The Science of Sleep

While reading and simultaneously ruining (magazines can’t hold up to excessive amounts of steam like a book can) my new issue of Wired in the bath tub, I came across a sidebar on sleeping. Three simple facts reminded me that 1) you need more sleep than you think you do, 2) being a night owl helps get your creative juices flowing, and 3) getting up at the crack of dawn will stress you out.

Of course, I’m writing this at 3:30am. The city stopped blinking. In fact, I almost always write my blog posts at some godless hour of the morning after my epic midnight bath. My schedule, unfortunately, bleeds sleep. I make up for it on the weekends, or suffer through cranky weeks of disjointed restlessness.

See, I love sleeping more than fat people love food.

My parents thought it was an adolescent phase. I couldn’t wake up in time for high school, and by senior year made it a point to drop first period to get 45 minutes of extra sleep rather than an AP class that would ensure my admission into an ivy. No, sleep was more important, though it wasn’t a phase. In my sub-ivy league college dorm, I would stay up until dawn smoking packs of Camels and writing. When my roommate woke up for crew team I tuckesleepd in for the evening, not to be disturbed until I skipped my 11am class, my 2pm class, and my 3:30pm class. But I never missed my Hitchcock film course at 5. I rarely ever slept past 5.

I didn’t need more than 12 hours of sleep. I mean, I wasn’t sick.

It was more than justifiable for my parents to express doubt that I would ever hold down a real job. I nearly failed college French because it was scheduled four times a week at noon. How could I get to a cubicle at 9am?

I don’t know, but I did it. I moved to New York and stopped staying up until 5am. I got to my first job, an assistantship in book publishing, and made it happen. After my promotion I began arriving later and later. My current job at a magazine requires me in the office by 10am. I still struggle to make it in on time, though I blame that on the L train and the 15 minute walk to the bowels of 10th avenue. But most weeknights I am up, pecking away furiously on my keyboard, ignoring old friends from Europe who have already signed online at work the next day. I consider myself lucky if I get 6 hours of sleep on a work night and rarely get over 7, though I set my alarm for 8:45am.

I wish I could change the hours of everything. I’ve started some of my work writing after midnight, and what takes me an hour at work flows out of me in fifteen minutes. Paragraphs of blogging pour out of me; poetry and music and books are absorbed. All my best epiphanies happen in the dark. If I am the most artistic, thoughtful, and functional at 3am, working normal job hours ruins my productivity and stifles my creativity. It also makes me crazy.

Is it a medical condition, like ADD or obesity? Probably not. Like everything else I’ve diagnosed wrong with me, it’s probably steeped in some hormonal imbalance. But at least Wired has backed me up on it.

I really hate to go there, but at least tonight I won’t lose sleep over it.


2 responses to “The Science of Sleep

  1. My parents are still convinced I have some sort of sleep disorder. From the time I’ve been one month old, I slept for ten hours straight, and I get my best work done after midnight and before 5AM, with optimum hours around 2-3:30. My parents, too, were convinced I’d never hold down a “real” job, but lo and behold, here I am, late every day practically because I refuse to get out of bed before 8. But hey, I work for the government so it doesn’t really matter.

  2. I am in exactly the same boat when comes to sleeping. For whatever reason that magical 2 – 3 am window rolls around and my brain just won’t turn off with ideas for the blog. So I generally sit down and write some of it out, even if I have to be up at 10 am.

    I love the night, and it’s only a matter of time til I end up in the city. Thanks for the heads up on Wired.

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