Saturday, August 25, 2012

On sleep...

I was just made aware of a friend who left a job because he couldn't sleep in the day and then work at night. The problem, accumulated lack of sleep, sleep deprivation, exhaustion. This isn't a minor thing. People are injured and die because they aren't able to think when they haven't slept. It can be very serious.

Nana is NOT what we refer to as a "morning person". When she gets up, even as late as 8:00 AM she's a bit groggy until she has her coffee. I think that for years she was on automatic pilot as she drove to school. Kind of scary now. Just as scary as discovering her eyesight was as bad as mine but she was driving without her glasses. Yes, she did that when we first got married. She wouldn't wear her seatbelt either but that changed, too and is a story for another time.

My dad was a sleeper. I think he could sleep anywhere, any time, no matter what was happening. My mother said that he would sleep all through his college classes. What infuriated her was that he would get straight "A"s while she was struggling with the same class. I remember that he would come home from work and sit down in his recliner and go to sleep, sometimes with a finger accidentally propping one eye open, waking just in time to walk the dog before going to bed. But, as soundly as he slept, you did not want to disturb him in that sleep. He might be dreaming or your touch might be the instigator of a wild wave of his arm at full force. He could wack you pretty hard and never feel a thing, or wake up.

Your Great-Aunt Margaret was a sleeper, too. Her thing was, after she got to the point that she didn't try to strip off every time she got into the car, to fall asleep as soon as the car started moving. She CLAIMED that she was simply sitting there with her eyes closed to avoid motion sickness but I don't think that the gentle snoring or the sometimes wild lolling of her head were indicators of any sort of wakefulness.

I don't know about your Uncle Benjamin. I do know that he wasn't comfortable sleeping in his bedroom in the house at Parnassus. Your halmoni (할머니) Via sent him Korean spirit sticks which we were told did the trick and kept the "monsters" at bay. But, in so much as he died when he was only 8, I don't know that he had any lifetime odd sleep habits.

As for me, well, I've had some changes over the years. When I was very young I had some rather vivid nightmares. Some would result in some early waking hallucinations such as the duck (or was it a goose) I once discovered on the end of my bed in Richwood, WV. For a while I had a recurring nightmare of a sort of "pong" game in which the two lines between which the little pong thing goes back and forth got closer and closer together. This was well before the video game of pong was invented and I often wondered if the inventor had a similar dream/nightmare. I also had some what I believe were precognitive dreams. I didn't get it at first, merely having a strong sense of deja-vu but later acted on what I believed was about to happen to my benefit. Unfortunately, as I got older, I remembered less and less of my dreams. Your mom used to have nightmares, too. I don't know now what they were, she often couldn't describe them, but she would wake up terrified.

Fortunately, or not, I think that I've always been able to go to sleep anywhere and anytime, like my dad. This was a benefit to me in the service because I could nap just about anywhere, under just about any conditions. I have slept on top of 35KW diesel generators while they were running, I have slept in the back of bouncing military trucks and I have slept when stress kept others awake.

One thing though, changes that might be bad wake me up. You can run the window AC right next to my head OR not and I'll sleep right through. If off, you can turn on the AC and not bother me. BUT if I expect the AC to be running and it goes off, such as with a power outage, I'll wake right up. The house can be dead quiet or there can be a lot of street noise and I'll sleep right along. But, the sound of running water at the wrong time and I will wake right up. Apparently my subconscious can differentiate between the properly flushed toilet and one that doesn't stop running when it should. I know because I've woken and knew exactly why in such occurrences.

I'm a morning person, too. Wake me up and I'm usually good to go right from the start. This is a tremendous advantage, particularly if you wake up late or are surviving on cat naps. Unfortunately, I think that you have to be born with the ability and not everyone is.

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