was always a luxury, something you did after all other options were exhausted, literally. It amazes me to this day how many things are more appealing than sleep, how much life is just not worth missing out on, even if it's just to watch a marathon of Real World episodes or eat a Denny's Southern Slam at 4 in the morning, and not, in my case, because you've been out all night already.
I've been out of college for four years now, and I still get little over five hours a night of sleep. If I crash at 8pm, I'm up at 1am. Which is why I try to be in bed and asleep by midnight so as to coincide with my normal wakeup time at 5am, though it seldom works. There are times when I will just shut down early and wake up still in the pm, and wonder if I will be able to function, if I can get back to sleep now. Which is what happened tonight. So now it's 2am and I have to be up in 3 hours. I'm having another beer and hoping.
For me, sleep has seldom been a peaceful, graceful thing. It has almost always been a period of recharging, as if my body were some battery operated machine. I am reminded too often that while it is not so predictable as a machine, my body responds to repetition with startling accuracy, often in the times when I don't want it to, such as the weekend mornings when I actually have the option of sleeping in and I wake up wide at 8am. So I move with it. I listen to Car Talk on Saturday mornings, or hit the gym early to get it out of the way. So many of my activities are previewed with the phrase well, since I'm up anyway…
I wonder where the 8 hour work day went, where the early to bed early to rise slogan can be applied, even now, 24 years into my life. I wonder what I would have accomplished so far if I'd had just 2 more hours of restful sleep per night, or how much more those few hours left still awake have provided me.
Your mind does that when it tabulates things, like how many Diet Cokes or bags of pretzels you've eaten in a year and how much that adds up to. It's almost too much for your brain to process and there's little you can do with the results but reflect. Or try to change the pattern.
My toaster is set on 'fresh pastry', and I've pretty much just accepted it.