Tuesday, August 20, 2019

A Day In My Delayed Sleep Phase Life

My day begins at midnight.

Unlike most of the world, who is either already in bed or on the way at that moment, sleep in the last thing on my mind.

Though I have burned the midnight oil for most of my life, I now embrace my daily schedule without shame or remorse. It was back in April - four months ago - that my sleep doctor and I hatched a plan to lean into my Delayed Sleep Phase body and adjust my daily routine to accommodate my chronotype.

Here's how the day unfolds in my Delayed Sleep Phase life:

Focus Inward: 12 midnight to 3 a.m.

Around midnight, my daughters go up to bed. My husband has long since retired. With the house clean and quiet, I'm at my most creative and intellectually energetic peak and ready to begin my private time of the day.

I read whatever book I'm enjoying.
I write letters, or long notes in cards.
I catch up on social media, which I try to avoid during the other hours of my day.
I scroll around online to find inspiration for ideas that are taking shape in my brain.
I read other blogs and news articles.
I work on my blog: developing ideas, sorting and editing photos, doing research, drafting posts, polishing pieces for publication.

If I feel like cleaning, organizing, or making any kind of art, I go for it.

Or you know, sometimes, I just need a few episodes of Queer Eye or a Candy Crush session.

And I take care of business: responding to messages and email, handling logistics for my math, classes, organizing to-do lists for things to get done during business hours.

Winding Down: 3 to 4 a.m.

Time to get ready for bed. I wake Gracie, who is happily snoring in her usual spot on the couch and we head upstairs together. I turn off lights as I go, and the house is dark. I pass silently through my dark bedroom where Gracie climbs into her favorite chair to continue her slumbers; and into the dark bathroom. I flip on just the light in my closet, which gives me enough light to see but also signals my brain that it's time to wind down. Slipping into the darkness is the first step in my bedtime routine which soothes me and slows me down as I prepare to sleep.

I take a cool shower and go through my tooth-brushing, lotion-applying, face-moisturizing routines, slowing my mind to focus on each step in the process.

I clean and tidy the bathroom as I go, so it will be fresh and clean when I wake up.

Just before I hop into bed, I switch on a box fan. Though my body temperature is finally beginning to fall at this time of night, the breeze amplifies the cooling effect of my shower and helps me more comfortably drop off to sleep.

And the very last thing that I do before lying down? I put lotion on my feet.

I cannot sleep without fresh lotion on my feet. Trust me. I have tried.

Sleep: 4 a.m. to noon

I sleep. Warmly, deeply, deliciously.

If I'm late to bed or slow to fall asleep, I occasionally hear my husband's alarm go off at 4:25 and then again at 4:30. Sometimes I may even be awake to listen to the water run in the sink as he shaves, or as he takes his morning shower (less than an hour after my bedtime shower. Ha.) But rather than disturbing me,  the sounds of his activity strike me as soothing, and though I'm never afraid to be up by myself during the dead of night, it's somehow easier for me to fall asleep knowing that he is up and beginning his day.

In the winter months, my room will still be dark for several hours after I fall asleep, but during summer, the dawn is often breaking as I am drifting off, the sun shining through the sheer curtains at my window and flooding my bedroom with light. Just like my husband's getting-ready noise, this sunshine is soothing to me, and I have no problem falling asleep and staying asleep in my brightly lit room.

Waking Up: Noon to 1 p.m.

My goal is to sleep till exactly noon, when my brain automatically wakes me up

Unlike every day of my life before April, I now open my eyes and feel rested and alert. Every day it is a miracle and a joy to wake up feeling good. I allow myself fifteen minutes to pray before I lift my head off the pillow.

Then I begin the process of getting ready.

Good morning, sunshine. Gracie has no problem adapting to my Delayed Sleep Phase schedule. She sleeps till I wake up, greets me and the new day, then settles back down for a nap. 

As I dress and freshen up, I take several mini-breaks to wander back into my bedroom and spend some quality time with Gracie who by now is sprawled out across my bed. She usually needs her chest rubbed and her ears scratched; we reconnect and revel in each other's company.

Before I go downstairs to eat, I re-tidy the bathroom, grab any laundry for the day, make my bed, and straighten my bedroom.

Focus Outward: 1 - 5 p.m

For me, the absolute worst thing about my Delayed Sleep Phase life is missing out on half the day's sunshine. And the second worst thing is limited time for socializing with people who live on a standard schedule. So once I am awake and ready to rock, I usually head out the door and into the world to make the most of the day time I've got.

Most plant nurseries are only open till six. That means I have to work fast to get my plants purchased and home to be planted before the dinner hour kicks in. 

I run errands by myself, go shopping with my daughters, or meet friends for lunch.

I go on hikes or adventures or outings in the city. I go skiing and camping and berry-picking

Or I stay home and work on my never-ending stream of projects around my house and garden. If the weather is good, I'll definitely be outside.

On school days, I zip off to my students' homes and teach for a couple hours.

And at some point during these afternoon hours, I figure out a plan for dinner and round up some groceries.

Family Routines: 5 to 10 p.m.

Oh, the golden glow of the family dinner hour. This is the midpoint of my day and it almost always plays out like this:

Every day, our walk is an adventure. The past few days, Gracie has been obsessed with a dead and very dry rabbit that she found in the bushes. Her feelings seem quite hurt that I'm not impressed with her prize. 

Take Gracie on her walk.

Feed Gracie on the front porch and chill outside with her for a while.

Greet the family as they wander back home from work.

Well. I call it dinner. But it's actually my lunch. 

Cook, serve, eat, and clean up after dinner.

SET is a pattern-matching card game with which my family is obsessed. 

Play cards and eat chocolate. For the past seven years, our game of choice has been SET. The best.

Every night after dinner and before TV, Gracie gets to eat an apple, which we cut up and feed her piece by piece. Then she makes one last trip around the backyard, and when she comes in for the night, we slip on her socks and she's ready for bed. 

Once the post-dinner routine is complete, around 8 p.m., we adjourn to the family room for a bit of television.

By 10 p.m., my early bird husband heads up to bed.

Second Dinner: 10 p.m. to midnight

In the late evening hours, my daughters and I, Delayed Sleep Phasers one and all, eat our third meal of the day. We gather in the kitchen for sandwiches, popcorn, pots of ramen or plates of leftovers, cleaning the kitchen and tidying up the family room as we go. Sometimes we'll watch something on TV, always we talk, and around midnight, my daughters say goodnight and head upstairs.

And then, when the house is once again clean and quiet, my new day begins.

* * * * *

I sleep at really weird times. Read here to learn why:

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