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Confessions of a night owl

I’ve always been a bit of a late-night junkie.

When people in my family hit puberty, we lose the ability to sleep. It’s like clockwork, really. HORMONES BAM WHY DO YOU NEED SLEEP? It’s impossible to FALL asleep, and once you’re there, you have to be very, very careful to STAY asleep, because once you wake up, all bets are off. You might get an hour’s sleep, or six hours, but if you wake up too much, there’s no falling back to sleep. Or you might wake fully up for no reason at 3 a.m. and there you have it, then! That’s all the sleep you need! (It’s not. Not at all. You’re sleepwalking all day and you yell at people, and sometimes walls and/or your own feet for being stumbly.)

My grandmother and great-aunt never used their beds because why bother? They slept in their recliners with the televisions on. That way, they figured, if they woke up, they could at least watch some fine late-night television. My dad’s currently getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night. That’s actually quite a bit for him.

(Ironically, Mom sleeps like the dead. She’s in bed every night by 9 and up by 4-5 a.m. and she’s one of those “I’m up, let’s sing songs of little BIRDIES!” people that make you want to throw things. Talk about opposites attracting.)

A normal 9-5 workday never worked out for me. I hate alarms. I hate getting up early. I hate going to bed before I’m tired. If you’re an insomniac to begin with, going to bed when you’re not even tired is a waste of time. You just lie there and every stupid thing you’ve said in your ENTIRE LIFE goes through your mind.

I was a little nervous about the new job. See, I’m working weird hours now – til 1am three weekdays a week and over 10-hour days on the weekend days (I have to get up kind of early those days, but I get out at 8.) I worked the late shift at the answering service quite a few times over the years, and it never bothered me that much (things always slowed down a lot, and mostly we could chat and laugh, which was always good) but a job where you were actually WORKING and expected to be MENTALLY ALERT until 1 a.m.? Eeesh.

Well. Come to find out, this works PERFECTLY for me. Who knew the solution to over almost 30 years of insomnia is shifting your sleeping/waking hours? (FINE, I’m sure some scientist knew this. Everyone has Circadian rhythms, right? Well, who’s to say mine aren’t much different from everyone else’s? I mean, my brain seems to run at a different weirdo speed than most of the world; I wouldn’t be surprised if my rhythms are all off, as well.)

It took a bit of getting used to (a month or two, to be honest) but come to find out this is kind of perfection. I get to go to bed when I’m tired. I only have to set the alarm twice a week. I can let myself sleep as late as I want 5 days a week. Let that sink in – I can sleep until NOON if I want to FIVE DAYS A WEEK. (I don’t – I usually get up between 9:30-10 – but I COULD.) I’m actually perfectly alert until 1 a.m. (well, most nights – some nights the copyediting and proofreading is very, very dry, and my most favorite cheerful goofballs happen to have the night off, and there’s a lot of hurry up and wait, and on those nights I get a little yawny. But who wouldn’t, even during a normal day of work?) Then I get to go home, and it takes about an hour to unwind, and I’m off to bed. AND I CAN ACTUALLY SLEEP. I’ve been getting almost 8 hours of sleep a night for months. IT IS GLORIOUS.

ME EVERY NIGHT. (Plus about 40 years, let's be honest.)

ME EVERY NIGHT. (Plus about 40 years, let’s be honest.)

(Well, side note, not EVERY night; there’s a certain cat who’s QUITE sure that once the sun comes up, it’s playtime. So he leaps into my bed and tromps all over me and says “MEOW MEOW MEOW” all up in my face and I say sleepily “No no good boy go lay dooooown” and he is VERY EXCITED to hear my voice and then there is MORE tromping and meowing and “HEY MOM HEY MOOOOOM maybe it is time for wet food? Mom mom MOOOM! Meow meow meow PURR IN YOUR FAAAACE!” and sometimes there’s tickling my nose with his whiskers, which is not optimal, and sometimes even WORSE, there’s licking of my forehead, which he knows makes me giggle and squirm and put my head under the covers. That’s a VERY fun game for him because it means he’s won! Man, is that guy lucky I adore him.)

