Sleep?

[July 2012]

Just when I thought that I had achieved a quasi-socially acceptable sleep pattern a combination of thesis and sofa rest have dragged me back to my natural hours.

The trouble is that my natural preferred studying/writing time is between 11pm and 3am. I can get up early, no really I can, its just that my brain doesn’t function very well. Naturally, until I have been awake for 3 or 4 hours my conversation is stilted and higher intellectual considerations just don’t happen which is why out of preference I will clean the house, read webcomics, walk or lift and carry at work.
The brain can be kick-started early (as required for conferences) but that inevitably causes a mid-afternoon crash, where a slow burn my give me a few creative hours between 4 and 7pm. The body will be awake as long as I ask it to be and usually a little longer than I want but tends towards approx. 10hrs optimum amount of sleep broken into between 2 and 4 chunks and usually waking me around midday regardless.

My parents have always tended towards late mornings and later nights, a preference definitely encouraged by a few years in continental Europe. During my A-levels I often did my homework til gone 3 in the morning before rising at 7ish to go to the gym before breakfast and school. I fuelled my sleeplessness with coffee, alcohol, over-the-counter painkillers and self-harm; often crashing into listless naps under my desk, incessant headaches and delusions. As a first-year undergraduate, depression unabated and anxiety spiralling out of control, I discovered the luxury of a Humanities timetable and remembered the delight of academic coasting which led to sleeping my days away and occasional 48 hr essay-writing spurts. A full-time job with notoriously anti-social hours and a part-time masters shunted me back to the insomnia end of the scale but when I started my PhD I was determined to be healthier and after eventually realising I needed to take time out for my mental health I have also been working on creating a sleeping pattern that correlates with common social working hours.
I was just about managing (shift pattern aside) 1/2am-10.30/11.30am in bed…

But my need for silence and brain power has reasserted itself, 3am-midday has become the norm and my rewrites have become increasingly frantic as I try to pull myself back towards working during the day! I don’t know whether 2am writing is the most coherent but at least it flows and til the thesis is submitted thats all I can hope for.

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