The Discomfort Zone – Early To Bed

Kate Hicks

Michigan, where I’m from, is in the same time zone as Colgate. So theoretically, I shouldn’t have to adjust my sleep schedule when I go home. But inevitably, I throw my sleep schedule out of whack whenever I’m home on break. When you have three younger siblings who all have to be up at six in the morning to get ready for school, and a mom with an irritating affinity for mornings, bedtime ends up being early. Like, ten o’clock early.

I haven’t gone to bed that early since graduating high school. Actually, that’s not even true. I started staying up all night sophomore year of high school, when I decided that starting papers the night before the due date was a really great idea. Granted, on an average night, I’d be asleep by midnight, but the closer I got to college, the later I stayed awake. Practicing, I suppose, for all the late nights I’d soon spend suffering in the library.

These days, I rarely fall asleep before 1 a.m. I spend all evening going to meetings, lingering over dinner with friends, and staring at my books before I realize it’s suddenly 11:30 p.m. and I haven’t done a thing. My bad habit of leaving everything to the last minute and also the sick amount of caffeine I ingest each day (I’m talking at least four cups of coffee per day) means that three in the morning and I know each other far too well.

When I arrive back on campus after spring break, I decide to try and keep up the much healthier sleep schedule I adopted while home. My dad drops me off at about nine, and I spend an hour and a half doing the homework I avoided while home. When 10:30 p.m. rolls around, I put on some PJs, set my alarm for eight (because going to bed early theoretically means I’ll be able to wake up earlier), and turn out the lights. I lay in bed for about half an hour before I realize that this whole early-bedtime-thing isn’t working.

First of all, someone on my floor has decided at eleven at night that he absolutely must listen to loud music right now. My wall is literally vibrating. And I’m really regretting the six cups of coffee that it took me to drive eight hours back to school — that last one in Buffalo may have been gratuitous. I cannot get my mind to stop racing, and now I’m starting to worry about the impending due date for all my internship applications, which just makes me less sleepy with fear.

I decide that this plan of mine won’t work without drugs. I practically jump out of bed I’m so jittery and dig out my Tylenol PM. I pop two of them and then climb back into bed, where I stare at the ceiling and listen to the music coming from next door before finally, sometime after midnight, I fall asleep.

For the next four days, I rely on Tylenol PM to fall asleep. I realize this isn’t the healthiest situation — I require at least two cups of coffee to wake up each morning, and now two pills to fall asleep at night, so my level of awake-ness depends entirely on foreign substances. Which, you know, isn’t the greatest idea, but on the bright side, I’m getting at least eight hours of sleep each night, so it’s not all bad.

On Wednesday, I take myself down to one Tylenol to get to sleep, and it works as well as two. Also, I stop taking in caffeine before five, so it stops affecting me by the time I’m going to bed. By Saturday night of this week, I am actually able to fall asleep by ten on my own.

I won’t waste time expounding the many virtues that follow an early bedtime. I’ll just tell you what it did for me this week. As I have explained, I tend to hate mornings. But this week, getting up before nine — once even as early as 7:45 a.m. — comes easily. Now, yes, I do need coffee before I’m fully coherent, but I no longer slam the snooze button every nine minutes for upwards of an hour. Also, the seemingly permanent exhaustion-induced purple color around my eyes vanishes within a few days, thanks to sufficient rest. And aside from the myriad of excellent reasons for keeping an early bedtime, I love to sleep, so this isn’t exactly a chore. By the end of the week, I intend to make this early bedtime thing a habit.

What I don’t realize on Sunday night, when I make this lofty goal, is that I will not finish writing this column about going to bed before midnight until one in the morning–a paradoxically-predictable irony.