BUT! If you work nights (or want to sleep many hours into the sunrise) you have to follow many rules, such as:

  • DARKNESS! I had dark curtains but they weren’t enough. Em recommended blackout curtains and I got some for Christmas. They make ALL the difference. Those, plus closing all the bedroom doors most of the way (sadly, not all of the way, because there’s a certain cat in this household – YES, the same cat mentioned ABOVE – who cannot bear closed doors and would caterwaul and throw himself at the doors until I opened them, and that’s not going to help you sleep, because he needs to come and go or he can’t handle his FEEEEELINGS – are keeping my room dark like a TOMB and it is GLORIOUS.
  • QUIETNESS! There’s only so much of this I can get, because of the cat, you see, but quietness is important. I live on a somewhat-busy street, and the cars start being loud early, as do the children waiting for the bus and the upstairs neighbor who has a normal schedule and gets up early in the morning. I have mostly solved this with a very loud fan. I suppose I could use a white noise machine, but those make me nervous. Someone gave me one once, and my choices were “forest” (every now and then this very loud frog would be all “RIBBIT!” and how is that white noise?), “ocean” (which would have been fine but whoever recorded this put on screechy seagulls and also it made me have to pee all night), “wind” (which kept having these gusts which made me think the house was about to fall down and I was having nightmares about Auntie Em and the storm cellar) and “storm” (rain is soothing, except for the having to pee part, but random VERY LOUD THUNDERCLAPS are not. I’M AWAKE NOW IS MY HOUSE ON FIRE?) So I just turn on my fan and angle it away from my bed and it makes just enough whooshy white noise that I don’t hear much of anything except for the time some man came to my house trying to collect a debt from the prior tenant and knocked on my door AND all the windows (and you can be sure I reamed him a new one and he left apologizing and I think is so scared of me now he will never return.)
  • MEDICALLY INDUCED COMA! OK, so this one might not be for all of you, but I’ve been on meds for my sleeping issues for…oh, most of my adult life, and I take a teeny tiny pill every night that helps tip me over into slumberville. It doesn’t always work, but I’d say 90/100 times it does the trick. Aaah, prescription zzzzzs.
  • BEING COMFORTABLE! Comfortable sleep clothes are a MUST. You can take your sexy negligees and wear ’em to your heart’s content, my friends, I’m wearing flannel and t-shirts and, on very cold nights, a sweater over that, and maybe furry socks. And sometimes the cat is allowed under the covers because he is a warm little furry hot water bottle. You also need to know what kind of covers you need. Lots? Few? (Me, I’m a 4,000 blanket person. I like to feel MUMMIFIED under blankets. So I can barely MOVE. It is just my best thing.) How about pillows. Squishy? Hard? Feather? Foam? GET YOURSELF COMFY, YO. The more your bed’s a happy safe haven, the more you’re going to want to stay in it longer. There’s nothing worse than waking up because you’re freezing or in a pool of sweat. Plan ahead. And, related to this…
  • DO NOT DRINK ALL THE BEVERAGES BEFORE BED. Seriously, do you want to crawl out of that warm little cocoon you’ve so carefully constructed to pee like 14 times all night long? Especially when you KNOW when you get back the cat will have taken the warm spot in the bed and then you have to move him and he’s all “MEOW MOM YOU ARE THE WOOOORST” and then decides “Well, I’m awake, can I climb on you like you’re a mountain? Who cares, I’m gonna” and it takes forever to get back to sleep. Just curtail your orange soda after a certain time of night. You’ll be fine, my little gumdrops. You can drink all the soda in the morning, if you want. I won’t tell anyone.

SO, to sum up: I am getting the best sleep in my life by working weird hours. And when I tell people what hours I work, I get that face. That “oh, I feel so BAD for you” face. But I get to work with people who are ALSO happy to be working weird hours, and we’re kind of like kids who get to stay up all night and sleep in all day, and if anyone says anything about it we can say “I WORK NIGHTS” and this makes people kind of back away from you as if you might be radioactive (you kind of might) but little do they know, you’re actually kind of working the best hours ever.

(This all might be moot if you have children, or are in a relationship with someone who doesn’t understand weird hours. I decided about a month into this I was only allowed to date either other newspaper people, or writers, or maybe people who do long-distance truck-driving because who else is going to be up at these hours?)

Also, there is nothing better than doing errands in the middle of the day on a Thursday. NO ONE IS IN THE STORES! You can get in and out and it is like MAGIC! Yes, all of the employees think you’re unemployed, but who cares? YOU WIN QUICK SHOPPERY! Also, if you leave work at 1 a.m., no one’s on the roads, so you can drive really slow when the weather’s bad and NO ONE IS THERE TO CARE! It’s all very “I own the world, this is mine now” and empowering.

Now you know a secret: people working at night don’t always hate it, after all. Just don’t tell anyone. Then EVERYONE will want to work nights, and who’d open the stores early then? THE WHOLE AMERICAN ECONOMY WOULD COLLAPSE. I’d feel TERRIBLE. Eek!

And if anything goes on before, say, 10am on a weekday, you guys will let me know, right? Good, good. Much appreciated. All the love. *smooooch*

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About lucysfootball

I'm not the girl with the most cake. Someday. SOMEDAY. View all posts by lucysfootball

26 responses to “Confessions of a night owl

  • becomingcliche

    It brings me such joy that your job is such a good fit for you. In every, single way.

