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A brief science quiz:
Matter is to Antimatter as Len is to:
d) All of the above
e) None of the above
If you answered A, B, or D < sarcasm > hey, thanks a lot. < /sarcasm >
If you answered E, Hello, pleased to meet you, I’m Len.
No, really, the answer is C, sleep.
I’m a lifelong insomniac. It’s not that I have trouble falling asleep, though that happens sometimes too, it’s that I have trouble staying asleep. I once read a book on the science of sleep. It suggested that human beings sleep in four hour cycles. We cross from consciousness to unconsciousness, move through increasingly deeper stages of sleep, fall into the deepest stage, REM sleep (where we dream), and then we crawl our way back to the edge of consciousness before starting the whole process over again. Do it twice, and you have a nice, tidy eight hours of sleep. (I’m pretty sure the book suggested that different people have different circadian rhythms, but I’m choosing to ignore that right now. Hey, it’s my blog.)
So here’s the thing. These days I fall asleep pretty easily, but I almost always wake up four hours later. Not approximately four hours later. Not three to five hours later. Not three and a half to four and a half hours later. Four hours later. Some nights, about half the time, I’m awake for a few minutes before falling back into a fitful, restless sleep. The other half of the time, I’m up.
I’ve tried many remedies over the years: I’ve taken Ambien, I’ve sipped Valerian Root Tea, I’ve quit caffeinated beverages more than once (I’m off them right now and have been for more than a year), I stopped reading in bed (“your bed should be a shrine to sleep,” says my doctor), I’ve even altered my nighttime diet. And still, four hours after I first fall asleep, almost to the minute, I wake up.
This is so important to me that several years ago I started a blog, the goal of which was to help bring siesta to the United States. If I could just grab an hour or two in the middle of the day, I’d be golden. Sadly, no one ever visited that blog. (Hey, you could be the first! Click the link!)
Of course, there’s an upside to insomnia. First, I get a ton of stuff done. Aside from this < self deprecating sarcasm > brilliant blog < /self deprecating sarcasm >, I’ve written a parenting blog, two novels (I’m really proud of both) and something like five screenplays (none of which will ever, thankfully, see the light of day.) But it’s not just that. The middle of the night is magical.
The next time you find yourself up at 3 a.m. — and I don’t mean stumbling-home-drunk-up-at-3 a.m., I mean up — if the weather’s good, step outside. Draw a deep breath of air into your lungs. There’s something about the air in the middle of the night. Maybe it’s the first hint of moisture that will form the morning dew; maybe it’s the knowledge that it’s your air.
If you’re far enough from a city, look up. The first time my son and I camped out in the backyard, this past summer just after he had turned four, we stayed up and looked at that late night sky. He literally gasped the first time he saw all those stars. (And we’re not out in the sticks. We live in a city in suburban New York with a population of more than 100,000. And still, that sky.)
Finally, listen. Just. Listen.
Of course, maybe I’ve romanticized the whole thing so I’ll feel better about my failure as a sleeper. Maybe it’s just cold and quiet and creepy outside, and that’s whey everyone else is in bed. Maybe, but maybe not.
All of this got me thinking (which is what insomniacs do way too much of) about music (which is what I think way too much about). What are the best songs about sleep? Not songs to help you sleep, songs about sleep. What is the great Insomniac Playlist?
Here are my top five. And check out the two covers of my number one pick. I’m not sure which one I like more, but I like them both, a lot.
1. I’m So Tired — The Beatles
2. Bad — U2
3. 3:45 No Sleep — The Cardigans
4. Dream Weaver — Gary Wright
5. Mr. Sandman — The Chordettes
[youtube width=”255″ height=”206″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jB47JH3jN_I[/youtube] [youtube width=”255″ height=”206″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIX4hd7_w7c[/youtube]
What are your favorite songs about sleep?
Huh? What? Oh yeah, right. Good night.