Waiting to dream

Confession: I’m totally jealous of people who can fall asleep any time, anywhere.

Granted, I’m sure it’s a tad annoying when you fall asleep in the middle of a boring meeting, but you have no idea what a blessing it is to know that when you lie down, you will fall asleep.

It’s not that simple for me. See, it’s highly likely that I have Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS). (It’s totally a real thing, I promise.) It basically means that I can’t fall asleep at a “normal time” so it’s hard to get up at a socially acceptable time. A lot of people don’t get that. They’re all, “Why don’t you just go to bed earlier?”

So cute, those people who think going to bed is equal to falling asleep. I’m happy that they clearly have never had trouble falling asleep. But that’s not how it works for me. I can be incredibly tired, but if it’s before midnight, it’s not happening. Not unless I’m completely “haven’t slept in 24 hours” type of exhausted. In most cases, I don’t fall asleep until after 2 am.

It’s not for lack of trying, I promise you. Just imagine if you had to fall asleep at 5 pm. That’s what it feels like when someone with DSPS tries to fall asleep before midnight.

I read once that for people with DSPS, maintaining socially-acceptable hours feels like functioning with constant jet lag. No joke. Been there. It’s exhausting. Unlike a lot of people with DSPS, I did manage to hold down a normal hours job for a while. How? Mostly by being tired and drinking lots of coffee. And then hibernating for 12 hours on Friday night.

I’ve been this way since I was a kid. It was a running joke in my family, about how I always slept until noon on Saturdays. They just thought I was lazy and slept a lot. What they didn’t see was that when they all went to sleep at 9 pm, I was lying in bed, wide awake until after midnight, and then I had to get up at 6 am for school. That’s not a lot of sleep for a high schooler.

But it wasn’t all bad. Because when I was just a little kid, lying there in the dark for hours, waiting for sleep to find me, I would imagine things. I would pretend I was lost at sea or living on a houseboat with my friends. I’d create other worlds and situations and adventures. It forced me to learn how to entertain myself even before I drifted into my dreams.

It’s easy to look at other people and wish I could be like them. But I’m not. I never have been. And more and more I realize, I don’t want to be.

Confession: I can entertain myself any time, anywhere. Who needs sleep when you can dream while you’re awake?

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