2am is not a normal time to be awake, and yet I am more often than not. I don’t work the graveyard shift or anything… Typical day job for this lady. And yet. And still.
Some nights I just don’t feel tired and I end up working or writing or reading, completely losing track of time, finally starting to wind down by 2am. Other nights, I’m exhausted and head to bed around 9-10pm and wake up around 2am. There’s little rhyme or reason other than I am rarely asleep for more than 4-5 hours at a time. On days when my sleep is exceptionally disrupted, I try to take a nap or do another relaxation exercise in the mid-/late-afternoon for at least an hour or two.
Some people might call this a “sleep disorder.” We are all told we must get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night and that ideally, it should be in a single sleep session. The problem is however ideal that may be, it is not entirely common for adults to sleep like that. Whether due to work schedule, child-rearing, illness, stress, or just bad sleep habits, few adults sleep in the “ideal” way.
I believe one of the primary reasons for recommendations such as 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night is post-industrial capitalism. If you have a demanding job, either in time or attention, it is definitely beneficial to combine all your daily sleep time into one session. This was not always the case.
2am is actually a very creative time for me. I don’t always write my blog posts in that hour, but I have been know to do so on occasion. Other times I have revelations about a particularly vexing problem at work. Usually, I have to write something down in order to trigger my mind to remember in the morning, but sometimes I am able to come up with a mnemonic device to jog my memory when I wake up for real.
Generally speaking, I think it is important to get enough sleep. However, saying that sleep must always come in one session, or even all at night, is perhaps less helpful than we think. We don’t actually know whether or not single-session sleep yields health benefits or if it just makes long work shifts more convenient. There is also great variability among adults in amount of sleep needed. I know some people who function perfectly well on 4 hours a night and others who really prefer 9-10.
For me, I’ll continue with my divided sleep routine (if you can call it a routine) and respond to the physical signals from my body and mind.