The Two O’Clock Shadow

Something strange happens every day around two o’clock in the afternoon. An unseen hand brushes over my eyelids, and they grow heavy. The space around me settles into quiet, muffled sounds. My breathing runs shallow. I hear a whisper, “Ten minutes. All you need is ten,” and, boom, I’m out.

The Napping Monster strikes again.

Like the silly old grandma in Audrey Wood’s classic children’s book, I’m so exhausted that I could be buried under heavy objects and still be completely unaware.

Surely I am not alone. Writers fall into two camps, the early bird or the late night owl. And, no matter in which camp you rest, the same question applies: how much sleep (or how little) are you really getting?

At The National Sleep Foundation website, there’s an article that talks about how much sleep we need. It mentions basal sleep and sleep debt and some crazy thing called circadian dips (aka. naptime). There are consequences for too little sleep and fallout after too much sleep, and all I can think of is Goldie Locks and her determined search for all things “just right.”

And, while I don’t spend too much time on the numbers and science of it all, I know that when I settle myself into bed at a reasonable hour and get a full eight hours of sleep, I wake up late the next morning, ragged and hung over.

Let me stay up until the late hours, though, and don’t bug me during those wee ten minutes, and I’m good to go.

What about you? Are you an early bird? A late-night owl? A napper under wraps? What’s your ideal sleep?

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14 responses to “The Two O’Clock Shadow

  1. I very much like this post. I stay awake through the entire night, shower, and go to work. I do this once a week, in order to find the proper quietude and length of time I require to write effectively.

    I write at all other times as well, but without that good chunk of 12 hours straight, I would be nowhere.

  2. Oh Lord, how I wish I could get eight hours in. I typically hit six hours, dragging my weary self upstairs at one (or two ) in the morning to be roused from sleep at seven. I will do this for a series of days, then my exhaustion kicks in and I will surrender and go to bed at ten. That seems to tide me over for a bit.

    I’m jealous of your naps. I will try to lay down, but then I think of the gazillion things I need to do, or the dog barks, or my phone vibrates. Again, I’ll surrender and get up because if I keep laying there, I’ll get mad because I’m still laying there, and NOT SLEEPING! πŸ™‚

    Happy napping, Christi!

    • I admit, Hallie, sometimes I’m the same way, and I hit that one day where the early bedtime wins over any writing. And, that happens once in a while even after I’ve had my nap.

  3. I don’t do well without enough sleep. The reason for this, I think, is my inability to nap. If I lie down to nap, I will more than likely not fall asleep. If I do fall asleep, I will sleep deeply for a long time, which, of course, is not a nap. I love mornings, so I go to bed around 10:00 or 11:00 pm, and get up at 6:00 or 7:00 am. There are exceptions. I occasionally find myself up in the wee small hours. The next day, I wish for a nap. Blessings to you, Christi…

  4. I have exactly the same problem around 2 p.m. every day. I try to make sure I’m not doing reading/writing tasks around that time or I fall asleep. Better to be cleaning the kitchen or on my way to a dental appointment… (But sometimes I just give in and take a nap.)

    I’d prefer to be a night owl, but until I don’t have to get up at 6 a.m. to get my son off to school, I’ll have to struggle through being a lark!

    • Kathy,

      Some days, we mother writers have to work a double, as the night owl and the early bird. Though, when I do that, I pay the consequences, like today, when I almost fell asleep at the library while reading a book to my daughter. I thought, ooo, if that librarian catches me, eyes drooping and slurred speech…! That would have been a good time to clean out my purse, or straighten some books on a shelf, or geez, something! Lordy.

  5. The Compulsive Writer

    I constantly am trying to find that space, that space where I can get rest but then write or vice versa. I still haven’t ironed it out. After my kids go to bed and my house is silent (hubs works nights) I seem to do my best, but my mind is on the fact that I will be up too late and then be tired all day (kids get up at the crack!). I’ve tried doing it at 4am (go to bed early) and getting a good early start but then… It’s like Plath’s poem Ariel…like and arrow..a child’s cry…and its over. Needless to say, it didn’t make me feel like I got much done.

    • Yeah, I hear you. That balance is so difficult. I think I’ve ended up sticking to late nights for the reason you mention — my early morning attempts were never as successful for me. That guarantee of solid quiet just doesn’t happen in my house until after 9pm.

  6. I’ve always been a catnapper. My husband envies that, as he gets a headache if he naps. But 15 minutes and I’m good for hours more. No matter what time I go to sleep at night 6-7 hours is all I can stay asleep. Unless I’m sick, of course.

    Here’s wishing you naps whenever you need one, Christi. πŸ™‚

    • Thanks Linda πŸ™‚ I just love catnaps. I’m sure there’s a study somewhere that shows how helpful (and healthy) they are, probably much more so than that third or fourth cup of coffee (which is my alternative on those days when naps are impossible).

  7. My sleep schedule depends on my kiddo, which can be frustrating because she has never been a good sleeper, but it has also taught me flexibility in terms of when I write. I can become a night owl to get quiet time to work on my novel. Or I can swing over to early bird. Or I can write in the middle of the day if the opportunity arises–and yes, I squeeze a nap in there sometimes too!

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