The Perils of Sleep Deprivation

I somewhat jokingly refer to myself as a nocturnal American. I’ve always been more comfortable roaming around at night. Ever since I was a little kid, sneaking out of my bed to watch movies on tv, I’ve been a night owl.

As an adult, I’ve experimented with practically every schedule you can name. I’ve literally been up or going to bed at any time of the day or night you can name. RIght now, I work 6:00pm-6:00am. I get up around 4:30pm and go to bed around 1:00pm on weekdays. A little more sleep on the weekends. But it’s more complicated by the rotation of four days on, 4 days off. Needless to say, I’m not thrilled with my employers

In a perfect world, I would probably get up between Noon and 2:00pm. I actually like breakfast. It’s the first meal of my day, whenever that falls. You’d be surprised how many people don’t comprehend this simple idea. Your meals aren’t tied to a specific time of day. They’re tied to a specific time of YOUR day.

When would I go to bed? What kind of crazy mixed-up schedule is this? Mine. All mine. In a perfect world, I’d go to bed around about whenever. If I had to get specific, I’d say around 5:00-6:00am. I’d still get my fresh air and sunshine, just not when most people do.

Notice I don’t say, “normal.” I don’t do normal. Call me weird. Just don’t try to cram me into a “normal” mold. By “normal” we’ll go out on a limb and say a cage created by old, boring, worn-out social matrices. Old norms of rise with the sun and sleep with the moon. Do what you like. I’m going to fly my freak flag high.

Then we throw kids into the mix. And that’s where my trouble starts. Kids function well on structure and routine. They also have needs. They have lots and lots of needs. And, of course that means parents have to put all the whims and fancies of younger, child-free days aside.

So, I have to work a regular job. By regular, I mean 40+ hours every week for a meaningful wage. I’m subject to my employer’s needs in terms of hours because I can’t just up and quit. Four days on, and four days off was not my first choice. The salary is bullsh*t and I have told them as much.

My wife works days. I work nights. Childcare is mostly covered. Or it was… The overlap in schedules is broken four days of the week now because I have to sleep after I drop our youngest off at preschool at 12:30pm.

When I was younger, even ten years ago, I could drag myself out of bed on 3.5 hours of sleep, work for 12 hours like a beast, and keep that ball rolling for six days at a time. But, nature has taken its toll on my body. I’m 47 now. Needless to say, it’s getting harder and harder to pull this maneuver off. My neon sign telling me I should slow down is pain. Loads and loads of pain.

So, let’s do some math. Our oldest son is 13. When he was born, I figured I had about 18 years before I could change jobs and maybe go back to doing my own thing. Then we added another and another. Finally, our youngest came into being four years ago. By that notion, I have another 14 years to go.

Maybe it’s my poor, tired addled brain, but that means I’ll be nearing retirement age before I can go back to doing my own thing full time. 

And the best part is, thanks to this latest global event, none of it may matter in a day, a week, a month, three months, six months or even a year. I could be unemployed and loving life tomorrow. What are jobs going to look like when the world finally emerges from shelter-in-place, quarantine living? Might be pretty interesting, actually. More on that in another post.

Better than money, better than a job, I love life now. Sure, money is nice. The stuff I can buy with it, anyway. But I LOVE the way I feel most days. I am so becoming a joy junkie. Not drugs or booze- just the pure joy I find in everyday life. I can be happy pretty much anywhere. Never bored. Never bummed out for long. Neutrality, curiosity and spiritual awareness go so far. They really do. 

Yeah, sleep is cool. But I’m not sure I’ll ever trade in being a night owl even if it does come available. It’s so quiet at night. Not much traffic, Not many people to bother you. And the phone almost never rings. I love the sounds and sights at night, too. At least, the ones in nature. 

I think it’s a phenomenon among all nocturnal folk, really. Sleep is kind of overrated, but nice if/when possible. Insomnia isn’t a disorder, it’s a way of life for some of us. You’re never too tired to be happy at any hour.

Author: Jeff Craigmile

I'm a tabletop role-playing game writer and designer from Des Moines, Iowa always looking for more work. I'm the father of four boys and human to three cats.

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