To Sleep, Perchance To... Sleep?

March 3, 1998
  Remember the "Nightmare on Elm Street" movies? The ones with Freddy Krueger in his striped sweater and the razor talons on his hand? I'm living those movies now.

No, I'm not a teen actor with marginal acting skills, and I don't have a crispy critter maniac poised to slice and dice me. But if you'll recall, the basic premise was that Freddy couldn't get you if you didn't go to sleep, so everybody ran around trying to stay awake. That's my life right now: try to stay awake. Yes, I'm bitching about my work schedule some more. How would you like getting up at 3:15 every morning?

I've worked weird shifts before -- I used to work 8pm - 4am a long time ago -- but I've never worked one that was so diametrically opposed to my internal clock. As things stand now, I'm getting up when I used to go to bed. That wouldn't be so bad if I went to sleep at a reasonable hour, but I'm still clinging to the bedtime part of my old schedule, or at least as close to it as I physically can. Where I should be hitting the sheets around 9:00 at the latest to get 6 hours of sacktime, I'm sticking it out to 11:00 or even 11:30 and settling for 3 1/2 or 4 hours. In the morning I'm on a day person schedule but by evening I'm going for nightowl. My circadian rhythm can't keep the beat.

So now I'm walking around in a half-coma most of the day. At work I fight it off with coffee -- a thermos-full of homeground/brewed Sulawesi Celebes (you should run right out and get some this very minute, it's that good) because the vending machine coffee there is the nastiest thing since Bea Arthur...nude -- but by mid-day my ass is dragging. Just this afternoon while I was working on my computer here at home, I fell asleep in mid-keystroke.

"So take a nap," you're saying. Yeah, right, my life should be that easy. I have trouble sleeping at night under the best of circumstances. Even when I'm tired, it takes me a long time to drop off. If I take a nap during the day, forget about it, I'll never sleep again. Something as short as a 20 minute catnap has me staring at the ceiling for hours when I go to bed later that night.

But as hard as it is for me to sleep at night, it's the other side of the scale for those naps during the day. I think it's somehow tied to actually being in a bed: I can sleep at the drop of a hat anywhere but in a bed. Lay me out on the couch with the TV on, I'm snoring in minutes. Sit me down for a 20-minute car ride as a passenger, I'm snoozing by the third corner. I remember one occasion in high school when I was watching a friend's garage band rehearse. I was sitting on a folding metal chair with my feet up on one of the amps, my clothes practically flapping in the wall of noise crashing over me. I fell asleep. My buddies had to shake me awake when we were leaving. I've come to accept the simple fact that I can sleep anywhere but in a bed.

What I'm getting at here in a most circuitous fashion is that this new work schedule is kicking my ass. I want sleep, damn it, sleep! But I won't go to bed at a reasonable hour because that's too damned early and if I did I wouldn't sleep anyway and I won't take a nap because then I won't sleep at night and if I don't sleep at night then I'm tired during the day and want to take a nap and won't sleep at night if I do but I'm not sleeping enough at night now so I'm tired during the day and want to take a nap but I won't go to bed at a reasonable hour because that's too damned early and if I did...

I'm losing my mind. I've really got to get some sleep.

Copyright © 1998
Chuck Atkins