Sunday, August 19, 2012

Like an elderly Floridian

What is the worst way to end the day?

Well, there are a number of ways I can think of. Stubbing your toe on your nightstand or getting soap in your eyes when you're washing your make-up off. Hitting your head on the baseboard of your bed, or falling asleep with your contacts in.

Yeah, those would all suck.

But the absolute worst way to end the day is not by one of these events - all of which have happened to me more than once, by the way - but by the exact opposite... That is, by not ending the day at all.

I used to think staying up all night was some big glamorous gig. My friend Ashley and I would have sleepovers at my house and figure out ways to stay awake longer than we had the time before. It was like a constant battle against our previous selves. If we stayed up until 2 last sleepover, then we absolutely must stay up until at least 2:30 this time. That's the rule.

One evening we decided to go all out. Instead of going to sleep before 4 am (which is still late, but an acceptable "wee morning" hour to finally retire to sleep at a sleepover), we proposed that we might stay up all night. Surely this is a feat worth attempting. And it's doubtful it will be too tiring. We're spritely young children. If anyone can handle zero hours of sleep, it's us.

We concocted interesting ways of staying awake.

This was before we understood the many databases and appendices available to us via the internet. Before the magnitude of Google was within our mental grasp. And I guess that was fine, because we were pretty dang creative.

We froze grapes in the freezer, then laid down on the living room floor with them on top of our closed eyelids. Presumably the shock of the cold might stir us for hours. This did not work.

We filled cups with cold water and took turns lying on the living room floor (yet again) while whomever held the cup poured water on the face of the person on the floor. This was barbaric and awful, but it worked slightly better.

We played games and we talked and we pinched ourselves and we ate massive amounts of junk food. None of these were patented ways to stay awake longer than you're supposed to at 11 years old, but we certainly thought they were foolproof.

You'd think that what with our primitive attempts to put off sleep, we'd easily fall into the trap of lethargy. Our eyes would "close for just a second" and then open at 9 am, as we awoke refreshed from a nearly full night's sleep.

But, oh, that wasn't the case. And I have no idea how on this one evening we managed to stay up all night. It certainly wasn't the frozen grapes.

All I know is that on that next day, I needed someone to throw frozen grapes at my head to keep me from falling asleep every few minutes. When I wasn't falling asleep, I was yelling up a storm - so cranky and unhappy at having pulled an all-nighter that even the pride of staying up was no consolation.

So why did I only get three hours of sleep last night? A comparable level of sleep deprivation to my childhood all-nighter, considering I'd spent around 10 hours at Disneyland the day before and would be spending another few hours at Disneyland the next day?

This time it was unavoidable, but that didn't make me any less cranky.

By midday today, I was sitting in my room trying to unwind after a morning at Disneyland. I felt my eyes closing and my body descend into sleep like it wished it had much earlier last night. But I wouldn't let it. I kept waking up and falling back asleep. The process would continue as my mind raced, reminding me that I still had errands to run before I could actually get under the covers for the night.

Finally, I'm not so far away from going to bed for real. It's a strange feeling, now that I've spent half my day figuratively pinching myself. But it's given me a new appreciation for those hours we spend curling up after a long day, our feet aching from walking and our backs molding into the shapes of our mattresses. It's such a comfort.

There's nothing mature about staying up late anymore. If anything, I've already become grandparent-like in my willingness to go to bed early. At school this becomes an issue when my friends would rather spend all evening in our suite talking rather than going to bed by midnight like I do on a regular basis.

It takes some terrifically awful experiences to remind you why we sleep in the first place. It's not just this necessity thrown in at the end of the day. It's a comfort that keeps you feeling happy and refreshed each day. There's a reason so many people (like myself) get cranky late at night.

And it's why I'm already getting ready for bed. At 8:22. Like an elderly Floridian. And I'm content.

No comments:

Post a Comment