This week’s topic is something a little easier: we all go to bed after all. What does bed time mean to you? Is it a relief or a challenge? And end or a beginning? A time for stories, for thoughts, for shutting down? Does ‘bed time’ mean something different entirely to you?
Bed time. Harder to get right than the answer to the time-honoured question ‘Do these sheer micro mini hot pants with split crotch and diamante butterflies make my butt look big?’ (The correct answer, for those who may encounter this is of course: ‘No Greg, you look awesome’).
When I was a wee lad my bed time was strictly 7.30pm. Any later would lead to accusations of being overtired from my parents the next day, regardless of the scenario. It wasn’t quite as bad as the examples below but I seem to recall them using it as an excuse for pretty much anything out of the ordinary that happened.
Example #1: Dad slams car door shut on Seb’s fingers.
Dad (carefully placing severed pinkie in a lunchbox filled with ice): “Stop it. You’re just overtired.”
Example #2: Seb runs past with head on fire, trail of smoke billowing behind him.
Mum (without looking up from Mills and Boon novel):“Overtired. 6 o’clock bedtime for you tonight!”
Example #3: A Boeing 747 falls out of the sky and lands directly on Seb.
Seb: (bone crunching squishy sounds)
Parents (in unison): “You’re just overtired and showing off. It’s a nap for you this afternoon, mister!”
After countless years of begging to be allowed to stay up to watch Hart to Hart and Knight Rider my parents finally extended bed time to 8.30pm shortly after my twelfth birthday. This triumph only elevated my status among my friends to ‘second lamest’ in our group, narrowly ahead of Julia Mcgonfrey who had a 9pm bedtime but had a serious social disadvantage in that her parents didn’t own a television. Plus she said ‘Ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaa’ in a loud voice instead of laughing when something amused her. Kid was weird.
When I moved out of home I cautiously extended my bedtime to 9.30pm which I hoped managed to reflect my new found independence while still affording me the protection a good night’s sleep offered from the car doors, fireballs and rogue aircraft that I feared being overtired would attract.
The following year I discovered nightclubs, shift work, drinking until 2 Unlimited’s lyrics became deeply meaningful and a rather handy trick – completely blocking sunlight out of your bedroom by lining the inside of a window with foil.
Bed time then became whenever I collapsed in a twitching heap, if not directly on a mattress then at least in a park within three minute’s walk of my house.
Sleep lasted anything from four hours to twenty, dependent on my ability to grab and set the alarm clock as it spun around the room after a night of
drinking my body weight in vodka doing volunteer work at the local cat shelter.
After decades of sleeping patterns that would test the mettle of the most hardened late night infomercial enthusiast, I returned to a day job with early morning starts and a requirement to be pleasant to the people I encountered from the moment I set foot in the workplace.
In theory this doesn’t sound very difficult but the reality of only having half your brain wake up after the alarm blasts the song of it’s people at 5am means you have to lumber sideways like a crab as you attempt to bathe then dress, using your (then) only functioning arm. The other half wakes up when you pass out momentarily getting into your car and your forehead hits the horn at full blast in your remarkably acoustic garage.
Once entering the office any attempt at communication – pleasant or otherwise – results in you emitting a strangled croak as a lone cornflake falls from your cheek and lands elegantly between two keys on your manager’s keyboard.
Not only did I have to battle this, I constantly have to factor in that depression and anxiety would also be along for the ride. After an increased incidence of swearing at my screen, frustrated man-tears and the sudden onset of flailing Muppet arms at work recently I resolved to try setting a bed time for myself in 2013.
Of course, weekends are still for sitting up until bitch, is you crazy? o’clock. There’s no better time for arguing with people on the internet and searching new YouTube videos of people scaring the shit out of Taylor Swift.
My weeknights however now have a strict 10.30pm lights out followed by a 6am wake-up. Seven and a half hours of blissful slumber.
This is interrupted only by my diabetes’ insistence that my body make the equivalent a 44-gallon drum of urine every four hours which then requires a one-eye-open zombie stumble to the bathroom. It’s incredibly annoying but it does finally allow me to rid myself of the recurring dream that I’m being being soaked by a giant purple chicken holding a garden hose. My subconscious early-warning piss-the-bed system is fucking insane.
I’m happy to report that the early bedtime is working for me – better than I could have imagined in fact. Mentally I feel better prepared for the day ahead and I haven’t arrived at work sporting a steering wheel mark across my forehead since late December.
I even tested the effectiveness of my new routine by staying up until 12am one Thursday night and the following day had my worst panic attack in over a year. I couldn’t breathe properly and was shaking so badly that my chair threatened to shuffle across the call centre with the momentum of an off-kilter washing machine.
That was the only time I broke my self enforced ‘rule’ and I’m not going to be testing it out again in a hurry. (And no, I won’t do your laundry)
Yes, I may have to finally concede that my parents were right and Julia Mcgonfrey probably out-ranks me in the coolness stakes but a set bed time that allows me a little more mental breathing space coupled with a notable reduction in unexpected Muppet arms makes it more than worth it to me.