Backwards Insomnia

The seven-and-half months so far I’ve been in college have gotten rid of several of my old habits, including not wearing shoes in the bathroom, not eating after a certain time of night, and any scruples I used to have about privacy. Unfortunately, the one thing that hasn’t been conditioned out of me is the one habit I wish I could get rid of: my inability to sleep in.


After four years of daily 7 am band practice, my body has just been trained to wake up early in the morning, and neither summer vacations nor college life has made any impact on sleep cycle. Well, I guess college has affected my sleep somewhat, meaning I do less of it in general. But no matter how hard I try, I’ve only managed to get my average wake-up time to be around 8 o’clock. Sleeping any longer than that takes a conscious effort, with me waking up every hour or so and then spending around ten minutes trying to relax and fall back to sleep, only to awaken again soon after.

The latest I’ve ever slept in my entire life was noon—that was the year of my junior prom, and I had stayed up until 9 am, over 24 hours. Even despite that idiotic display of sleep deprivation, my brain was awake and ready to go three hours later (I obviously hit a wall and just crashed at like 6 pm later that day).

I enjoy sleep. I’m not one of those people who can perpetually function on even six hours a sleep each day (I’ve taken up napping to help make my necessary eight-hour quota), and I definitely know that sleep deprivation is bad for you.

I think part of my strange sleep patterns comes from a part of my personality that’s overly concerned with productivity. Another thing that I’ve noticed since coming to college is that my free time has mysteriously disappeared. I love Amherst and can’t imagine being anywhere else, but my workload is extensive. Any time I’m not in in class, eating meals, or at crew practice is spent trying to finish my work. I’ve developed this rule where if I’m not asleep after 15 minutes of lying in bed (which happens often; I’ve always had trouble falling asleep) then I have to get up and do more work until I’m truly tired. This is probably not remotely healthy, but I’ve somehow convinced myself that if I’m not sleeping and I’m not doing work, then I’m being adequately productive.

Which brings me to this morning. Despite my exuberant activities at a formal late last night, by 9 am I was up and finishing my tax returns (which are due today by the way for all you working folk). Sundays are one of my least favorite days of the week because I always have to do all of my work due Monday that I didn’t start on Friday or Saturday—hence my brain feels even guiltier for being unproductive and wakes me up the earliest on the mornings when I’d want the most sleep.

So those of you champs who can go til noon or later on the weekends, sleep on, and appreciate your gift. I’ll be thinking of you enviously as I watch the sun rise.