I had one of my typical bouts of insomnia last night. I'm not sure what time I woke up this morning, but I know sometime around 4:45 I decided to pack it in and just stay awake until it was time to go to the gym. I knew I wasn't going to sleep any more.
When it was close to the time the gym opens, I began to don my sneakers and get out the door. As I sat on the couch tying my laces, a terrible feeling of sleepiness came over me. Of course I felt as if I could sleep as soon as I was about to just start my day. I was sitting there on the couch trying to motivate myself to stand up and walk out the door, but all I wanted to do was lie back down and sleep.
I considered going back to bed. I thought I could sleep for another hour or two then I could hit the gym when I truly had the energy. I could just call in late and take a couple of hours of personal time. After all, with only a few months left of employment, my personal time is truly a use-it-or-lose-it proposition.
Although I ended up dragging my tired butt to the gym at 5:30 and starting my day as planned, I wondered if I would have been so bold as to call in late and tell my boss why. Would I be able to say to him, "Sorry Nathan. I am not coming in until 10 because I really need an extra hour or two of sleep thanks to an ongoing insommia issue."
I know I wouldn't have been able to do that. I would have come up with some kind of standard excuse like I had car trouble or I had to take a family member to a doctor appointment or something. I would never have said I was taking the morning off to sleep.
I ask myself why not. Why would I be embarassed about such a thing?
It's a funny thing about sleep. Every health expert out there will tell you that a regular good night's sleep is essential for good health. I'm constantly reading studies about how Americans are mostly sleep deprived. Getting a good night's sleep seems to be as an important a health measure as visiting your doctor or dentist, or working out, but it isn't.
Is it just me thinking this, or does our culture have a stigma against sleep? We see staying up all night, whether for work or for play, as some kind of badge of honor. If you worked until midnight trying to finish a project, you're seen as a hard worker whose priorities are in the right place. If you partied until the sun came up then you're the coolest person on the planet.
If you smoke or eat at McDonalds three times a day people might accuse you of being reckless with your health. No one accuses you of being reckless with your health if you're only getting four hours of sleep every night. In fact, if you are getting four hours of sleep every night and then waking up to go work out at 5AM, you're considered supremely healthy. On the other hand, if you sleep during the daytime, even if you are naturally a night owl, you're seen as lazy. If you fall asleep early, you're seen as boring.
I'm naturally a day person. I fall asleep early and if I don't have insomnia attacks, naturally wake up as soon as the sun is up. This pattern is disturbed all too often as I tend to wake up sometime between 1AM and 4AM many nights and don't always fall back to sleep for very long. Is it wrong to want to make up for some of that sometimes? Wouldn't it be better for me to nap for an hour or two in my own bed than fall asleep at an important meeting - or worse yet at the wheel?
Where did this anti-sleep attitude come from? I guess it must come from childhood. When we're kids, staying up late is the ultimate privilege. We want to know what it is the grownups do after dark. I remember sitting around with my friends as a child and bragging about who had the latest bedtime.
That attitude continues in college. For the first time in our lives no one is telling us when to go to bed, so we take full advantage. We party all night. We make up for the time we wasted partying by studying all night. Who falls asleep early and wakes up early in college? You must be a huge geek and a terrible student to boot. You're not studying or partying hard enough if you're not doing it all night.
It felt wrong and unproductive, so I didn't go back to sleep this morning. I'm sure it would have been better for my health and well-being if I did (and I would have had a more energetic workout too). If I ever find myself willing to go back to sleep, I doubt I will admit it to my boss. My car will just likely not start that morning.