    Dumbcat and Bellatrix need to meet. They’re peas in the same pod. I have learned to move as little as possible at night, otherwise she’s on me like stink on rice.

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    • lucysfootball

      Aw, thank you! (And me, too!)

      Hee, Dumbcat and Bellatrix would be BFFs in waking up their humans. If I show any signs of wakery, the GAME is ON. “MOM! You’re AWAKE! You’re ALL MINE NOW!” He climbs up and down me as if I’m the Rockies and he’s a mountaineer.

      Like

  • Andreas Heinakroon

    Ooops! I might be one of those annoying morning people. Sorry. My alarm goes off at 4:55 am on weekdays and 6:00 on weekends and I more often than not wake up before that on my own. Ok, so I might look like that meme bird when I get out of bed (http://www.pinterest.com/pin/235524255487288795/) and I tend to fall asleep after 8 at night, but it works for me.

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    • lucysfootball

      Oh, but you wouldn’t be that happy morning person if you had an option. Let’s say you were independently wealthy so you didn’t have to work and someone could tend to the kids while you were asleep. You’d sleep in then, I bet!

      That bird cracked me up. Having seen you when you’ve just woken up, I can vouch: you are totally meme bird. But in the BEST OF WAYS! (So am I. My hair is a MESS and my eyes are all crusty and I growl for about an hour.)

      Like

  • Andreas Heinakroon

    (Also, people sleep in clothes? Really? That seems so… cumbersome. And unnecessarily warm.)

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      Sometimes when it’s really hot I sleep in a tank top and underwear, but it has to be REALLY hot. Mostly I like to be all swaddled up to sleep. I like to be warm when I sleep about 3/4 of the year. In the summer I put about 3 fans on my bed (and this year I need to get a couple of window air conditioners, too.) I’m very touchy about the temperature when I’m sleeping.)

      Like

  • gabrieleneumann

    I’m so jealous. My natural sleep cycle puts me to bed around 2 and up around 10 and having to wake up at 630 (530 for a few months every other year) in the morning gives me all the sads

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      That’s my natural cycle, too – 1-9, 2-10, somewhere around there. I always thought I’d get trained out of that eventually (the best sleep I ever got before this was in college – I’d purposely plan my class schedule so I had later-in-the-day classes so I could take advantage of my sleep schedule) but I’ve had years and years of miserableness having to get up that early in the morning. This FINALLY works for me! happy sigh

      Liked by 1 person

  • Thinkingoutsideofmyhead

    OMG! Hilarious post. I worked nights for a while, never quite adjusted to it. I’m glad it suits you so well. Sleep well!

    Like

  • galinthegreyhat

    I never adjusted to working nights…thankfully I don’t have to anymore. But I’m with you….getting up super early also stinks.

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  • Karen Van Benschoten

    I don’t have that much of a sleep issue, except I need more than the average bear, due to the fatigue brought on by MS. But the cat won’t let me close the door, and when she thinks it time for breakfast (hers not mine), if I haven’t stirred in the least, she gets up on the pillow, and along with the ‘whisker tickle’, she tries to lick my closed eyelids, as she knows this will usually cause them to open (or I just put my head under the covers), until I decide I want to get up.

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    • lucysfootball

      I love that your cat’s the same way about closed doors. I’ve tried closing mine, but he yowls so hard that I have to open them so he has free access. Every now and then he even freaks out about closed cabinets and closets. I swear he thinks Narnia is behind one of these doors.

      Liked by 1 person

  • grrgoyl

    How much can I relate to this post? Tery has terrible trouble sleeping (overactive brain, can’t shut down); I’m out about five minutes after my head hits the pillow and down for the count. This has been remedied greatly (though not all the way) with our purchase of a $5000 Tempurpedic king-size mattress that I’m paying off for 6 years (poor Tery slept on the couch for a decade because she hated my cheap old mattress). It is HEAVEN, and our favorite time of day is climbing into it and grinning like fools across the vast expanse of blankets.

    We call it “grandma’s feather bed” because both of us, both our cats and our ferret boy can sleep in it comfortably. Which brings me to our second similarity: Last night I got in for a quick nap before working third shift. It’s pretty cold in the room because the bed only fits over the heat register, and that makes me nervous understandably, but we have maximum blankets for snuggling. My ferret boy Simon was already in the bed and he cozied up to me immediately. He was like a little ferret-sized furnace against my leg, LOVELY.

