A typical morning conversation these days seems to go like this:
Person #1: "Man, I didn't sleep well last night."
Person #2: "Me, neither. I was up at 3:15 and I couldn't go back to sleep."
And then what follows usually is a discussion of how each of the struggling sleepers dealt with their situations. There's the get up and watch a movie guy. There's the read all night on her phone woman. There's the meditative, take advantage of quiet time person. There's the need to pee prostate guy. There's me, who refuses to get up or do anything other than lie in the dark, rationalizing that even light rest is better than nothing.
But if you were awake in the middle of the night last night chances are many of the people you know were awake as well, all of them, all of us, in separate, lonely places where we felt like we were the only ones awake. We weren't.
A couple of weeks ago, when I woke up around 4:30AM, I picked up my phone and looked to see what time it was, and there, facing me was a text from a friend sent around 9AM. So I responded to his question. Within a minute or two, my phone buzzed with the question, "What are you doing up?"
"Woke up," I said. "Couldn't go back to sleep. What about you?"
"Getting ready to go for a bike ride," he responded.
There wasn't even any reason to challenge his plan. I thought, okay, the roads are probably clear and it makes sense. As if night, or early morning, is becoming the new day. As if there are all kinds of things that are better accomplished at night when much of the world around us is shut down.
I wonder if there is a greater adaptation going on around us, where, yeah, sleep, a full night's sleep, a straight through eight hours, would be pretty cool, but that it might also be a worthy sacrifice when there are so many things we could get done.
It isn't healthy, of course. Any number of recent studies have shown us that the brain can't get rid of its toxins if we don't get enough sleep, but I'm also pretty sure that most of us can't even tell that our brain has toxins. We just know that by 3PM we are hitting a wall, ready to crash. And we figure that maybe we can catch a quick "power" nap before the evening cranks up.
Then there are teens, who are "vamping," using late night hours for all of their social media activities, even though they need the sleep even more than we do. Many of their lives have become so busy that David Brook's notion of "The Organization Kid" has become pervasive, teens who are impassive schedulers of everything because that is the only way they can fit it all in.
What is pretty certain is that many of us are up when we are not supposed to be. Ask around. For some of us age and worry are the reasons we don't get through the night. For others, there is simply too much. Of everything.
From a personal perspective, I feel all of those reasons and more colliding at once, and the bad thing is that I'm getting used to it. Or, maybe even worse, I think I am. But it's also possible, as I sometimes wonder, that I am moving through the days in a more laconic kind of stupor, being "on" when I need to be and feel resentful when I want to be "off."
Just realize that when you are lying awake, staring at the bleakness or listening for the first birds, I am probably there, too. It is that strange journey outside of normal time that too many of us are on.