Needless to say, there are a lot of things about me that are odd. I only eat one meal a day. I work constantly. I’ve been married twice with no kids. I’m obsessed with numbers. I’m never sick and on and on with my oddities – not the least of which is this site. But, perhaps the strangest thing about me is/are my sleeping habits.
Actually, there probably has never been a more inapt word than “habits”. When and how I sleep is anything but habitual. It’s like the old discussion about a basketball player that scores 20 points and then 2 and then 25 and then 7 and then 21… etc. “He’s inconsistent” said the announcer. “But, at least he’s consistently inconsistent” said his partner.
That’s one thing you can say for me. For my entire life – or at least as long as I can recall, I’ve been consistently inconsistent with respect to my sleep. If there was one single thing that I could have changed (fixed) in my life, it would have been the ability to go to bed at 10PM and wake up at 6AM every day religiously.
I can only remember as far back as 12 years old when we moved from Topeka to western Kansas. We lived in the sticks about nine miles from the small town where we were bussed to school. We were almost at the end of the bus route. We lived on a corner and the bus would swing by our house and then turn and go half a mile to another house with a long driveway. Then, it would retrace its tracks and come back by our house the second time.
I remember many times – perhaps hundreds – when one of my family would holler that the bus just went by. That would be my wake-up call. I had about four minutes to get up, get ready, get dressed, get my stuff and make it to the corner before the bus would return. And trust, me, I wasn't organized in those days like I am now. I was reinventing the wheel every time I woke up.
The problem was that I wouldn’t go to bed until 3AM and the reason why was because my mind was always racing. I was playing some kind of mental sporting event that I made up to keep from going crazy in the middle of nowhere. So, I wouldn’t get tired until the middle of the night no matter how little sleep I had the night before.
Of course, for the majority of my adult life, I had to get up and go to work at normal times. I can assure you, I hated it! And, the reason why was because I never got over the desire to stay up as late as humanly possible. I think the reason was because I somehow viewed the end of the day as the end of one of the only days I would ever have in this world. Even at that age, I was thinking along those lines. I wanted to stretch each day as long as I could and that meant not going to bed.
You can say “Where were your parents?”, but my mom worked nights and my dad was asleep long before it ever crossed my mind – at least as a teenager.
During my adult life, I would tend to stay up late and get up as late as possible, but I’m sure I only averaged six hours of sleep for many years. On Saturday’s I would try to make up for it, but that doesn’t work. For much of my life I went to church on Sunday morning, so I wasn’t able to make up for it then anyway. Consequently, I feel like I was sleep-deprived most of my life. I have no idea whether that is part of why I never was able to smell the roses or why I always saw the glass half empty. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. But, it is what it is, regardless of why.
There were times between businesses that I was involved with where I could experiment with sleeping habits. I tried everything. One that worked for awhile was staying up 36 hours and sleeping 12. I felt that was the most efficient because I had more prime hours in which I could work.
I’ve never awakened feeling fresh. It’s just not in the cards. I used to comment that it was 2-3 hours after I got up before I felt 100% awake. Others would tell me they felt 100% awake within 15 minutes or less. I envied that! So, for me, the fewer times I had to get up, the better. In a 48-hour cycle, if I only had to get up once, that was being more efficient. But, that system became impractical and I had to abandon it.
I’ve experienced a dozen different cycles or systems for sleeping and getting up, but frankly when it’s all said and done, going to bed at 6AMish and getting up at 1PMish is just about the best schedule that ever worked for me. Naturally, you can hardly get away with that if you are part of the real world.
When I went to work for the Kansas City Star in 2005, the best thing about the job besides sports statistics was that I went to work at 5PM and got home about 1AM. So, for the last 8+ years, I could go to bed at 6AM and get up at 1PM if I wanted to. I can say without fear of contradiction that it worked better for me than any other cycle – at least any cycle that was consistent with my obligations.
I tried a few other things. I would take sleeping pills in an effort to go to sleep earlier and then take a no doze as soon as I got up, but none of that worked… or if it worked, it didn’t work for long.
I’m sure my sleeping habits affected my marriages as you would assume. I’m sure it affected a lot of things in my life. I never sought help for it. I’m not sure whether there is anything anyone could do about it in 2013, much less 30-40 years ago. So I’ve just lived with it and worked around it.
I’m also sure that I’ve skipped a night’s sleep a few hundred times – similar to skipping eating for a day. I tend to get started doing something and I don’t want to stop. If I’m awake and working, I want to continue until I can’t. If I’m sleeping, it’s pretty much the same thing. Don’t change me from the state I’m in!
I’ve always been like that. I stall taking a shower, but once I get in, I don’t want to get out. I stall eating, but once I start, I don’t want to stop. I’m just obsessive about disliking change. When I'm traveling by car, I don’t want to stop until I almost run out of gas. When I’m working on the computer, I don’t want to stop until I look at the clock and realize I only have three minutes to get somewhere I’m supposed to be. Consequently, for my whole life I’ve run five minutes late.
When I was a freshman in college, the dorm was right across the driveway from the building where I had my first class – at 7:30 AM on MWF. You can imagine that having lived in the middle of nowhere for all my teenage years, by the time I got to college, I was ready to have fun! So, we stayed up well into the night playing cards or whatever. 7:30 AM came way too soon.
Well, actually 7:27 came way too soon. My roommate had a digital alarm clock. In 1971 that was fancy smancy. When it clicked over to 7:27, it would hum for about three seconds before it went into alarm mode. I remember hearing that hum and thinking… “Oh, God no!” At 7:27 the alarm went off and by 7:32 (Are you sitting down?), I was in class.
In that class we had the old wood chairs that had the writing surface as part of the chair. I used to go to the back row, tilt it back against the back wall and sleep. One day, the feet of the chair slipped out from under me and I feel back. The chairs had a curved piece of wood to support the back. That piece shattered. Needless to say, it caused a huge commotion and (although I blocked out the consequences), I’m sure I got into some trouble.
That story is a microcosm for my sleep problems. It’s had a major affect on my life, although in any given day I wouldn’t say it mattered. But, over the course of the last 48 years (at least), it’s been as important to the levels of normalcy, sanity and success as anything else – and perhaps more than anything else.
Since there wasn't any other logical place to recount my recurring dream on this site, I decided I would do it under this category. For pretty much my entire adult life, I've had a dream every so often that I'm in college and realize all the sudden that I haven't been going to class - that I don't even remember all the classes I signed up for or where they were located. The problem is that it's nearing the last few days of the semester. Naturally, I'm walking all over the place trying to figure out courses, days of the week, room numbers, etc.
It's a pretty frustrating dream as you might imagine. Not life or death, but when you are in college... it seems like it. I decided not all that long ago to google that dream on line and see if anyone else has ever experienced it. To my amazement, a lot of people have. In fact, shortly thereafter, I mentioned it to a friend (Scott) and he said he had the same recurring dream.
I suspect it is something that is triggered whenever a person is facing a deadline and has some anxiety over it. If that were the case, then I shouldn't have had the dream once since I left the KC Star in February of 2012. However, I have had it a few times since then. Of course, knowing the ultimate deadline was coming up August 15, 2013 might have been a trigger for it.