Twenty(something) Questions: When your internal alarm clock goes off
There’s a power outage that exists inside of your body your entire young life, which allows you to defy the gravity of the circadian rhythm by pulling all-nighters or dancing until dawn and then sleeping the next day away. But somewhere in between the shadow of youth and the dawn of adulthood, Entergy finally gets around to fixing the source and on go your adult mechanisms, one of which includes your internal clock. The first time that alarm goes off inside of you, and you start naturally waking up at 7 in the morning, you know it’s going to be a long rest of your life.
The ability to sleep off anything away is lost. A bad date. A stupid life decision. A horrible hangover. Sleeping problems away for 12, maybe even 15 hours was always an easy solution. But once that clock starts working, you’re forced to face the reality of these poor decisions in the bright light of the morning sun.
Once in a while, when it opens your eyes to a world that you’re not quite ready to see, you’ll get away with pressing the snooze button, and if you’re lucky, you’ll make it to about 10 a.m. before waking up for good. But sometimes that’s not even good enough. And maybe that’s why hangovers get worse as you get older: because you can’t sleep them off anymore.
With this comes a natural pull to crawl on the couch at the time you used to be starting your night. Surrendering to the drowsiness that 9 p.m. brings is like handing over your fake ID -- submitting yourself to a life of abiding by society’s adult time schedule and falling asleep on the recliner in front of the television minutes after dinner like your father always did. It’s not a pretty picture.
As much as I enjoy waking to the roosters calling and blue birds chirping, I refuse to give up the night owl inside of me, which is why I’ve started taking naps.
As hardworking Americans, we shame ourselves for feeling tired during the day, covering yawns like they’re dirty secrets or trying to pretend that the pop of your head after dozing off was really a response to something that dripped on you from the ceiling. We have a lot to learn from countries like Italy and Spain that acknowledge that fatigue from high temperatures and drowsiness following a midday meal can be easily fixed with a little siesta. To this day, I truly believe that my mind was never as fresh as it was years ago when I lived in Spain for a couple of months.
Great thinkers like Dali, da Vinci, Einstein and Edison were all guilty of daytime napping, as are are most animal species. So maybe there’s nothing to feel guilty about. There is something to be said about the reset that occurs within the mind following sleep. Whether it be a long night of snoozing or a quick catnap, a restart occurs that clears away the clutter in your mind and allows you to continue with a fresh brain.
Research demonstrates that the body is able to adapt to a polyphasic sleep schedule and still achieve REM sleep in that short amount of time. And although it is unknown whether such a sleep schedule is actually better than a long night’s sleep, naps generally do increase productivity, alertness, creativity and, well, sanity.
So I put it to test. Being that my lack of 9-to-5 lifestyle not only allows but also encourages unorganized sleep, I began sleeping when my body tells me to. Sometimes I sleep for two hours. Sometimes six. The results? A productive mind, a clear head, and an alert 25-year-old who doesn’t feel like an old man yawning at the bar anymore.
Joey Albanese writes about the twenty-something generation in New Orleans for NolaVie. Send him any questions or tell him the answers at [email protected]