Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sleep Cycles

For the past month, my sleep cycles have been wacky to say the least. Some nights I didn't sleep at all, some nights I slept for  two hours or 30 minutes, sometimes I slept for 9 hours. This troubled me, as it would often effect my mood for the rest of the day.  I didn't quite have a grasp on why I ventured from my normal pattern and it seemed like every night 2am appeared out of nowhere.

During my early childhood I don't recall having a set bedtime, but I do remember falling asleep around the same time everynight with exceptional regularity. Young kids have a tendency to do that, even waking up at 6am on the weekends...just because. (Sidenote: I don't even see the point for kids to get up early anymore since the cartoons suck now. ABC/Disney's One Saturday Morning was the ish in the 90s.) I remember the days where staying up past 11pm was a big deal and extremely tiring.

By my early teenage years the whole "let's sleep all day and forever" thing caught up with me and I did just that. I went to sleep around 10pm every night, had the hardest time waking up in the morning, and slept through the weekends when I could. 

At some point, I stopped beliving in a bedtime -- I think it was towards the end of middle school.  I was so immersed in whatever I was doing (The Sims, forums, IMs, whatever) that I no longer allowed the clock to dictate my life. It wasn't too bad, as I'd usually be in bed before 12 and not too grumpy at 5:30am when my alarm went off.

In high school, this got worse. Being the procrastinator that I am, I often didn't start my homework until 10pm. I would typically take a nap from 4-7pm, and then have dinner and stick myself in front of the computer until I realized I had homework or something else to do. I'd fall asleep whevenever I was done, but it was usually before 2am unless I had a huge project. I'd wake up at 5am every morning and never miss the bus. On weekends I'd often pull all-nighters just because. This was my routine for 3.5 years.

Suddenly, everything changed. I've overslept and missed the bus on more occasions than I can remember this year. I don't sleep with any regularity. I'm often not tired at all between the hours of 11pm and 2am when one would normally fall asleep at this age.  During the first semester I was often overloaded with annoyances such as school, work, standardized tests, and college apps, so I had a legitimate excuse for not sleeping. My life has been a little smoother for the past 2 months (with the exception of robotics), but my habits didn't change at all. I was tired all the time.

Very recently, as in the past week, I've adopted a new sleeping habit unintentionally, and I'm finding that I'm less tired during the day. For the past three weeks I've been going to sleep at 3am or later and waking up at 5am. In the weeks that I didn't take naps, I was definitely the most unhappy person in the world in the mornings and felt as if some great force was pulling me to the bed and my eyelids closed. Now it's not that big of a deal since I make up for it during the rest of the day. On the ride to school I can usually squeeze in about 20-30 minutes of sleep depending on traffic. Depending on how tired I am I can sleep through lunch for 30-45 minutes. Power naps are amazingly refreshing, and I often feel more refreshed after a nap than I do after sleeping for 6-8 hours. The majority of my sleep occurs when I come home from school, from around 5 or 6pm to 9 or 10pm. There is usually a bit of variance depending on what I'm doing that particular day, but most of my days have been like this.

So I'm sure a major question looming in your head is "Why don't you just sleep like normal people?" It's difficult to answer. I just can't now. My schedule is pretty flexible now outside of school, so I have time to do so much more and it's difficult to evaluate when sleep is necessary. Also, I don't get tired at the same points that I used to, like very early in the morning and towards the end of the school day. Now it's more like the middle of 2nd block (around 10am) everyday and the early evening. This multi-powernap system would almost be perfect if I could take another 30 minute nap during the day around the end of 4th block (~2:15pm), but my schedule just doesn't allow for it. I hope to correct this before I head off to college, but it works for now.

Try it!

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