Thursday, May 8, 2008

So you think you can sleep?!


In our small household, an early bird lives with a night owl.

I am the early bird. I often turn off the clock alarm before it starts beeping, a good 10 minutes before it. My head is clear and well organized, I have the motivation and the energy to do any troubleshooting at work, I am full of ideas.
As it gets closer to the evening, I get more and more tired, my brain stalls, my ideas fade away. I tend to sit or lie down, and worst comes to worst when it gets dark. It’s as if my brain shuts down completely. I feel not very aware and smart, tending to sleep so much that I start yawning every now and then, and prefer not to do anything which has something to do with “thinking”! You can imagine how I suffer in winters when sometimes it gets dark around 4 pm here…My efficient hours during the day decreases considerably.

Then there is Mr. Alchemist. He is a night owl. When I go to work he is often still sleep, or forcing himself to get up. And by forcing I really mean it, using the shower and a couple cups of tea usually. In the evening when we are both home again, he is full of energy though. He sees the world brighter than it is, optimistic, full of ideas. He can stay up late, long hours into the night, until he forces himself to sleep, as he has to get up again the next morning.

The funniest scenes in our home happen in these two extremes: in the morning, or at night! One classic scenario is usually around 11 pm, when I feel the most stupid, my eyes are half open, yawning my lungs out, and begging myself to get up and brush before passing out. Right then, he is so energetic, walking up and down in the living room, talking science, ideas, analyzing the complex situations at work or in life. I hear half of his words, nodding and thinking to myself why I feel so ridiculously dumb!
Then, if for some reason we have to get up early together, it’s time for my revenge! While he is half conscious, half sleep, complaining about life and everything in it, I am singing a song, enjoying my breakfast (my favorite meal in the day) and laughing at him burning his tongue with the damn hot tea…

But the whole issue is bigger than this. He is neither lazy, nor undisciplined. He is just suffering from Delayed sleep-phase syndrome (DSPS). It’s as simple as the fact that he is right handed. There are even suggestions that it is associated with hPer3 (human period 3) gene, but no remedies. At least it’s known that it’s familial. The problem is that it’s as if he is constantly living with a jet-lag. No wonder when we go on a long trip, the actual jet-lag neutralizes his body’s jet-lag, and for few days his sleeping habit changes to normal. And then is being an “early bird” really normal and he is abnormal? His only fault is that unfairly, he is living in a 9-5 world. If there was such a world which would be run between 3 pm and 11 pm, everything would be so different for him. Maybe his whole fate would have been different.

In my opinion, this is again another unfairness in the world, maybe another bug, not a critical one though. The upside is that at least we can laugh at each other starting or ending the day…

6 comments:

Behi said...

Interesting and funny I would say :)... For me, I'm more alert from 5 p.m. onwards. I even like cloudy weather better and I think that's because the darker color of sky compared to the sunny days gives me the fake impression of the evening :). But if I have to be awake early in the morning I don't have that much problem with getting up.

Nava said...

This is also interesting. Because I don't like cloudy days that much (unless I am in a down mood!) and they make me lazy, depressed, and not feeling to do anything. I LOVE sun and sunny days though...

Mommy Homeopath: said...

OH I wish I could find my category....
I have to say I am an early bird and a night owl both in one body!
It does not mean I am not tired, but my mind works so well after midnight and all past down and in the morning....
By necessity of life, my mind "HAS" to work well for the rest of the hours during the day....
So can you tell me what Gene do I lack or have extra???
After I became a mom, I came to cherish sleep much more than pre mom era....but well, neither the son nor the habit allows me to have what I cherish now!

But between you and the Mr. Alchemist, I have to say he is in more pain because society demands more early birds than night owls! Poor him!

Nava said...

Hi MH,

I know somebody similar to you as well. In my family, I have a brother who is exactly like this. Sometimes I wonder if he gets any sleep at all. He can stay up way late, and get up very early. Although if he wants, he can sleep 8 hrs, but he can as well be happy with as little sleep as possible.
If ever I find out what's wrong with him, I'll let you know!! ;)

Anonymous said...

Hi Nava
I completely understand him, especially the struggles to wake up in the morning. When I was reading your post I felt you are writing about me and I should say I felt much better about myself afterward. As you said I'm not lazy. But may be as a result of my cycle or regardless of it I'm not a disciplined person.
After reading your post I can say LUCKILY my partner is an owl too but more efficient and more disciplined used to think may be having an early bird partner is my rescue.
It took me more than a year to make my boss feel comfortable with my showing up in the lab some where between 10:45am to 11:00pm. Now he knows this is the way that works for me although he is in the lab himself about 8:00 am.
I felt many time dumb in the morning and I've made stupid mistakes that screwed my experiments and delayed me even more. You should look at me when I should sit in the lab meeting and listen and concentrate on others scientific talk after having a totally different cycle in the weekend, such a miserable jet lag. In fact every Monday I have a jet lag.
The other problem with that is in the evening; the time that you should stop working and go home; I can't stop myself from working and I always overwork.
Don't laugh at me but when I have to wake up very early for a reason I get depressed the night before and sometimes I prefer not to sleep at all, may be a short nap
1:45 am

jarvenpa said...

Oh, this is fascinating. I had never heard of DSPS but it sounds like something my youngest child deals with (he is 19 but has Down Syndrome), and therefore the family deals with as well. Fortunately his papa is a night owl; we must mostly have one of us awake to look after him when he is waking.