Tuesday, April 10, 2007 7:01:40 AM
I have bad sleeping habits anyway. When I am thinking, it can be hard to get to sleep. When I have urgent work to do, it doesn't seem like a priority. When I am out having fun, it is the last thing I want to spend my time on. It often seems that it would be nice to function without sleep, and I can often go 30 or 40 hours that way.
But if I don't sleep, I become less effective, less thoughtful, I find it harder to concentrate, or my short term memory starts to slip. Serious sleep deprivation is lethal (whatever people say about it not being torture, it is, and an effective one at that).
So I try to sleep. I can twist myself into a seat that is narrower than me and have a cat-nap. If I am tired I can lie down on more or less any surface that is my size, and sleep. If I am really tired I can find somewhere and sleep for 12 hours, and enjoy it. I do sleep comfortably in my own bed, but I also sleep comfortably on the floor of an airport, or laid out in the back of a bus.
I rarely fly business class (occasionally I get upgraded on an overbooked flight), and more rarely still in the modern and luxurious long-haul business class where even someone my size has a proper bed to sleep in. Sometimes, it seems worthwhile. When I get onto an airplane and find there are not many people, and I can have a row of four seats to myself for the next 12 hours, I am always happy. The space to stretch out and sleep is worth more than the nice service and decent food - although it is much less certain than the guaranteed improvement from a single economy seat to one at the front.
Trains and buses, if you have a seat, are about the same comfort as planes. But the good thing is there is a lot less waiting around. Boarding a train or bus takes minutes rather than hours, and can usually be done somewhere much easier to get to.
So catching an overnight bus, instead of getting up horribly early to catch a flight, is often a good deal, simply because as soon as I am in my seat, if I want to, I can turn my head, roll up my jacket arm for a pillow, and ignore the world until we arrive. When the alternative is half a night of sleep, a quick nap in the airport train or bus, standing in a series of queues, a quick nap in a plane, and more queues and transport, the crawling early out of my bed seem less worthwhile.
And I don't like waking up. As I get older, it mostly seems to get easier, but I have overslept often enough that it troubles me every time I have to do it. Which is the worst way to ensure I benefit from the time that is available to sleep
As a child, I don't recall wanting to go to bed - only wanting to be allowed to stay up. I would happily wake up in the morning behind the couch on the carpet, or sleep in the car, rather than go to bed earlier. And I would sit up and read, or just think in the dark.
It seems that sleep is a discipline - a useful one, but not one that comes readily to everyone. As an adolescent, at a boarding school, and later as a student at university, I would wait until everyone had gone to sleep and then get up again, and go for a walk, or sit up and read or write. I had jobs that made me work at hours when most people are asleep, and I would finish work and be awake at 3am, with nothing better to do than to write a little.
And as the clock ticks over 3 here in New Jersey, I think "Plus ça change..."