Paradox of Sleep

8 Aug

Do you know about circadian rhythms?

I took this definition from Wikipedia:

A circadian rhythm is any biological process that displays an endogenous, entrainable oscillation of about 24 hours. These rhythms are driven by a circadian clock, and rhythms have been widely observed in plants, animals, fungi and cyanobacteria. The term circadian comes from the Latin circa, meaning “around” (or “approximately”), and diem or dies, meaning “day”.

Confusing? I guess there were a lot of big words in there. As I understand it, from the Reader’s Digest article I read about ten years ago, teenagers have messed up circadian rhythms. The onslaught of puberty and hormones naturally shift a teen’s sleep cycles back a few hours.

A person should feel tired around 9 or 10 at night but ate average teen feels wide awake until past midnight. Then he or she should sleep until past 8am in order to get enough rest but, with school and other commitments, this is often impossible. The circadian rhythm shift is to blame for your child sleeping into the afternoon hours on weekends and the difficulty you have waking them up on weekdays.

By the way, I don’t have any sort of degree in science or biology, so don’t quote me to your doctor and scientist friends. Unless they read that article in reader’s digest…

While attending a family reunion in rural Manitoba at the age of 16 (almost 17), we stayed at a teeny tiny motel in a teeny tiny village. When the festivities of reuniting with about 200 people, most of whom I’d never met, were over, my mother and Grandmother decided we’d leave at six the next morning. I was horrified. My poor teenaged circadian rhythm!

For as long as I can remember, my mom has been an early riser. To her, sleeping in is 7am. She has slept in until 8am a few times and when that happens, she talks about it for weeks.

My Grandmother makes my mother look like a lazy ass. She’s up at 4am baking bread, watering the garden, and, I don’t know, doing something ridiculous like painting the basement floor.

Kids say, “Parents just don’t understand,” and this sojourn into the Manitoba back roads is a perfect example of my mom NOT understanding.

Theoretically, my Grandmother was a teenager once. But I doubt living with her work horse of a father ever afforded her the luxury of sleeping in. She left the farm, went to work, had five kids, and got old. I honestly believe she doesn’t comprehend when someone isn’t a morning person. Plus, growing up in the Great Depression of the dirty thirties, she and her sisters probably had to sell their circadian rhythms to buy sugar and butter.

My mom was also a teenager. I have the pictures to prove it. Did she sleep in when she was a teenager? She went to school, looked after her baby brother, did a lot of baby sitting, and spent summer months working on her aunt’s farm. Maybe she slept in during the University party years. She sure didn’t sleep in when I was a kid.

And apparently I woke up at six am as a young kid, which is obviously part of the reason she couldn’t sleep in. As a teenager, I loved to sleep in. Saturdays were my favourite days for this reason alone.

I believe my mom understood, in theory, that her hormonal teenaged children did not enjoy early mornings, but I don’t thinks she truly grasped the seriousness of the situation. Sure, she was a teenager, but it was a different time and many years prior.

Did my mom really understand just how difficult early mornings were for me? Yes I got up early for school and church but I never actually felt awake until about noon. When I was able to attend late afternoon classes in University, it was almost better than winning the lottery!

I was genuinely hurt that my mom and Gramma wanted to wake me up and leave at 6am. Didn’t they know I always felt wide awake at midnight? Didn’t they know it was almost physically painful for me to wake up so early? Isn’t a vacation supposed to be relaxing and fun?

I convinced my mom to leave at 7am so she would wake me at 6:30 so I could shower (another necessity that my mom didn’t seem to care about).

The morning came, my mom woke me, and I painfully dragged myself into the shower. Then, almost ready to leave, as I consumed a bowl of oatmeal with my eyes half closed, my mom said, “It’s ten to six! Right on schedule!”

So my mom woke me up around 5am even though she said she would wake me at 6:30! It doesn’t seem important now but I was mad about my mother’s betrayal and lie for the whole day! That’s right, I said betrayal and lie!

Anyway, all this to say, I, as a sleep deprived mother (who is still not a morning person)look forward to when my children can sleep in. It’s a double edged sword because I do NOT look forward to dragging my gross smelly teenage boys out of bed to catch the school bus in the morning.

Therein lies the paradox:

I want to sleep in again. But after years of waking up with children, my body and brain will be trained to wake up early. As my children experience the great rhythm shift and sleep till noon, I’ll be up at the disgusting ass crack of dawn, doomed for an eternity of waking up with the birds.

Yes, I do realize not being able to sleep in is a first world problem.

One Response to “Paradox of Sleep”

  1. Jason August 15, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

    Your mom is a brute! And you’ll never be a morning person. Unable to fall asleep again, yes, but get up early? Never in a million years!

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