Sunday, March 11, 2007


When I was a kid, I didn't sleep much. Assuming I got up at 7:00 to go to school, I probably slept four hours a night, on good nights. By "kid," I mean I was keeping those hours as a young child, even when I was a student at Dudley Stone Elementary, which means before fourth grade. No and I shared a room when we were small, and I remember watching him sleep even then.

I spent hours and hours lying in bed in the dark, waiting for it to be tomorrow. It didn't matter what was going on tomorrow, but I hated lying in bed, doing nothing. I wasn't allowed to read all night, although I was always saying "Just to the end of this chapter... to the end of this page... to the end of this paragraph" to my mother. I never read under the covers, due to a lack of flashlights rather than a lack of desire.

After our neighbors moved to Lafayette at the end of my second grade year, I went out there to spend the night. At the time Lafayette was the country and as far away as I had ever been from home without my mother. Lisa and I determined to stay up until midnight, which seemed like something a teenager would do. We struggled to stay awake, watching the clock so we could stop talking and lie down in the dark.

Finally the clock turned to 12:00 and Lisa promptly fell asleep. I watched the clock, resentful that my previous exhaustion had fled, for at least two more hours. I wished I could sleep and was so frustrated that I never could. Every sleepover was the same way, I was always wide awake hours after my friends had fallen asleep. I was also the first one awake, and felt obligated to wait for my friends to awaken before I could go downstairs and get some cereal or watch TV. More boredom, but more uncomfortable than at home, lying in a sleeping bag on the floor. If I was lucky, there was a bookshelf nearby that I could pull from until the host woke up.

I continued to not sleep until sometime during 11th grade. I realized after the fact that I was sleeping better, but I was also keeping later hours - at 16, Mom wasn't checking to see if the light was off in my room. And teenagers need more sleep, albeit at later hours, than people at any other age. When I was in college, at least once a semester I would stay up all night, without intoxicants or stimulants, which I thought was my body just resetting its clock.

Unless I'm sick, I still need a pretty specific set of requirements to be met to sleep. No noise, like people talking, the radio, or TV, or even the tapping of the keyboard when Zirpu's pulling late night for work. I need to be lying down (I absolutely cannot sleep on airplanes). I can get myself into a physically restful state that looks like sleep to others (which I realize sounds really stupid, like "Thinking with my eyes closed"), but my mind is usually going on at its usual speed. Sometimes I'm thinking, "I wish I were sleeping now."

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