Friday, March 2, 2012

Night Owls

I'm a night owl. Readers on the west coast aren't surprised to hear that. Most readers who share my time zone don't see new posts until they get up in the morning. I'm not sure if everybody is born with a particular clock for sleeping and waking, but I was, and it hasn't changed since I was born no matter how hard people tried to change me.

My mom and my grandma tried to feed it out of me. When I was two weeks old they started spooning mashed potatoes and gravy into my mouth and pouring whole milk and dark Karo syrup in my bottles so I would sleep at night. I didn't. Typically babies don't sleep all night at two weeks anyway, but no matter what they tried, I didn't go to sleep when they wanted me to. They thought I was being stubborn. My mom said I was afraid I was going to miss something, but that wasn't it.

Later my parents tried to beat it out of me. That didn't work. They would put me to bed at a "reasonable" hour--9:00 or so. I would lie awake for hours, daydreaming about sex, singing under my breath, trying to be as quiet as I could so nobody would know I was still awake while the entire house slept--except for the mice in the walls. When I was 8, I got a little white transistor radio. I would turn it all the way down and put it against my ear. I could barely hear it, but it was enough to keep me company. Sometimes I could even pick up a station in Kansas City, my favorite, and I would listen to it for hours. I thought someday I would be that sultry late night voice on the radio, awake and playing music while most people slept. Eventually about 2:00, I would give up and fall asleep. It didn't matter what time I had to get up for school, I couldn't go to sleep until long after everybody else had.

When I got married, I still couldn't go to sleep until 2:00 or later. That was fine as long as I was tending bar and supporting us. But once I was in college and LtColEx was working, my sleep schedule became a problem. He tried guilt: "I have to work to support us and you can get up whenever you want. I can't go to sleep if you're not here sleeping, so you have to go to bed at a reasonable hour." I would read a book until he couldn't take it any longer, and then I would lie awake for hours, listening to him breathe, waiting for him to twitch (restless leg syndrome), daydreaming.....

When Drake and Elvira were babies getting up with them in the night was no problem at all. I loved being up with them in the middle of the quiet, milky night, when everything was still and the windows were dark. It was mornings I had to drag my ass through. But babies take naps in the morning. So did I.

For the most part now, I'm able to arrange my schedule so I go to bed about 4 hours later than most people and sleep 2-3 hours later. I can force myself to get up early, but I can't force myself to go to sleep before 2:00 am. Most of my colleagues would rather teach morning classes, so I'm happy to take the afternoon shift. I'm often grading papers into the early hours of the morning, before I go to bed.

If I do have to attend a morning function for some reason, people who think they know me are surprised that I'm not the same person at 8:00 or 9:00 am as I am at 11:30 or later. I'm a zombie. I can't focus, and I can't engage. I'm no longer an E on the Meyers Briggs. I'm no letter at all. I don't function.

I think sometimes about getting a day job, a normal job which would require me to work from 9-5 and then leave my work at the office. I've done it before when I had to, for a few months at a time. I just can't take the leap though.

It sounds lazy, but I do the same amount of work as everyone else. I just don't do it at the same time. Something about morning feels harsh and abrasive to me. My brain feels stuffed with pillows. But at night, I feel energized, ready, charged. I have to be careful not to start cleaning house after midnight or I'm up for hours having fun. There are other activities I could do all night too.....

I'm always the last one standing after a party or a night out, and I can't understand why people want to go to sleep when it's dark and cozy and there are stars shining (not just that one we call the sun) and there's a hummmm coming from the earth that I can't hear during the day. Are you still up? Do you hear it?

Do you remember when your clock was set? Were you born with it, or did you learn to adapt so you could get along?

Maybe I'm normal though, in a way. Maybe some of us are born to keep watch through the night. Somebody has to witness the dark, right?

I don't understand why would anybody want to sleep during this?


  1. I understand your love of the night and the energy it brings. I find myself at my most creative and typically energized late at night, however I love the mornings as well. I really just don't care much for sleep.

    I really grateful that my wife and most people in my past have been fine with me putting them to bed and then staying up hours more on my own. Night is indeed a wonderful time is to be relished by some of us.

    1. Do you don't like to sleep or you don't like taking the time to sleep? I can get by on 5 hours a night, but I gain weight if I don't sleep more than that. And it's a good way to avoid mornings. You are lucky your wife doesn't mind your late hours. You should keep her!

  2. I am the same way you are. My mom is convinced it's genetic. My dad is the same way, and so is my sister. Unfortunately, I have obligations in the morning. I'm happiest, though, when I can stay up till 2:00 or 3:00 and get up at 10:00 or so. Like you, I just don't fall asleep before 2:00, unless I drink a substantial amount of wine. :-P My energy level is highest, when I don't have to fight my internal clock, though. Summer is coming and I'll get a chance to dance to my own rhythm again, for a few too short weeks.

    1. Daylight savings time is right around the corner, next weekend. I'm already anticipating hot summer nights too.

  3. Catching up on your blog...oh, I used to be a night owl. My natural sleep time is about 6 hours. My optimal schedule used to be up 'til 4, sleep 'til 10. And I'd be all kinds of creative in the night. Felt bad, though, if I stayed up all night, would just crash dismally to see the sunrise.
    Then, I had the shock of my life when I moved north from So. Florida. By my 3rd year here, I had suddenly flipped my rhythms and it was needing to be in bed by 10 and getting up at 4. No alarms, I'd be rested, wide awake. And seeing the sunrise was energizing!
    I am now all over the place with my rhythms, wanting to be asleep by midnight & up at 6. But some nights I'm staying up til the wee hours and sleeping til 9. I'm not worrying about it, figure it will sort itself out and as long as I feel rested after sleep...I'm good.

    1. I can't imagine going to be at 10:00--at least not to sleep. Hee. What a luxury that you can just go with whatever your body needs at the time. And really, why worry about it if it works? There are 24 hours in the day no matter how you spend them.