I “slept in” this morning until 6:30am and when I got out of bed, I thought for a minute about how much my relationship with sleep has changed since I was a child or teenager.
As a kid, I slept deeply and I slept until I was roused or until I had slept fully. I liked to stay up late, to read under the covers with a flashlight, or to work on projects well into the night. And then I would sleep until done sleeping – to noon if necessary.
Admittedly, I was a bit of a weird kid. I remember bragging to my dad that I could sleep on a vacuum cleaner in the closet – and I think that what I meant by that is that I could sleep in any position in any amount of discomfort.
Because I liked to sleep in, I had trouble getting to school on time. I remember trying to rig up a wind-up alarm clock so that as it went off a string would pull on my toe in case the noise was not enough.
In college, there are pictures of me sleeping on a chair during the day amongst a roomful of people, as I caught up from all-nighters or lack of sleep. One thing that was a struggle for me was my intensive German class that met every day at 8:30 am junior year. I was happy when my first class of the day came in the afternoon and often sought to make that part of my schedule.
In my early twenties, things started to change. Occasionally, I would wake up at five in the morning and not be able to get back to sleep. I lived in a group house at the time, and I would go downstairs to the common rooms, pace around, snack, read, watch tv and wait impatiently for the rest of the household to join me.
Since my mid-thirties, things are completely different. I can no longer take sleep for granted as an uninterrupted natural event. I rarely make it to the six-thirty that I did this morning. I usually go to bed by ten or eleven, but have long patches of the night where I am up and about. And I’m usually up for good at 4:30 or 5am or so. There is much that is nice about this. I get a stretch of uninterrupted time before the rest of the family wakes up to work, organize, catch up on email, read, watch last night’s Daily Show or Colbert Report on Tivo. I have not had to use an alarm clock in well over a decade. And it doesn’t seem to matter that much if I stay up too late. On our recent company retreat, for example, when I went to sleep at 3:00am both nights, I was still up each morning by seven. But I’m usually tired and early to bed, and I am becoming notorious for falling asleep during movies that start after 9:00pm.
Sleep is not as much my friend as it used to be. But I do take great joy in watching my four-year-old daughter sleep the deep slumber of a child.