Friday, November 25, 2005


I dragged Adam out to do errands with me Tuesday.

I could say I was doing it to bond, but the truth is, I mostly wanted to give him a hard time because he didn't go to bed until 4:00 a.m. I am aware that young adults are hardwired to stay awake late at night and sleep late. Lord knows, I don't get up at the crack of dawn myself. (I sleep A LOT. I explained to Bob that I could either stay up as late as he does or wake up with him, his choice. He opted for company in the evening.) I have a secret fear that the world's artists and highly successful people all sleep five hours a night, and that my tendancy to sleep nine hours a night means I am finally second-rate. I tell myself that Proust spent a lot of time in bed, but of course he was an asthmatic insomniac so who knows how many hours he actually slept.

I'm pretty sure Shakespeare was a five-six hour a night dude.

I am somewhat obsessed with sleep. Both because I hate to be tired and because I both never get enough of it and often feel I spend too much time doing it. I have a skittish relationship with sleep. Not a fullblown sleep disturbance insomnia relationship. I am not like a friend of mine who, as he feels more anxious over, say, work deadlines, finds that he wakes up earlier and earlier until he wakes up at 3:30 in the morning and waits until his coworkers wake up so he can call them. But I never go right to sleep at night. I'm better than when I was younger when it always took me an hour to go to sleep, but I'd say I never go to sleep in less than 15 minutes and usually take longer. I have had early morning wakefullness. I sometimes fall into a pattern where for four or five days I will wake every night between three and four and lie there for a couple of hours before going back to sleep.

Mostly though, it is the promise of sleep that is so double-edged for me. I like to sleep. It's safe and comfortable to be in bed. But when I am sleeping I'm obviously not doing something else, like composing a major work on sleep. Karl Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto at night.

"Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast--"

How much sleep do you need? (I am particularly interested in hearing from geniuses but will be delighted with reports from mere mortals like myself.)


Blogger Madeleine Robins said...

Mere mortal here. I have an adolescent's wiring: given my choice, I would wake at noon and go to sleep at 4 am. But no one has given me that choice. Generally, if I get six hours of sleep a night I'm fine, so long as every now and then I get a good solid blast of nine or ten to replenish. However, I am now on California school children time, which means I have to be out of bed five days a week at 6am, about which I am not thrilled. Still, if I get to bed by 11:30 or midnight I'm okay. I am married to someone who needs 7-8 hours a night, and wakes up naturally early and gets edgy when people are sleeping and he's not. This is not always a happy thing, but after 17 years together, he's learned to quell his need to bounce around first thing in the morning...

Actually, these days sleep is a major issue with Sarcasm Girl, who wants to stay up very late, but has to be dragged out of bed in order to get to school for her "zero period" journalism class at 7am. When I was her age I frequently read until 3, then got up at 7 to be at school on time; I don't care how late the girl goes to bed, but I do not want to have to be the one standing over her with a gong and a bulldozer.

November 25, 2005 12:59 PM  
Blogger SquidgePa said...

Before I got married, I used to get eight or nine hours a night. After I got married, I learned that I had sleep apnea, the neurological kind. My spouse likes to stay up late, so we tend to watch Letterman together. I had a hard time waking up to go to work in the morning, until we found an herbal supplement that seems to solve my apnea problem. A nice side effect is that I seem to be able to get by with six hours sleep (which may be due to sleeping sounder).

Genius? Well, the last time it was measured, I had the I.Q. of a twelve year old (but I was eight, so that might be okay).

November 25, 2005 3:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I don't have at least 8 hours of sleep a night, I get sick. :( It's unavoidable, and I've finally given in to the necessity, despite the pressure of public opinion, basic "coolness" standards, and older & wiser people saying "Y'know, adults don't actually need that much sleep..." Nine hours is even better. Luckily, I'm married to a guy who also needs sleep--but since insomnia is also a factor, sleep can still feel like a wonderful, forbidden drug!

November 26, 2005 5:00 AM  
Blogger Derryl Murphy said...

About one day every other weekend I manage to sleep 10 hours. Otherwise I usually run 7 or so, but the kids and the dog still do enough interrupting that that average goes down.

I find I go to bede earlier than I would like, though, because my wife sleeps so lightly she wakes up when I come to bed and can't fall back asleep. She also can't sleep if I have my light on to read, although she could read all night and it wouldn't disturb me; kids and dog will wake me with a slight sound, but otherwise I'm bombproof.


November 26, 2005 12:38 PM  
Blogger Darby M. Dixon III said...

My sleep habits are completely screwball: on weeknights I'm usually good for six hours though that's not enough, and I tend to get a second wind (however tired I was during the day) around midnight so I'm often staying up later than I should and so I wind up getting maybe 5 hours sleep; on weekends, however tired I was all week, I wind up staying up most of the night and sleeping until mid to late afternoon, racking up 8-12 hours sleep a night (or more) (much of my problem being that no matter what time I set the alarm for I ignore it, or hit snooze for hours at a time) with Sunday night being horrid, of course, because I'm all wound up on sleep so I'm lucky if Sunday nights I get 3-4 hours. It's a bad cycle. I thought 5+ years of 9-5 life would have straightened me out, but, no.

November 26, 2005 3:32 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

I usually run seven hours a night, but I really need eight or nine. I drag ass on six or seven, but I have a really hard time putting myself to bed sometimes. I have noticed I will stay up long after I actually get tired sometimes, until my head is hanging and I fall into bed. When I get into bed, though, I don't want to get out of it and have a hard time making myself get up, too, to go to work some days. Unless I get eight or nine hours, then I get up fine. I'm really bad about sleep, and the past two weeks I've felt run down and then I finally got sick. Then I slept and slept for several days, and I got better and feel better than I did even before I thought I was getting sick. I need to somehow make myself go to bed at ten or eleven at night at the latest. I don't know why I have trouble making myself go to sleep though. Sometimes I think it's me running too many thoughts through my head, I have something on my mind, that kind of thing. Recently it is thoughts of "what will I do when I go back to the states?" that have been keeping me up. I guess I should just sleep on it. ahem. hehe

November 27, 2005 4:28 AM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

I'm really glad that lots of competent artistic people are not five hour a night people. Now, of course, I'm convinced it's because I gravitate towards people who like to sleep.

When I was in LA last weekend, I kept meeting slim, toned, successful people who apparently don't have to sleep eight hours a night. Maybe some of them were more tired than they looked.

November 27, 2005 2:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I need eight to nine hours. Since I was taught from an early age that when the sun gets up that means you get up, I usually try to go to be by nine o'clock in the summer time. I have a really hard time sleeping once natural light has fallen on my eyelids (which is why I sleep later in hotels, with their their heavy curtains) and a harder time not being a jackass with less than eight hours a night, so I've just had to get used to being an early to bed kind of guy.

November 27, 2005 9:45 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

Christopher, we could take up a collection and buy you Really Heavy curtains for home...

It's hard to go to bed by 9:00 in the summer. My family tends to be just getting going.

November 28, 2005 9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sleep five or six hours a night, though I tend to sleep in on weekends, unless I'm under a deadline. During the week, though, the only way I can do the day job, spend quality time with my wife, and get writing done is by staying up until 1 or 2 a.m.

I feel perpetually behind *now*. I can't imagine how I'd manage if I slept any more.

November 28, 2005 7:22 PM  
Blogger Erin O'Brien said...

I am somewhat obsessed with sex, becaue I both never get enough of it and often feel I spend too much time doing it.

Love, Erin

November 30, 2005 9:12 PM  

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