Friday, April 24, 2009


The Smithereens--"Behind The Wall Of Sleep" (mp3)
The Electric Prunes--"I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night" (mp3)

My daughter, who is studying psychology right now in a college class, calls each week with her latest discovery or revelation. Last night, it was "We're studying depression. We're all depressed."

Sometimes she'll engage in a bit of psychoanalysis. I'm guessing, in particular, based on personal experience, that she psychoanalyzes each parent for the other parent but doesn't necessarily share the results. Which is good, because it leaves each of us with the still-impenetrable notion that we are unpsychoanalyzable, or at least beyond the need to be so scrutinized.

A couple of weeks ago, they were studying sleep, and when she called up, she unleashed this theory on us:

"If you have a hard time falling asleep at night, it's because you're anxious. If you wake up early all the time, it means you're depressed."

I thought I was off the hook. I had always heard that if you slept all the time, it meant that you were depressed. Now, it would seem that both too much and not enough are both signs of depression. Fuck.

Most nights, I wake up between 4 and 5 AM. My first year in this current job, the pattern became so prevalent that I named my Fantasy Football team, "4AM Angst." Basically, the way it works is that if there is one particular idea that can work its way to the front of my brain, I'm done for the night. If I stay in bed, I'm likely to toss and turn and try a new sleeping position, each movement giving me a new tangle on the problem swirling around in my head. If I can keep that idea from getting all the way to the surface, there's a chance that I can at least get some uneasy sleep. If I allow the very specific thought 'I'm not going back to sleep' to tread water, then I have 2 choices: 1) either tell myself that it is still valuable to lie there and rest during those remaining hours or 2) read. It all depends.

But I have a larger theory. I suspect that if you hosted some grand, impromptu event at 5 o'clock in the morning, maybe sent around a text (sorry, Billy) that read, "Hey, if you're awake, I'm buying breakfast at the IHop in 20 minutes for anyone who shows up," you would probably have a huge crowd of people you know waiting for you in the parking lot. And not just because they're freeloaders. I think the great myth of 5AM is that when you lie there awake, you are all alone in the world. I'm not even convinced that the person lying next to you or me is asleep.

Sleep is like trying to eat healthily. There's what you're should to get, and then there's what you actually get.

I hear that as you get older, you don't sleep as deeply. I would certainly agree with that. I hear the cat wanting to come in. I hear the cat wanting to go out. I hear the birds during their prime hours. I hear the dehumidifier upstairs, the furnace downstairs. I hear the noises of a house constantly settling.

But I'm not necessarily lamenting the situation either. Sometimes, it's true, there's a problem that I just can't get a handle on, but those hours of feeling awake and alone in the dark can provide the right setting for a lot of problem solving, examining, and even creating. In my head, I have written everything from talks to tests and have rewritten emails that I'm glad I didn't get up and send the first time.

Still, as someone who gets less sleep than he used to, I will offer one piece of advice: no matter how awake you feel, keep your eyes closed. That still gives you a chance.

The Smithereens and The Electric Prunes are both availabe at Itunes.


Anonymous said...

i would think that what time you went to bed would play a role in what time you woke up.

Bob said...

So would I, but it doesn't.

troutking said...

That's a great Smithereens song. I remember buying that album (cassette) at Musicland (now gone) at Hawthorn Mall (now called something else). It's sad that there are no memories like that being made now. I doubt I'll have fond memories of downloading an album for 9 cents a song from a Russian website sitting around in front of my computer wearing sweatpants and eating ice cream.

Free Sports Betting said...

I always thought if you slept a lot then you were depressed.