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Just before starting this, I glanced up at the wall clock to check the time. Holy Cats – it’s 6:30. That’s AM folks, and I’ve been up, eating breakfast and reading the paper for at least an hour. So – what time did I get up and out of bed? Why am I awake and about so early? Do I have someplace to go by 8AM? No. Did I have an alarm ring at 5:30? No. Did I even know how early it was when I was brushing my teeth? No.
None of this would matter if I hadn’t gone to bed at 1AM. Anyway you figure it; I had about four hours of sleep. Recently, I read that I should be getting nine hours of shuteye in order to function properly.
There’s the operative phrase, “function properly,” which I am not. I can’t remember when I started changing my life from night to day and day to night. It probably was when I got digital cable television and the Turner Classic movie channel, which is all night and all day.
My routine used to be, bed – after the 11PM news and up at 8AM. This, plus an early evening snooze from 6 to 6:30PM, kept me moving. Little by little, I started checking out the late movie on the Turner station, and would watch whatever was on until midnight.
As a confirmed movie addict, I should really have known better. I can be dropping from fatigue, but let something catch my interest and I’m wide-awake and ready to go; especially if it’s after 11PM and, more especially, if it’s an old Errol Flynn movie. You’d have to hit me on the head with a shovel to knock me out if Robin Hood is on the screen.
They say if you were to check on newborns in the hospital nursery, you’d be able to identify the future night people. Some of the babies sleep during the night and others are very restive. I can’t remember my infancy, but I can recall how I responded to my mother’s early to bed, early to rise regimen. I objected to it.
It was hard enough in the winter to be trundled off at 7PM – in the summer it was torture. The sun would still be shining, other kids in the neighborhood would be out playing, and my brother and I would be bathed and tucked in for the night. My brother would always be able to drop off into dreamland. I would be raging inside and planning how I would spend my adult life – living it up until dawn.
I always preferred staying up as late as possible. At the same time, my favorite part of the day has always been sunrise, so I know I’m not a vampire. Maybe there’s been more truth than poetry when my incredible nearsightedness has been described as being, “blind as a bat.”
One big drawback to my new way of life is that no one I know shares it with me. Another is that I doze off during the day. This would be okay if I could control my cat napping.
My father was the genetic source for my weird ways. He never slept more than five hours a night, believing that a minute more was a waste of life’s precious time. He went to bed at 1AM and was up at 6AM every day of my life with him. He had developed the art of 20-minute catnaps, which refreshed him completely. He used to instruct me in the art of grabbing some quick Z’s. “Put your head down, close your eyes, breathe deeply, say ‘only 20 minutes’ aloud and go into a deep sleep.” I practiced as faithfully as a student of Zen, and eventually developed the ability to follow his lead.
Now, however, my metabolism, or something, must be changing. I can still stay awake and alert all night, but the following day I drop off into dreamland if I sit and stop moving for an hour. Not only do I go to sleep, I just fall asleep, immediately and without warning. It’s usually for an hour, and quite often, during the last or first few minutes of a TV program, or the middle of a sentence I’m reading.
Now I’m in a terrible quandary. One of my neighbors is insisting she visited last Friday and I can’t remember if she did. I’m wondering, when I awaken from my nap, have I really been asleep or doing a version of sleepwalking? Of course, there’s the possibility my neighbor is confused.
Two nights ago, I forced myself to go to bed at 11PM and wake up at 7AM, but last night I was back at the 1AM drop time and up at 5:30AM – in time for sunrise. Right now it’s time to put my head down.
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