Saturday, December 14, 2013

Sunset Chaser: Sunrise Edition

This is how my neighborhood looks at 7:40 a.m. in the middle of December. 

The other morning, as I was running a quick errand, I watched the sun come up.

Yes, you read that right. I watched the sun come UP.

Who even am I?

Along Mukilteo Speedway, the brilliant colors of the rising sun drown out the neon, street lights, and illuminated cars, which is a remarkable accomplishment.

Here's the thing. I am NOT a sunrise person. I am what is quaintly known as a night owl.

Somewhere around midnight, when most people are heading for their pillows, I hit my creative and energetic peak hours. While my family, friends and neighbors dream peacefully, I whirl through the house, scrubbing bathrooms, painting pictures, creating algebra exams, rearranging the furniture, and of course, writing my blog. This goes on till about 4 a.m. when I put myself to bed, not exhausted and dragging but pleasantly, satisfyingly tired.

When left to my own devices, I then sleep soundly for eight hours, and wake up refreshed and ready to rock at exactly noon o'clock.

I know. This is not normal. But I can't help it.

Oh, those dear pointy Douglas Fir tree tops are on fire with morning color.

I've struggled with this socially unacceptable sleep pattern all my life. No one judges a teenager too harshly for keeping late hours, and moms with young kids are allowed to sleep whenever they can snatch a few winks. But generally speaking, grown adults who lie abed till noon are considered to be drunkards, wastrels or just plain lazy.

Now, if need be, I can force myself to get up and function at a "normal" hour of day. I can't fall asleep any earlier than three or four a.m., but I have a long and surprisingly successful track record of ripping myself from my pillow on four hours' slumber and functioning fairly effectively for a full day. I might squeeze in a afternoon nap, but no matter how exhausted I am the next evening, my midnight energies surface right on schedule and I'm off to the late-night races once again.

To be honest, this is an exhausting, frustrating, socially uncomfortable way to live.

A rolling ridge of deciduous trees along the cutoff. 

So recently, I decided to visit a sleep doctor to get some help in figuring out my problem.

And what he told me changed my life.
Your sleeping habits are normal...normal for you. 
There is no "right" time to sleep. Humans all have a natural sleep cycle but there is a broad range of preferences as to the specific times.  
Sleeping from 4 a.m. to noon is a fairly unusual sleep preference but it is by no means "wrong."  
From an evolutionary point of view, your ancestors were the night watchmen of the tribes that allowed the others to sleep in safety and peace. The rest of us owe you a debt of gratitude for helping our ancestors survive.  
American culture suffers from a rather pious work ethic and looks down on "late" sleepers. Earliness is considered a virtue: Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. The early bird gets the worm. But plenty of other cultures value flexible sleep schedules and midday naps. 
Oh my gosh. Our little chat gave me a whole new outlook. We talked over some tips for dealing with the days when my schedule demands an early rising, and then, invigorated by the possibilities, he began to outline a strategy for adjusting my clock back a few hours, maybe to a 1-9 a.m. sleep cycle. "Nine a.m. is not too bad," he said, "At least you wouldn't be sleeping in to the double digit morning hours."

Mount Rainier's glaciers are momentarily purple as he regally rules over Interstate 5.

That's when I asked him the million dollar question. "But what if I don't want to change my sleeping schedule? What if I like having that big chunk of uninterrupted time in the middle of the night to do whatever I want?"

Chagrined, he quickly reversed his engines.
Then you would be wise to play to your strengths. The world is full of artists, writers, inventors, computer programmers, researchers and other imaginative and introverted types who thrive in the late night hours. If you choose to honor your natural sleep cycle, you will be in very good company.
Thank you, doctor. I'm feeling much better now.

So no offense, sweet sunrise. I always cherish our times together and look forward to seeing your beauty again soon.

But your brother, sunset, is my true soul mate, and to him I will always be partial.

My next-door neighbors' house bedecked in Christmas spirits and sunset's glow.

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Sunset chaser: A traveler who spies a gorgeous display on the evening horizon, and, throwing all other thoughts aside, pursues a prime viewing location from which to photograph the sky. 

I am a sunset chaser and here are just a few of the stories of my adventures:

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Ready for more sunset adventures? Read these:


  1. No, I can't understand but love all my friends who love the night. I do get to see the sunrise every morning on my way to school! I get up at 4:00 now with my new commute. :) JoAnne

    1. Four a.m. Is not the morning, as far as I'm concerned. But I am jealous of all those beautiful sunrises that you must be enjoying!


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