Thursday, January 20, 2005

I need a sleep timer transplant

Curses! Foiled again.

I got home from work at a pretty reasonable hour. Went through the normal routine, checking e-mail, cruising some blogs. I even chatted with a coworker on line for a bit. But it was still early, so I plopped down on the couch to watch a little TV, or the boob tube as my dad would call it. "Just sitting here watching the boob tube" he says when I call and ask him what's going on.

I was nice and relaxed. Getting sleepy even. I was contemplating going to bed about 12:30 or so, and I never go to bed that early. But before I could decide on a course of action, I must have dozed off, remote control in one hand, head resting in the palm of the other, with my elbow propping my arm up off the couch. How I could fall asleep like that, I do not know, because it was not a particularly restful position. And how I could sleep like that for any length of time is beyond me, but it happened.

Then my eyes fluttered open. Everything was as I'd left it. Remote control still in one hand, my cheek cupped in the palm of the other. The only difference was, my arm was tingling. It, and I, had fallen asleep. And I'd lost about 30 to 45 minutes of time.

I was quite disoriented. But after the fog cleared, I decided I didn't want to sleep in that position all night. My arm would fall off by morning. And the couch, while comfy, was getting a bit chilly, since I'd left the patio door open to catch a little fresh air. So, I closed up the house and headed off to bed.

But then I couldn't fall back to sleep. I hate it when that happens. If and when the day ever comes that I have to go back to working a day shift, I'm in serious trouble. My body just doesn't want to sleep when the rest of the world is sleeping. And it's getting worse. I used to stay up until about 2 a.m., no matter what shift I worked. Now it's often more like 3 or 4 a.m. before I feel tired enough to fall asleep. Maybe I've just been working this shift for too long.

The good thing about this shift is that I don't have to force myself to try to sleep before I'm tired. None of this, "better go to bed, I've got an early day tomorrow" crap. I stay up late. And when I get sleepy I go to bed. Then I crash out for the night. And now, I go to work late enough that I often don't even need an alarm to wake me up. But God forbid I ever do have to be up early. That's not pretty.

I'm am definitely not a morning person. When I have to be up with the chickens, I suffer from insomnia in the worst way. I toss and turn for hours and just can't fall asleep. I've tried music, reading, watching TV. Nothing seems to work. Watching TV seems to work the best. Particularly if there is an old movie on I've seen about 50 times. But if it's a show or movie I've never seen, forget it. Then I have to watch to see what happens. Thank goodness for AMC and Turner Classic movies. But on those nights nothing's on I've seen, I'm doomed. Oh, well, at least I get to see a lot of movies that way that I might not otherwise watch. The History Channel sometimes works, are A&E or Bravo. Any channel that has something I've seen several times.

Back about 12 years ago I was working for a newspaper on the Oregon Coast. It was an afternoon paper, so I'd have to go in fairly early in the morning. I never could seem to make it in before 7 a.m. though. And then I'd work until late at night. I used to go home for dinner, for a little break, before going back to the office and putting in several more hours. I was living with my girlfriend at the time and her daughter. My routine was to go home, grab a quick bite to eat and then watch Star Trek: The Next Generation in syndication. I'd seen all the episodes several times. And it never failed. I'd get comfortable in my chair watching TNG and fall asleep. Made S and H absolutely nuts. We only had one TV, and they hated that show. So after I'd doze off, sometimes one of them would try changing the channel to something the people who were awake in the house actually wanted to watch. As soon as the channel changed I was wide awake.

"Hey, I was watching that!" I'd say, wiping the little trail of sleep spittle from the corner of my mouth.

"You were not, your eyes were closed," S would say.

There was, and is, something about slipping in to a familiar show that's as comfortable as a baggy pair of sweats and an old T-shirt. I relax, my mind unwinds. And I can sleep.

It works really well for naps, and sometimes works at bedtime. If I follow a more conventional bedtime regime my brain starts ticking through all the things I need to do the next day. Pay the bills. Get gas for the car. Go to the ATM. And Lord help me, by the time I start thinking of all the things I need to do at work the next day, I'm up for hours. I might as well go to the office and do them then. And I have. Crazy how the mind works.

I envied my ex-fiancee. At around 11 p.m. it was like someone threw a switch in her brain. Her whole body would start to shut down. And if she didn't get to bed soon, she'd be out on her feet. She might look awake, except for that glazed look to her eyes, but in reality she was already a sleep.

Sometimes we'd be sitting on the couch, watching TV, talking about something and suddenly her end of the conversation would just drop off, like a ball rolling off a table. If I was in a rambling mood, which doesn't happen often, but I have my moments, I'd go on for several minutes before realizing she wasn't with me anymore. So, I'd go extend my hand to her, and call out her name. And her head would swivel and she'd look at me with this who-the-fuck-are-you expression. Then something would click, just a little, and she'd take my hand and I'd put her to bed. Sometimes she'd even change into her pajamas and brush her teeth or call out to the cat to come to bed. Things that most people need to be awake to execute. But the next morning, she had no recollection of any of it. Like a walking zombie.

One night we were in bed talking about some serious matter crucial to our relationship, and I had an epiphany that cut to the core of who I am and why I am the way I am. I told her about this particular trauma of my youth and why it made conversing sometimes difficult. And she was sound asleep. She'd gone from chewing me out to snoozing in about 2 minutes flat.

Yes, I envy the ability to fall asleep that quickly. I've never been able to do that.

Well, except when Star Trek's on.


Brat said...

Perhaps you need to do what I do, at least one nap a day if not two. I highly recommend it!

3rd Times a Charm said...

I concur. With Brat. Naps ARE the bomb! Regenrating you in every area! Also G-Man a good long walk, or sorta fast walk getting your heart rate up is not only healthy in all areas of your health, but studies have proven that the exercise helps you sleep better!
Taking into account, that it is ALWAYS easier to give advice then to follow it. As soon as I heal, I am turning over a new leaf.(walking, some sort of walk and stretching everyday)Brat, how's your pilates tape? Is it too hard for the Beginner? (I am the beginner)

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