On Bedtime, Written After My Bedtime

Star Placer — Watercolor & India Ink — Jaana Hitzig

I don’t always do what I know I should do.

I’ve always been a night owl.

Since birth.

I kept my mother up late, even as my little brother woke daily at the crack of dawn.

Poor Mom.

Sleeping from 1–9, 2–10, or even 3–11 (those are all times in the am) comes most naturally to me, at least in a world of lamps. Camping usually rolls back my sleep schedule a little.

Because waking up early has always been so difficult, I have always set multiple alarms, starting with “time to get up so that you have time for breakfast and a leisurely pace” followed by “wake up, get dressed, get moving” and finally “actually time to leave; throw your clothes at yourself NOW and hope they cover your bits on your way out the door.”

I have discovered, during various phases of my adult life, the delights of a day that follows a full-length sleep. It is truly a more beautiful day. Everything about it is better. Every single time I wake up after less than 7.75 hours of sleep I regret, with every aching fiber of my skull and sinus cavity, staying up late the night before.

So why don’t I just put myself to bed early every night?

There are, of course, multiple contributing factors. Insomnia isn’t one of them.

One is my distractable, slightly obsessive nature. Once I start doing something that interests me, it is difficult to stop. Conversely, it is easy to switch from task to task, never quite finishing everything, and not realize how late it is getting, because who stops to look at a clock when you are cleaning the kitchen/walking the dogs/alphabetizing your bookshelf/doing laundry/cooking dinner?

Another is that I’m not very disciplined about screens. I know from experience that I both wind down better and fall asleep more easily when I don’t use screens in the hour or two before I actually go to bed. But screens are useful. So I use them.

There are more things, but they are mere details; I’ll skip to the juicy bit:

The most important, most significant factor is all in my head.

Because I wake up at the last minute, from the moment I awake my mind and body belong to my job. Because I have a million urgent passion projects, and because I’m exhausted from never getting enough sleep, I need my free time. I need it.

The sooner I go to sleep, the sooner I wake up and find myself in the service of my responsibilities. Now is the only chance I have to make progress on my art, language, audio, and video projects. As soon as bedtime rolls around, I know that it is about 21 hours until my next chance to engage in whatever I’m currently working on, so even though I know I should stop, I sure don’t want to.

Every night it is a battle of wills within myself.

The battle between the me that wants to sleep now end enjoy tomorrow, and the me that wants to keep making things, all night long.

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