Sunday, November 02, 2008

Morning Person

Good morning! It's Day Two of NaPoBloMo (NaBloPoMo? NaNoBloPo? NaNiMiMo? Ah, Rachel's already made this joke, but it's impossible to resist trying again, apparently.)

We're all up early, here at my house, because of Daylight Savings. Or the end of Daylight Savings, I forget which one it is when you Fall Back and temporarily gain an hour.

For me, this is less momentous than it used to be, because I have become, in my middle age, a Morning Person.

*pause while everyone who knew me as a teenager passes out from shock and then picks themselves up from the floor*

It's true, for most of my life I was an obdurate night person. As a very young child, too young to read, I remember sitting on my bed late one night moving little stones around for hours and hours. I swear I remember it starting to get light outside.

When I learned how to read, it got even worse. My mom made me turn out the light after 10:00 or so, but this just meant that I snuck out of bed and read by the light of the night-light, until one night when I'd had a cold and stuck my elbow in the vaporizer by accident and got a steam burn. It was around this time that I started sleeping in my clothes so I could stay up later and save time in the morning.

One summer when I was in junior high school I forswore all scheduled activities and just spent several weeks sitting around the house reading and watching reruns of "Uncommon Women and Others" on PBS and sleeping later and later and later, until one afternoon a friend of my mom's came to pick me up to take me to a 3 PM dentist appointment and found me still asleep. In my early 20's I was a regular devotee of the all-night bookstore down the street from my apartment, and would regularly haunt the aisles on weekends until the 25%-off sale started at midnight.

You get the idea.

Then, I got a job at a school, and I had to be there every day at 8:00 A.M., which meant that I had to leave at 7:30 and wake up around 6:45, which for several months up here in the Northwest meant that I got up and drove to work in darkness.For years I staggered around in an exhausted haze. Then we had a child, and the haze got even thicker.

By the time MG started sleeping regularly through the night, I had somehow become a morning person in spite of myself, jerking reflexively awake at 6:30 even on weekends. Now that I'm in a new job with slightly less brutal hours, my internal clock has adjusted to wake me at about 8:00, but otherwise the damage appears to be permanent: I wake up early. Every day. Whether I want to or not.

The problem is that even though my circadian rhythm is now that of a morning person, my habits are those of the night owl I once was. I think of nighttime as freedom time, when the dark hours stretch out invitingly open: no deadlines! no appointments! Now that I'm a grownup, no bedtime! And on weekends, hey, I can just sleep in the next day!

Except I can't. Not any more. And not only that, but unlike my younger snooze-button-hitting self, I'm unable to get back to sleep once I wake up, dragging through the morning in groggy irritation until naptime hits (schedule permitting) sometime between 1 and 4 in the afternoon.

Somewhere, the Early-to-Bed-Early-to-Rise demon is cackling maniacally.

But that's not even the punch line.

Because my daughter? Is a total, obdurate night person.

Night after night we dutifully put her to bed by 9:00, allowing plenty of time for her to get the requisite ten or eleven hours of sleep recommended for elementary-aged children. And night after night, we hear her playing and talking to herself in bed, or, even worse, come in to check on her, only to find her tossing and turning miserably and complaining that she just can't get to sleep. Forays to Dr. Google have yielded disappointing results; the consensus among pediatricians seems to be that there's no such thing as real, true childhood insomnia (except, for some reason, for kids with autism), and any symptoms that seem to point that way can be ameliorated by a consistent bedtime routine and by restricting after-dinner screen time and excitement.

So, we've done that. We grind her through to bedtime with grim determination. We don't even have a TV, and she hardly ever gets to see a screen of any kind on weekdays. We've taught her relaxation techniques, gotten her a fish tank for the soothing bubbles and company, and brought home soothing books on CD for her to listen to. And still she stays up late and then is crabby and exhausted in the mornings.

My theory is that those pediatricians are just WRONG, and that eventually they'll conclude that just as childhood depression really does exist, there is in fact such a thing as actual biologically-driven childhood insomnia in otherwise neurotypical kids.

In the meantime, we've started giving the Mermaid Girl low doses of melatonin at bedtime. We're ambivalent about it, as there haven't been many studies of effects on melatonin on children (except for a few studies of autistic kids, who did *great* on the medication with few or no side-effects), but on the other hand we know what the effects are of her staying up late every night, and they are bad, bad, bad: behaviorally, emotionally, and even physically, as she's more susceptable to allergies and more likely to get sick when she's low on sleep. (For myself, I have this sneaking suspicion that I would be taller if I'd only gotten more sleep as a kid-- isn't that when the growing happens?) So that's helped, as has the earlier darkness as the seasons changed.

But still, I think we're going to take advantage of the time change and put her to bed early tonight. And tomorrow night. And as long as we can manage it.

And tomorrow morning, when I wake up bright and early, maybe she will too.


Anonymous baggage said...

Snowbaby is a night person too. She seems to perk up right around bedtime. I'm such a night person and I have yet to be able to break it, so I stumble around exhuasted most of the time.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Phantom Scribbler said...

I had insomnia as a child, too. And I bet melatonin's a hell of a lot better idea than the antihistamines my parents gave me in a (mostly futile) attempt to get me to sleep.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Pilgrim/Heretic said...

Seriously, pediatricians think kids can't have insomnia? I had crazy trouble getting to sleep through my whole childhood (until just a few years ago, in fact). I'm also a big fan of melatonin. You probably know this, but they think it's most effective in much smaller doses than it's usually sold in - when I take it I tend to nibble just a crumb off of a 3mg pill, and that works great.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous rachel said...

I'm a morning person, here in my middle age, and I like it a lot. You feel like you have the entire world to yourself, and you can get an awful lot done, just getting up an hour earlier than everyone else.

And I think I had insomnia as a child as well, and on and off in adulthood. But I have much LESS insomnia when I'm in the habit of getting up early. Because by ten at night, I'm genuinely tired, and I go to sleep. I wake up 15-30 minutes before the alarm goes off, all on my own, ready for the day.

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Arwen said...

Still a night person, but wake up now "early" on my own, where early is 10:30. Of course, my BEST EVAR SCHEDULE was asleep at 8:30 am and up at 2:30pm -- fewer hours sleep, but it was exactly what I needed. Did that for about 8 months, and I was pretty happy with that schedule.

Also had "insomnia" as a teenager, but I always saw that as a symptom of night-person-ness. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've read something that suggests that teenagers are on a later schedule as a rule.

5:33 PM  
Anonymous MonkeyPants said...

Teenagers ARE on a later schedule, whether it is Medically Documented By Doctors or not. Just ask anyone who has had to teach an 8:45AM English class.

Night Person over here. Always have been.

9:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

long live melatonin! we have a wee guy who cannot unwind at bedtime. we've tried changing our routine. he just doesn't want to give it up. so, we've been chopping the 2.5 mg tablet in half and giving it to him sporadicaly. we are concerned about it becoming habit-forming or worse..him never learning to put himself to sleep. but jeez louise...he NEEDS sleep! and he wakes up so much happier!

9:45 AM  
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11:04 AM  
Blogger Wired said...

Oh, melatonin! We hadn't even thought of that. Baz goes to sleep like a champ, but it takes upwards of 2 hours for Kay to finally wind down, poor kid. She's good, and quiet, but we can walk by her bedroom at 10 PM after she got sent to bed at 7:30 for exhaustion-related hysterics, and she'll just be looking at us.

And I know she'd fall asleep if she could, and she just can't.

9:39 AM  

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