Deb: When I am sad I fall into a hypnotic state. My brain becomes the drug pusher in this “trip” of sleep that takes over my body. Everyone deals with sadness and stress differently. I fall into sleep. Constantly and willingly. I cannot for the life of me stay awake no matter what.
My brain is protecting me. Good old brain. I look at my sleepscape as a gift, one that has been handed down to me through generations. You see, my people are sleepers. At least half of my people. My Dad is the sleeper, my Mom is the night owl partier. When I was growing up my Dad became the cartoon Dad in the comic strips. He could and would nap on a dime. Anytime, anywhere. Parties, picnics, plays, you name it. It was a sore spot for Mom as she saw this as disrespect and something for her to be embarrassed about. And from her point of view, I get it. She clocks her 18 hours of wake time and wears it like a badge of honour. Sleepers are weak from her point of view.
But as I’ve gotten older, I realize that we are all sleep wired. Our brains are dictating to our bodies just how much sleep we need. For me, it’s eight hours, but I’ll happily take nine. Can’t help it. To quote Popeye, “I yam who I yam.”
I read articles about people like Martha Stewart and her four hours of sleep and I am pea green with envy. Can you imagine all the things you could accomplish if you only required four hours? Wow. I could repaint the sky in that time. But I’m not awake long enough so I’ll just paint the bit that’s over my house.
And then I’ll do what I do with all the challenges in my middle-aged life. I’ll make friends with my sleep. After all, It gives me the morning gift of refreshed renewal and when I’m sad, it heals me. One nap at a time.
Barbara: Well, Deb, we are the same on this point. I have always needed a full night of sleep myself—yup, eight to nine hours––and I’ve always, always envied the don’t-need-to-sleep-much sleepers. Those people who get up at the crack of dawn (or earlier), workout, walk the dog, watch the sun rise, read the paper, then go to work, work their asses off, come home, fine dine, socialize, then write their manuscripts. It seems so purposeful, even if it also seems so potentially stressful. Funnily, for the longest time, I imagined you were one of those, Deb. You always seemed to be up and at ‘em. It’s strange how it comforts me to know that you do all that you do and get exactly the same amount of sleep as I need.
I also try to take comfort from those sleep studies that extol the virtues of a good eight hours for health and beauty reasons. But that might just be me grasping at straws—because the little-sleep people seem just as healthy and beautiful as any others (I mean, Martha Stewart? Come on. After all that she’s accomplished and been through, she’s downright babelicious.) So I think your “sleep wired” theory explains that little puzzle.
As for the sad sleep—well, there’s no doubt about sleep’s essential value when I’m in the doldrums. If my problems don’t haunt my dreams, the sleepscape––as you so beautifully call it—is such a tonic for my pain and stress and disappointment and loss. It is the place where I can actually paint the sky then fly through it unfettered, only coming back to earth when it’s time to wake up and face the world.
Sweet dreams, my dear friend.