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September 9, 2004

Sleep habits -- I could use some

I am what you'd call a night owl. Always have been. My internal clock defaults to sleeping between about 2 AM and and 9 AM. So here it is, quarter of eleven, and I'm wiiiiide awake. At this time every weeknight, I sit in front of my computer, or with my book, or in front of the TV, and think, hey, it's almost 11. I should go to bed.

Intellectually, I want to go to bed at 11. I imagine 11 to be the ideal bedtime. I fantasize about how much better my life would be if I always went to sleep at 11. Then I could bound happily out of bed at 7, and be cheerfully at work and feeling awake by 8. Perfect! Or if I were feeling ambitious and well-rested enough at 6:30, I could take a long walk with the dog, or have a nice leisurely breakfast with the morning news and still make it to work by 8. I would be a happier, more well-rounded and productive member of society. I would get so much more done: papers would be completed, reading for both work and pleasure would go more quickly, I'd have time to practice the clarinet, and I'd finally get down to finishing our wedding album. My weeks would fly by in a blur of constructive regimen, and I would turn into a hyper-organized, well-rested superwoman.

But can I ever sleep at 11? No way. I lie in bed, tossing and turning, imagining scary noises and shapes in the dark, my mind suddenly and uncontrollably having gone hyperactive. I've tried everything to make it happen: evening exercise, under the theory that if I wear myself out, I'll fall asleep easily at 11. Hot baths, warm milk, and relaxation exercises. No go. I just don't sleep at 11. I can sometimes sleep at midnight, but more typically, sleep comes at 12:30 or 1. When the alarm goes off at 6:45, I feel like I need to sleep for another week. Or more typically, I wake at 5:30, desperately tired, knowing only a little more than an hour of rest remains, mentally shaking my fist at the powers that be for not granting me more sleep.

But here's the thing. Once I find the superhuman energy necessary to get me up and going in the morning, I'm usually just fine. Sure, I have a midday post-lunch slump, when I stare slack-jawed into space for a little while, and I'm often sleepy for a short time after work. Still, I do okay on 6 or 6 and a half hours of sleep. So the situation is not desperate. But how can I reprogram that crazy internal clock? My kingdom for a normal sleep schedule!

Posted by at September 9, 2004 11:33 PM