22 December, 2007

Nocturnal Admissions

"Why do you keep this schedule anyway?"

"Mostly just to be alone."

On average, I go to bed each morning around 7-8am, local time. I get up around 5pm or so, usually after having the radio on for an hour to slowly transition into a state of awakening. That gives me an hour to shower and get dressed, although sometimes it takes closer to an hour and a half. Dinner is at 6pm sharp, every single day. Notice that I don't have "weekends" where I get to sleep in. Honestly, I think having a standard schedule is better overall, because you completely eliminate the whole morning-after-the-weekend where you didn't get any sleep the night before, and you're not constantly adjusting and re-adjusting your internal clock. As much as I'd love to be able to sleep in a couple days a week, I just don't think it's worth having to get up painfully early, even just once in the week.

The way sleep is for me, is that I tend to have a lot of sleep inertia. When I'm awake, I have a hard time falling asleep (usually because I can't shut my mind off), and when I'm asleep, I abhor having to wake up. Therefore, my ideal system would include long chunks of waking periods followed by long chunks of sleep, so that I'd only have to go to sleep when I'm way too exhausted to do anything else, and I'd only have to get up when my body is fully and completely rested. I've discovered that this system would require a cyclic period of longer than 24 hours. So to implement it, I would need a rolling schedule where I'd get up a little bit later each day. This is generally not easy to put into practice.

The only anchor in my life right now is that 6pm dinner. I figure that to stay in this house where I don't have to pay for utilities or food, it's only polite to at least join the table for dinner every day. It's a sacrifice that I'm willing to make. But because that is my only anchor, my schedule has come to revolve around it. Coming home after graduation, I was used to having to get up in the morning for classes. But without classes, it didn't take long for my schedule to shift later and later, until I was getting up just before dinner. And that's where I've kept it since. However, the fact that this results in a nocturnal schedule is extremely convenient for me.

What is the appeal of living nocturnally? I get the idea that the general feeling people have about a nocturnal schedule is that it is a dreadful way to live, where your days are consumed by darkness, and your interaction with people is minimized. Ha! To me, that sounds like a dream come true! Although it's different when my brother's around the house, since he's not a stranger to my kind of schedule himself, I typically have the house to myself between the hours of 11pm and 7am, approximately, when my dad and my other brother (the working man) are in bed. Even though I have my own room to myself, there's still a very different feeling in the house when I know my dad is downstairs watching TV or doing housework or something, or my brother is making a snack, or hanging out (awake) in his room in the basement, than there is when the house is quiet.

The idea of going downstairs, through the living room, and making myself some food in the kitchen, when my dad is sitting right there in the living room watching TV, makes me anxious. It's nothing personal at all - I honestly think my dad is one of the coolest guys I've ever known. Yet, there was a huge misunderstanding when I was younger, where my dad thought that I absolutely hated him. I didn't hate him, it's just that it bugged me to go about the house doing things when I knew there were other people about. It would have been the same with anyone else; he just happened to be the one around a lot during that period, and received the brunt of my frustration. The idea of somebody watching me or hearing me, even unintentionally, and the thought of them judging me and my actions, and the possibility that they might criticize me for something I am doing - like, 'you can't have a snack now, we'll be eating soon', or, 'that's not how you make a cup of tea, you have to put this in first'... it really is ridiculous, but those kind of thoughts tear away at me and make me want to crawl into a hole and hide - and I don't mean just when people actually say them, but simply imagining people saying them freaks me out. So I do tend to hole myself away and wait until the roost is empty before I make my move.

Every morning when I get up, around 5pm, there's a point at which I have to open my door and head to the bathroom to start my shower routine. Most of the time, at this part of the day, my dad is watching TV in the living room, which is just down the steps. Luckily it's not in view of my room, but the distance is not large, and it's hard to sneak by without making noise. Every faculty of reason in my body tells me that this is not a big deal, that I should have no problem with announcing to the house that I am up and awake and that I'm going to take a shower. And yet, every day, when I have to make that move to the bathroom, after having been officially out of people's consciousness during my sleeping period, I get anxious at the thought of making myself known in any way.

I like to listen through the crack of my door, and try to wait for a moment when he heads into the kitchen, so I can sneak past with a better chance of going unnoticed. But sometimes, that moment doesn't come, and it gets later and later, and I need to get started with my shower or I'll be uber-late for dinner. It's best when I just try not to think about it at all, and just force myself to open the door without thinking about it, before I give myself a chance to turn chicken. But I can't always do that. I have to know, I have to plan, I have to be in control of the situation, so that I don't run into an unfamiliar scenario where I'd have to improvise. That would be the worst thing. It's ridiculous.