    I only work third shift Friday and Saturday, and I LOVE grocery shopping at 4 a.m. when I’m done. On the rare occasions I have to go during the day, I’m all like “PEOPLE GET OUT OF MY WAY.”

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    • lucysfootball

      Oh, I can’t even agree enough about the overactive brain. I can shut down my busy, busy thoughts most of the day…but when you’re in a quiet, dark room, those thoughts you’ve squashed all day are all “OUR TURN!” and come out to play. En masse. No matter what you do. It’s the WORST.

      I was just talking to Andreas about mattresses. It’s time for me to get a new one. I want a good one, though, so it’ll be a while until I can afford one (bad credit…have to pay up front for everything!) but once I do, I feel like I might never get out of bed.

      I’m actually thinking, once the weather gets better, of doing my weekly grocery shopping after I get out of work on Wednesday nights so I don’t have to leave the house (unless I want to) on my days off. I’m still awake for a bit, and there’s one grocery store still open…and I’m pretty sure I could get in and out in record time if I did it at 1am.

      Liked by 1 person

      • grrgoyl

        We’re lucky in Colorado. The big chain is King Soopers, all open 24 hours; which was quite foreign when we first moved here, now anything less is so archaic.

        Good luck with the mattress! It turns out you can’t put a price tag on good sleep :)

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        • lucysfootball

          I do miss that about Albany – the store I liked the most (that was closest to my place) was 24 hours and I’d often shop there late after a long night of theater. So quiet. So quick to get in and out. Loved it!

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  • earthandink

    Night owl: yes! This is me. I worked overnights for years and it was a good fit. Then I switched to days, but I never started before 10 and I can’t explain how that happened, but it was seriously a good thing.
    Blackout curtains: yay! They really do work. As you know. (Sometimes I state the obvious.)
    White noise machine: I was hysterical here. I was once given a wall clock that made different noises on the hour. It was called The Serenity Clock and was supposed to get you serene, I guess? But it was loud. So I called it THE SERENITY CLOCK! and couldn’t stand to leave the batteries in.

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    • lucysfootball

      My parents had what was supposed to be a soothing bird noises clock a while ago – my dad ended up tampering with it so it didn’t make the bird noises on the hour anymore. They were SO LOUD. And obnoxious. And robotic. It was terrifying. So that would be THE BIRD CLOCK!

      Everyone always says “oh, no! NIGHTS! WEEKENDS!” but maybe some people really are suited for these hours. I’m more productive, sleep better, I’m happier…I think this might be what I’ve been missing all these years!

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  • oh2bhuman

    Great tips …I have slept with a fan going in my room forever….my husband was in the Cda Navy and he needed it to imitate the sounds on the ship…I get up at 4 a.m. and work 530 to 230 p.m. I’ve never worked the night shift…it would be tough, but you are correct – it is awesome to shop and do groceries mid day…I will follow your post to keep up with your stories.

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    • lucysfootball

      Thank you! I have such trouble sleeping without my fan now. If I go on vacation and I don’t have a fan, every sound around me sounds so loud! I’ve had to work the very early shift in the past, as well – although I’m not good at very early, and probably never will be, it was so nice to drive home in the middle of the day (and run errands then, as well, when no one else was!)

      Liked by 1 person

  • neilklein

    I too dread my bouts of insomnia. If I am tired enough, I can fall asleep, but you are right, sometimes just lying there waiting for sleep is worse. I have taken to wearing earplugs at night because there are so many small noises. I have had the black out curtains for a few years now and they are great. I have a sleep walking problem when I get sleep deprived and for some reason, I am always waking up looking out my window when there is light coming through. If the curtains are properly closed, I have no problems. That light shining in draws me somehow. You have offered some nice advice and I am happy I stumbled upon your blog.

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    • lucysfootball

      I’ve tried earplugs from time to time, but something about them must bother me, because I always find them on (or under) the pillow when I wake up (or on the floor, or tangled in the sheets, etc.) so I think I’m taking them out when I sleep. I had some sleepwalking problems when I was younger, but haven’t (whew!) had them as an adult (I can only imagine the trouble I could get into – I’d probably fall and break a leg!)

      Thanks for the comment – I’m glad you’re here!

      Like

  • Samantha

    I am very excited to see an Amy post!

    I seriously think if I could work 10-6:30 or 7 it would be absolutely perfect for me. I’m glad you’ve found the job with a perfect schedule! Sleep is so important. :)

    Like

    • lucysfootball

      I’m trying to be better about blogging this year…it’s not as often as it used to be, but it’s a start, anyway!

      I think most people eventually grow up and get into the regular swing of things. I have never grown out of my college sleep schedule. It only took me 20 years out of college to find a job that accommodated my brain! :)

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