Bruce Parker

Particularly Pertinent at 3:30 AM

Filed By Bruce Parker | May 15, 2007 3:15 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: LGBT community, personal, sleep, society

A while back one of our past contributors Brylo posted a link to a blog that dealt with issues of productivity and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. From time to time when I can't sleep or have decided to spend a night not sleeping and just hanging out, I go back and check out that blog to see if anything cool is on it.

Tonight, I found a post about sleeping, or, to describe it more accurately, about not sleeping. But instead of being focused on insomnia, it deals with the reality that at times we all choose to value some things over sleep. The author of the blog lists the following categories as his primary reasons for missing sleep:

Family and Friends - Ok, so this one is a gimmie. If my wife and I are talking or my son has a cold and can't sleep, I'll stay up as last as I have to. If a friend needs my help with something (either his computer is busted or his girlfriend is driving him nuts, whatever) - my family and friends are my most important and highest priority, so I never mind when this type of thing comes up.

Good Conversation - This used to happen quite a bit before we starting having kids, but I've spent many nights sitting at a bar or coffeehouse or something and have the person working there say something like, "dude, we closed 30 minutes ago - you need to leave". Or maybe a friend and I will be chatting away about something and I'll look down at my phone and see 2:00 am staring back at me. Most of the time, I really don't care when these things happen. Worst case, I'm tired the next day at work. But I'm tired for what I consider to be a very good reason - investing in a relationship or just plain having fun.

Good Book - No matter what book it is, I suddenly shed all sense of adult responsibility when reading something I really like. This is actually one of my fool-proof methods for determining how much I'm enjoying a particular book: would I kiss off a night's sleep just to finish this? Obviously, the answer is usually no. But sometimes it isn't and I'm usually happy I skipped the sleep.

Good Idea - For me, designing and writing computer programs is more than just a job. It's something I did for fun for many years before doing it professionally. So, I still do a good bit of programming in my spare time for odd projects. And if I am really on a tear with a particular project, I'll look up at 1:00am and scoff, barely breaking stride as I type my code at breakneck speeds. These types of situations are fairly infrequent, but they do pop up on occasional and are usually somewhat unexpected.

I think his reasons are pretty complete and describe most of the situations that I choose over sleeping. At some points in my life it has been friends who shared my nocturnal habits, relationships with boys who had overnight jobs, relationships with boys who only had free time late at night, and the above quoted categories that are responsible for hours of lost sleep. My mother would say that I have been against the idea of sleeping since I was a baby for fear of missing something.

When I was an undergraduate student, I got obsessed with questions about sleep and spent an entire night reading a book called, Sleep Demons that was written by Bill Hayes, a gay man, about his tumultuous relationship with sleep. It seemed to drag on a bit but was nice mix of memoir and sleep science.

I am curious about other people's habit around sleeping and not sleeping. Anyone care to share?

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I'd say I have a love-hate relationship with sleep. Having been diagnosed with Narcolepsy, I was able, often to my dismay, to fall asleep at all the wrong times - at my desk at work, in the movies, watching TV, and sometimes almost in the car. Now that I'm on medication those symptoms have eased up. However, I tend to postpone going to bed for reasons I can't quite fathom. Maybe I too don't want to miss something. I sit on the computer late at night, hoping to read one more e-mail or one more blog post. I find I often have to drag myself up to bed. But once I'm up there in bed, next to my husband and hugging either him or my pillow, I find myself relaxing and hoping I'll nod off soon. And then the next day I start the whole thing all over again.