I am not, by true definition, an insomniac. I do not suffer from extended periods of sleeplessness that are beyond my control, nor do I have a general problem sleeping for healthy duration. I don’t dislike sleep, and I don’t have notably bad dreams. Quite the opposite, in fact. I have pretty awesome dreams. Vin-Diesel-fighting-Predator-in-a-swamp-driving-a-fanboat awesome.
I just have a very complicated relationship with sleep.
It takes forever to fall asleep unless I’m already about to fall asleep where I’m sitting.
As a kid, I would turn on a bathroom light and read until I fell asleep, or listen to music. It got me in trouble when I was young and my parents thought I was just being a stubborn kid. No matter how many times I tried to explain to them that I just wasn’t sleepy yet and was trying to make myself sleepy, I was told to go to bed, and that if I tried I would fall asleep. Not once did this approach yield results. When it was summer and I stayed with my grandparents, I could pretty much stay up until whenever as long as I didn’t wake anybody up. So I watched a lot of late-night TV or laid in bed and listened to, and I’m not kidding here, AM-band late night talk therapy shows (if you’ve seen Frasier you know what I’m talking about) on a little stuffed raccoon with a built-in radio.
In middle school, I would not do my homework during the evening, set my alarm to something ridiculous like 2 or 3:30 AM, do my homework in about a half an hour, and then go back to bed, begrudgingly get up in time for school (which was a good half hour away.) By senior year of high school, I was going to bed around 4 AM and waking up at 6:30 to get to school by 7 so I didn’t have to fuck with traffic. I can take half a nap or whatever if I’m already there, but I fucking hate sitting in avoidable-ass traffic. If I can leave twenty minutes early and just chill out where I’m supposed to be, I avoid a lot of unnecessary stress and/or hassle.
By the summer before I started college, I had adopted a “go to bed when I notice the sun coming up and wake up whenever” routine, which made those 8 AM acting classes that Fall absolute hell. Especially since my teacher was a double PhD. in Dance and Movement. Yoga at 8 AM on two-to-four hours of sleep for two hours three days a week. Let that sink in.
Falling asleep before 3 or 4 AM has been an issue for some time, and I’ve never been a morning person. Even straight out of bed I function better at 6 or 7 PM than I do at 8 AM, regardless of how much sleep I’ve had. I don’t want to see early morning unless I haven’t been to bed yet.
And then sometimes I stay awake just long enough to hit that second wind and, like a hang-glider, I try to see just how long I can glide from updraft to updraft. I feel it important to note that I’m a hobbyist. I don’t take it seriously. I try to avoid staying awake for more than two or three days at a time. I know the kind of cognitive issues that start cropping up around days four and five, and I can do without perceptive lapses and the decrease in fine motor coordination, thanks.
Besides, I really do have some interesting dreams. I don’t really remember them except for random images or moments that stick in my mind, but they’re incredibly elaborate. Like having to drive to a real friend’s fictional house with fictional roommates up a series of fictional roads (with consistent names and geographies) during three or four separate dreams to play a fictional video game that has also stayed consistent. I had to walk up one of the roads in one dream. And not consecutive dreams, either. Places and people and things just crop up from time to time. There’s a massive arcade (easily the size of a two-story warehouse) with a roller coaster that’s cropped up a few times, that place is epic. I’ve done some minor dabbling in lucid dreaming, and I learned at a young age that I can will myself awake during a nightmare. I’ve also learned how to recognize the signs of cross-state cognition, where things that happen in the outside world interject themselves somehow into the dream state. I do still wake up from a dream thinking I’ve got a big stack of money on the dresser sometimes.
It’s almost as disappointing as waking up and realizing you haven’t mastered the art of telekinetic flight (shut up you have your secret dreams and I have mine.)