“When Do You Sleep?”
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Below.
“When do you sleep?”
It’s the question in response to some goal I’ve met or some personal accomplishment, such as a book written or a project published. Sometimes, like with strangers or fans or in polite company, I find the question amusing because it’s asked with such genuine curiosity and innocence. Other times, it’s asked with disdain by people who know the answer, and that’s when it becomes resentment and the trigger to darker emotions.
Through the years, I’ve re-arranged my sleep schedule many times to get the most productive time without disturbing anyone else. Sticking to my sleep schedule—or arranging my sleep around my art and craft—has been integral to my productivity.
Nowadays, when I get by on only a few hours of sleep, going to bed at 2 AM sometimes and then up and off to the day job by sunrise, it’s my own fault. Though I will probably readjust my schedule in the next month to keep the girls from accidentally waking me. It’s been easier to not have to share bathroom space with them at the crack of dawn but it costs me sleep time because I’m aware (as mothers are) of them moving about in the house, even if they’re being extremely considerate.
For years, I wrote after the spouse and babies had been put to bed. That meant sitting down to write at 10 PM, writing hard through midnight, and usually getting blurry-eyed by 12:30 and wrapping up and crawling into bed, sated with my creativity, at 1 AM, only to get up by 6 AM to beat my spouse to the shower before he got up at 7 AM. That seemed to work for a long, long time. I can always talk myself into staying up later but the bed seduces me in the mornings and it’s so much harder to get up and go write then, even though the ideas are flowing. The other issue was always that I didn’t want to wake my bed-mate with an alarm going off at 4 AM for me to get up and write, so it was just better to crawl into bed when no one was aware.
Then came the control issues. My spouse wanted me to watch TV with him instead of being at the computer after the kids were bathed, read to, and tucked in. So I would watch TV with him, tuck him in, and then head to the computer once he fell asleep. If he woke and missed me, I’d be guilted into going back to bed.
If I complained about my lack of sleep, I was told that I didn’t need as much sleep as he did. Well, no. I still needed my sleep, but I just didn’t get it. The kids were little and they came first. Then him. Then work. Then my writing. So I sandwiched it in where I could. This was during a time when I felt desperate to hit the big time so I could leave my day job and be home with the kids and write while they were in school, so I had to work extra hard on my second career and the time to do so was only after he and the girls had gone to bed.
Eventually, he would “wait up” for me to finish my computer work. He’d complain about waiting up, though he hadn’t been asked to and I didn’t prefer it. The result was, to keep him happy, I’d have to go to bed before I was ready to quit for the evening. And then lie awake for hours.
It didn’t work for me to go to bed first because he’d always wake me. Maybe that’s just clumsy men, as I’ve been told. Or maybe it was on purpose, seeing how Aislinn as a teen went through a stage where she purposely did little things to wake people who were sleeping when she was not….
So my being the first to sleep didn’t work for me.
And being the second to sleep didn’t either. My ex had a problem with restless leg syndrome, not just for the first hour of sleep, but throughout the entire night. I couldn’t fall asleep until I was exhausted and then, once I’d get into a good, deep sleep, I’d be shaken awake, whether at midnight or 4 AM. I never seemed to get enough sleep, and going to the sofa or to the guest room made him angry that I hadn’t stayed the entire night in his bed.
Before we divorced, I was “sleeping” for 8 or 9 hours, the most I’d ever gotten in my life, but completely zonked from lack of real sleep. After we stopped sharing a bed and later a space, I went back to getting by on 5 or 6 hours and at 6 hours, I would feel utterly rested.
Eventually, I stopped writing in the late evenings. No matter how I rearranged my schedule, my ex still con- trolled it, and I let him without realizing it. He was jealous of the passion I had for creativity, yet didn’t care to share in it…except publicly.
There were all those times when we were at social gala events and parties and people would come up to us and chat about my work. They’d tell they didn’t understand how I got so much done, and then they’d say, “Lorna, when do you sleep?”
That’s when the man at my side would say, “Yes, I don’t know how she does it. She never sleeps!”
And I’d find myself boiling in resentment for the rest of the evening because that was the most “support” I got for my books…what I heard in public at parties.
But this is where that old trigger of resentment comes up for me and why I really do understand that prisoners were tortured and brainwashed most easily from a lack of sleep. After a while, you’ll do almost anything for a good night’s sleep.
But you won’t do much that’s creative.