“I think I might be nocturnal.” This is the realization I came to during one teenage summer. I was at that magic age where I had no school, no job, and no bedtime. All of the freedom, none of the responsibilities. I found myself finally dozing off to the sound of birds chirping at 7 am, and rolling out of bed around 3 pm. While this was acceptable—after all, I had nowhere to be—I did note that it was not normal.
This pattern continued well into my adulthood. Whenever I had a block of time when I had no daytime responsibilities, I watched the sun rise every morning on my way to bed. I was a vacation vampire. Even when I wasn’t able to fully commit to my Twilight lifestyle, I was still very much a night owl, congratulating myself on “early” 1 am bedtimes. I didn’t give it much thought, it was just what worked for me.
Then I had kids. Just as they had done to my bladder, my ability to concentrate, and half the things I own, my kids broke my system. My oldest did not understand how sleep worked. Not just as a newborn either. By the time he was 14 months old, he was waking between 13-23 times a night (I logged it!) I consulted a No Cry sleep book and it told me to let him cry, which I took as a bad sign. Moms at my playgroup would complain that their child woke twice the night before, and I would fight the urge to punch them.
Despite his sleep allergy, he did have a three to four-hour stretch every night from about 9 pm to 1 am. Logic said I should sleep during this time. The books said I should sleep during this time. My husband said I should sleep during this time. My mom said I should sleep during this time. Old ladies at the mall said I should sleep during this time. I did not sleep during this time. I was delirious with exhaustion, I could have fallen asleep in an instant, but I could not bring myself to do it.
It was then that I realized that all this time my nighttime alertness had not been a preference, but a need. I needed that time at night more than I needed sleep. That age-old advice of “sleep when the baby sleeps” would mean that I did not get a break from parenting. EVER.
Why did I stay up as a teenager and young adult? It was quiet, it was away from people and distractions, and I just function better. At age 12, I had asked for a bedtime extension because I liked writing at night when my brain was clearer. I never started an essay before 10 pm. I’m writing this now at 1:58 am. My mind is clearer at night, I am energized, I feel more like myself and I cannot function without my time at night.
Despite being more tired than ever, my need for this time only intensified when I became a parent. It turns out that being a parent and an introvert is more tiring than sleep deprivation. Introverts like people well enough and love their children as much as any other parent, but people drain their energy at an exaggerated rate. Children are people. People who feel a need to touch you, make small talk with you and make you the focus of their attention for hours at a time—all the things that suck the life out of introverts. Turns out my children are vampires too. I need the time at night to recharge and feel human again.
So, I’m not actually nocturnal it seems. I just gain more energy from time to myself than I do from sleep. Maybe one day I will learn to balance the two, but today is not the day. Sorry old ladies at the mall, I will be drinking that 9 pm coffee while my children sleep.
Single dad here and I’m the same if I get to sleep at a decent time I end up waking at 3:30 then try to get back to sleep and that takes an hour or more. I have to exhaust myself completely take my sleeping pill and I’ll get to 5:30am I’m passing out no later than 1am if I can help it.
Depression plays a big part with your sleeping I know people have trouble coming out and saying I need help this kinda behavior isn’t normal there really is no such thing as a night owl as humans we. Need a minimum of 5-8 hours sleep every night it’s how our brain recharges.
I also can relate to being somewhat of an introvert ptsd and injuries most people get tired of someone that’s in pain everyday
It’s a burden that even negates me having a companion I think my ex wife hurt me so bad I can’t bring myself to find a girlfriend I don’t feel worthy messed up isn’t it our brains can do crazy stuff on you.
Good luck to everyone suffering from sleep deprivation & depression.
Jessica R. says
I had to read this: I’m not alone!!! I’ve also been like this all my life.I get you about the birds chirping in the morning!!
Ever since we had our twins (boy+girl) in 2011, we’ve started our “me” time when they go to sleep. The first year we barely slept 3 hours/24 h but when they finally hit 6 months old, we started to have an hour or two to ourselves. Now, when our 5 1/2 yo children go to bed, we get our laptops out and watch our favorite TVshows in streaming. We don’t have a babysitter, and our families aren’t that supportive so we need to have some time off to clear our minds since I’m finishing my college degree at 36 yo and my DH took a break from finishing his master’s degree to help me have more time for school. Our kids go to part time kindergarten and are starting school in September.
I do feel guilty sometimes when I’m alone in my kitchen and just enjoying the silence(my DH goes to bed before me) …but I really need this.
Monique L.S. says
I’m totally the same. With my first baby, my husband used to get upset that I didn’t sleep when the baby slept because he could see how tired I was. But, when she slept, I needed to make a decision as to what to do: 1. sleep 2. shower 3. eat. Quite often sleep did not win. With my second baby, sleep deprivation didn’t have quite the same hold on me, plus with a young child as well, I wasn’t able to sleep while the baby slept. At night when they both are in bed, I tend to stay up until 11 or 12, even though I am exhausted and get up around 6am. It is my time to zone out and do what I want, which usually is to play on the internet, and after looking after a baby all day, I NEED to have my time before I can call it a day; otherwise I feel a bit cheated.
It is interested that you relate the experience of children with being an introvert. I had never thought of that. I suppose I am an introvert as well…and I do find the constant needs of young children (be it food, to play, to constantly be with you) draining…and I do require time all by myself.