It is 6:19am as I sit down to write this morning. I woke up at 5:30, an improvement over yesterday’s 5:00. Sleep has been a tricky thing for me for my entire life. I began having sleeping problems in second grade, when my family moved back to the states from India. Perhaps I just have decades-long jet-lag. But I suspect another culprit – I’m a worrier. I don’t remember worrying at all in India; I have a halcyon view of my life there. But somewhere along the way, I turned into a planner and worrier. And those qualities are not conducive to good sleep.
Elementary school was rough for me, especially the first year in Virginia. I remember being unhappy a lot of the time, and trying to stay home sick way too frequently. Before the start of third grade, my mom and I went to the school to make sure a certain boy tormenter of mine was not in my class; he wasn’t, and things got better. But I wasn’t sleeping. I can remember so many nights, lying in loft bed and crying because I couldn’t fall asleep. I knew I had to get up early the next morning, and the later it got, the more despondent I would feel, trying to force myself to fall asleep. My neighbor and family friend gave me a relaxation tape to listen to on my little portable cassette deck. It did nothing other than annoy me. I would listen to a Baroque Classics tape over and over – to this day, Albinoni’s Adagio (which FYI is apparently a hoax, written by Italian musicologist Remo Giazotto, something I just discovered this moment through Wikipedia) makes me flash back to grade school and the frustration of being unable to fall asleep. I used to lie there and worry – about anything and everything. What if I was one of those smart kids who couldn’t do anything practical, and I never learned to drive? Where would I go to college? What if I didn’t get in to college? (You’d think I would worry about current tests and papers, but no, I was usually focused on 10-20 years in the future.) Though I did worry about getting up the next morning, of course.
Along with my inability to fall asleep came a struggle to get up each morning. Once I had a clock radio with a snooze button, my path was set for the next 15 years. It didn’t get out of control until after freshman year of college, when I no longer had theory at 8am every day, but once I didn’t actually have to get up for class, it became a huge problem. It actually lasted until around 2008, when I left the Army and a lot of things in my life changed. I could hit the snooze button for hours. I was a champion snoozer. Even knowing logically that the quality of sleep I got while “snoozing” was absolutely terrible, I couldn’t stop myself. I tried so many things to make myself stop hitting the snooze – I would put the alarm all the way across the room (no problem: jump out of bed, run across the room, hit snooze, run back to bed and snuggle in); I would put the alarm under the bed (that only worked when I would hit my head hard enough to really wake up while trying to crawl under the bed to hit the snooze); I recorded a friend yelling at me to get up and used that as an alarm. Nothing worked.
I know many people read to make themselves sleepy, and that will occasionally work for me now, but it never worked for me as a child, as a teenager, or through my twenties and most of the time now in my thirties. I have stayed up until 4 or 5 many times to finish a book. For the most part, the trouble I had falling asleep went away for good once I endured basic training. But it wasn’t until I was out of my Army career, had fallen in love, and was the most genuinely happy I’ve ever been in my life that I really started sleeping normally. Domingos works normal hours, and I go to bed when he goes to bed. Sometimes I’ll stay up a little later with my book light and puzzles or book, but in general I’m down when he is and up when he is. It’s brought a wonderful consistency to my life. In the last year, however, I’ve started to develop another problem, one I never thought I’d have. I’m waking up, tired but wide awake, at horrible, pre-sunrise times. Every once in a while I’m able to fall asleep again, but usually once I’m up, I’m up, and I’ve learned not to fight it.
As an aside, read Nancy Kress’s Beggars in Spain trilogy, about humans genetically engineered not to need sleep. Great story, and I so wish I’d been genetically tweaked like that!
This post was brought to you by Gloria Jean’s Hazelnut Coffee with 3 Splenda and a splash of fat-free half-and-half