In a stupor, my sleep mask keeps me hidden from the reality of time. For the briefest of moments, I’m not sure what day it is, or even where I am. Did I wake up half-an-hour early? Well that’s fine, I will just get up and start my day. Did I wake up after only an hour? Getting up now could ruin my whole week. The more cognition I gain, the more the urgency of my situation sinks in. Ever since the shelter-in-place started, the concept of days and weeks have felt foreign, but this is beyond that. Removing my mask to check the time and exposing myself to sunlight could trigger thousands of years of evolution telling humans to be awake during the day; here I lie, in timeless purgatory fighting against my most primal instincts. You would think that after working grave shifts for almost two years now, I would have figured out how to sleep during the day, but here we are.
Being stuck in quarantine for the last couple of months has thrown me for a loop. Ever since becoming poly a year and a half ago, the person I am is no longer defined by academic status or my profession, but instead by the connections I have made and the relationships I have cultivated. I used to go to bed excited for the fun event or date that Krista and I had lined up with one or more of our partners for that night. Even on days we didn’t have anything planned, I knew that a good night’s sleep would set me up the best for the week, and help make the most of the limited solo time I got with Krista. Now I get into bed and can’t help but think about all of the things I used to do but can’t. I relied on the anticipation of the near future to give me purpose and hope. And now, the future is blank.
I remember reading an article a few years ago that studied sleep patterns of people. The majority of people in the study would sleep limited hours during the week (approximately 4-5 hours a night), and then “make up” the sleep during the weekend by sleeping 10+ hours. I immediately related to this anonymous study group, as they were living the same lifestyle as I was. I was in college, working full-time, and trying to maintain a long-term relationship all while trying to have some semblance of fun during my off time. This was clearly all impossible to do in 16 hours, so sleep was the activity that took the biggest hit.
There I had it in black and white: proof of shared human experience. No way my peers and I all decided to do the wrong thing. But as with most articles about anything even vaguely scientific, the real takeaway came after reading the conclusion. As quickly as I felt vindicated by my system of cheating the clock to make it all work, I was brought down by the stark reality: lost sleep is lost.
After college, before grad school, and with a full-time job, my days aren’t the chaotic mess they used to be. The same unaccounted for time I desperately wished for just two years ago now feels like torture. It hasn’t been completely negative: I am spending much more time with Krista, taking up new hobbies, and even trying to play more video games, but it’s all just a facsimile of the life I want. I hope that whenever we are allowed back in the real world, I have checked off all my “better person” tasks, because I can’t imagine losing more time to the things I have to do to stay sane because I can’t do the things I need to do to be happy. That time is lost.
The battle is over. I peek out from under my mask, getting the smallest hint of the time. The light hits me and I already know I fucked up. After checking my watch, I see I have been asleep for only four hours. I know there’s no going back now…it’s the middle of day and I know I won’t be getting back to sleep, so I might as well get up. Lost sleep is lost.
There’s something terrifyingly beautiful about a finite resource. It would be very easy for me to lie in bed for hours on end waiting for the magic of sleep to kick back in and pretend I could squeeze out those last couple hours. Or I could just accept reality, get an early start to my day, and hopefully be so exhausted by the end of the next day that I will make it a full eight hours. Lost sleep is lost. Lost time is lost. But we keep going.