In senior year of high school, staying up late was the thing to do. There was always someone on AIM to chat with or a project that had to be finished at the last minute, before third period. Your mind was foggy the next morning but the mist would dissipate once you caught a nap during second period. Your notes looked like chicken scratch — nay — the handwriting of a baby. The extra loopy c’s and d’s and r’s, the trailing i’s and g’s. The cycle would repeat again next week because of the sloppy notes: Staying up late to finish a homework or project the night before it was due, sleeping for just a few hours and dragging your still-growing body into school on time. In senior year of high school, you generally went to sleep at 12am and got up at 7. Most nights, though, the conversation time stamps revealed that you actually only signed off at 12:45. Who knows when you really went to sleep.
Freshmen year of college found you staying up late much for the same reason: procrastination. Except this year, the distractions were live and 24/7. Boys, booze, music, girls, all day and all night, in your dorm room, in your dorm common area, in the dining halls, student centers, computer centers, bus stops, fraternity houses, franchise fast food restaurants. Everything was new and you could wear pajamas that were even more unkempt than the ones you wore to class senior year. In freshmen year of college, you went to sleep at 1:20am and woke up at 7:45am for an 8:10 class on a campus 20 minutes (driving) away from where you lived.
Sophomore year, you moved on campus. You were still dating that guy from freshmen year, and as luck would have it, he lived directly across the hall from your dorm room. This was the year you started to rev up your Achieve mode into Overachieve. You worked three jobs, pledged a sorority, gained a leadership role in a dance troupe, wrote for the school paper and started looking for internships. You declared your two majors. You were getting to your peak and slept around 2:30am, only to be woken up by your also double-majoring neuroscience/pre-med roommate at 7 every morning when water from her long, wet hair would fly onto your face as she swished around her side of the room trying to figure out which Bath and Body Works body spray would smell “better” that day. The evaporated Freesia gases would then hit your nostrils and you’d hit yourself in the face with your pillow vowing to yourself that you would become an RA so that you could get a room to yourself.
Junior year was Facebook. Facebook landed and you were all over it like a lattice crust on top of a cherry pie. There were profile pictures to update, ex-girlfriends to stalk, egos to flaunt. There would be no sleep until 3am but thankfully as a junior, you got to pick all the classes that started at 4 PM.
Senior year was a daze. What wonderfulness that occurred during senior year is sadly but a memory now, due to this compounded lack of sleep. There were vacations to Greece and Puerto Rico, Harry Potter and Monk marathons. There was the penultimate turning-of-age birthday and ushering in of a new lifestyle – going out to bars many nights in a row, the pizza binges afterward. The few nights that were left for work, you slept at 4:30, sometimes 5 in the morning. You became aware of a neighborhood bat whose friendly echos you looked forward to to signal bedtime. On Mondays and Thursdays, you got up at 8am to go to the studio and tape your live morning TV show. (Somehow you never “looked like a zombie” on air, they said, but you certainly wore your glasses 90% of the time just to be safe.) On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays you woke up at 9 so you could get to ABC News in New York on time for your 20/20 and Primetime internships. Every night you took a disco nap before rinsing and repeating the 12-4:30am activities.
You graduated five years ago but have not grown out of your terrible sleep schedule. You went to bed at 2am every night for a year and half of your first job. The commute was an hour and a half drive each way in bumper to bumper traffic. You woke up consistently later and later each day, if only by a few seconds. Towards the end of your first position you were getting into work at 9:50am. 50 minutes late. Towards the end of that first position you were not only falling asleep behind the wheel on the way home but also on the way into the office. Sometimes you would sneak into your car during lunch to snooze. Sometimes you wouldn’t be able to get up and you found yourself crumpled up in the backseat of your car trying not to freeze to death…or suffocate… Those two hour naps were horrible. It was time for you to find a new job.
The new job was in Jersey City so you moved north too to save on the commute and to give yourself more time to procrastinate to sleep later so you could get up later. It seems like everything has been driven toward that idea: “Move closer to sleep later to wake up later to sleep more.” It’s been almost four years of the JC job and you’re back to square one again since you’ve moved to the city. The days in a week now when you sleep more than 6 hours number less than two. That’s one day a week then isn’t it?
The foggy mornings can’t be cleared up so easily anymore with a nap. There is no such thing as pajama suits. There are no second period classes. There are only endless conference calls at 8am on which you sound like a frog since you just rolled out of bed. There are only hundreds of emails per day to skim through and delete quickly if you’re lucky.
It’s a challenge dealing with people when you’re half asleep. Most times you close your eyes to rest and wish that they would disappear. Other times you just smile weakly and hope they continue walking away. Still other times you are cold to your direct report even though he didn’t really do anything wrong.
Sometimes you’re coherent, sometimes you’re not and people call you out on it. But you tell them you’re sick. You’re congested or that your throat hurts.
Then you take a sick day so you can actually just sleep.
Or save the sick day for when you need a real vacation day and work from home. Pajamas are allowed when you’re at home, and so are naps. Working from home, yes. You are indeed working from home.
Glorious sweet sleep, how I miss and need thee.