So I like living in the night, where I can pretend I'm the last person left alive on the Earth (as long as I'm quiet), and I can just be me and do what I want without constantly dealing with issues of anxiety left and right, everytime I sense the presence of another person. This is not sane behaviour. But this is what's comfortable for me. It's also nice to be able to go to the couple 24 hour stores in the vicinity and not have to deal with crowds of people all sitting up in the aisles you want to shop in, and all that. Plus, even the streets are more empty, so you got less stress from aggressive drivers. In my mind, living nocturnally is a natural avoidant reaction to a fear of people. Of course, most people don't get that 'fear of people' part. I understand that. Now it's your turn to try and understand me.


  1. Do you end up having to wake up to flip on the radio and adjust the volume, or do you have something to have it turn on and raise the volume gradually at a given time? It would seem to defeat the purpose to wake up, turn it on, and then flop back into bed to sink back into a stupor to wake up from again...

    The only problem(s) I really have with a nocturnal schedule are the normal inconveniences you'd get from stores being closed at times you'd want to get to them (i.e., Guitar Center) and various events happening at likewise inconvenient times. Living in the big city, though, I guess it's less of a problem... between Eat 'n' Park and Wal-Mart, you've got most of the bases covered.

    I used to be ridiculously paranoid about people hearing me flush the toilet, not that there was anything (reasonable) I could do about it. I also always hated it when my mother or sister revealed that some noise I was making irritated them -- especially since in my pre-college days, before I got the implant, I would never even be able to hear that particular noise myself. It was ridiculous.

    Your dad is, quite simply put, one of the coolest guys I know as well.

    It's funny that you mention that you hate the idea of someone telling you that they think you're doing something wrong; you usually struck me as being self-confident in that respect when you were with me. After all, we both know I'm a pretty big critic when it comes to doing stuff in a particular way I think is right, especially on the computer. You just often struck me as being more politic with your comebacks or refusals... most of the time. Either way, you were still pretty good about staying your course.

    There's probably something good for the soul in being able to sit down and eat a proper home-cooked meal. I can't say that your dad's food isn't good for the palate or the stomach either, though.

    It occurs to me that one good thing about a rolling schedule that's longer than 24-hours is that you'd have "days" where the overlap with a normal sun day would be pretty significant, so you could get out to enjoy sunlit nature and do what errands you had to do while things were open and people available (like the Stickman).

    Sleep intertia has been hitting me hard lately, for some reason... and I don't think it's the cold. The cold itself brings its own problems, but they usually consist of me not wanting to physically get out of the bed while I'm warm, rather than anything having to do with wanting to sleep.

    Sometimes I feel at a loss for what to do since I end up waking up pretty early in the morning during vacations; I wish I had the ability to just go to sleep at 4 pm and wake up at 8 AM the next day. I can't even fathom how rested I'd be, even if I would have to wait to get up til 10 AM or so due to the resulting sleep inertia.

    It's just a fantasy.

  2. As for the computer thing, perhaps it's a combination of the fact that you know a lot more about computers than I do, and that I know you well enough to trust that you're trying to help me, and not just stroking your own ego (as in "I know more than you do and I'm just dying to show it off").

    One thing I've gotten a lot better at is admitting my mistakes. It's still not easy, but for the casual mistakes in life, I'm a lot better than I used to be.

    I have the radio (two of them, actually) sitting right at the head of my bed. All I have to do is lift my arm up to adjust the volume or turn it on or off. I've done it so many times that I can even find the knobs without looking. The radio itself comes on automatically by alarm. Over time, I've learned to adjust the volume such that it's at the perfect level. It's not so soft that I'd sleep right through it, and it's not so loud that it immediately jerks me out of bed. So for me, it's pretty much zero maintenance - the radio comes on, and it disturbs me just the right amount that I gradually become more and more awake without having to jerk myself out of or back into sleep at any time.

    My system sure seems far more effective than the one our mutual friend has been known to use...

  3. Clever title.

    My wife (you know my wife) seems to have a great deal of sleep inertia; I've never known anyone who can so skillfully pull multiple all-nighters.

  4. Heh, I still find it odd to consider you two husband and wife. :p

    I think that my regular schedule (i.e., no sleeping in on the weekends) has done wonders for the regularity of my sleep schedule. That, and getting into a routine, and knowing not to get absorbed into things I know that will fire me up just before it's time for bed.

    I'll tell you what, not having to get up at a set time most mornings that's probably too early considering how late you stayed up the night before, in order to rush off to work, school, or whatever, eliminates one of the most painful and annoying daily experiences I've ever known to have. I hope I *never* have to go back to the ol' 6am buzzing alarm clock routine.