Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sleeping Beauty

I have sleep on the brain tonight, mostly because I haven't gotten a full night's sleep in over two weeks thanks to my job. Oh, my job. Sigh. Turns out that being a first year attorney isn't all high-powered client meetings and rooftop parties and sexy workplace trysts and airy penthouse offices a la ABC's truly ghastly abortion of a law firm show, The Deep End. I know, I was surprised too! I thought my boss would be Billy Zane and I'd wear sky-high stilettos every day and then, after a workday spent schmoozing and flirting, my colleagues and I would retire to our office's trendy rooftop bar for dirty martinis and witty, lawyerly banter. When I showed up at my job in November, I was disappointed to learn that -- get this -- there's NO rooftop bar. I mean, come ON.

To add insult to injury, my job has been koo-koo crazy for the past several weeks -- think leaving work while other people are waking up, and then coming back three hours later -- and consequently, I have had my first real experience with prolonged sleep deprivation. As a result of this unfortunate state of affairs, I find myself thinking about sleep a LOT. For example, before last week, I had never noticed those commercials for 5-Hour Energy, those creepy little bottles of mystery juice that they sell at drugstore checkouts. I think it's safe to say that ingesting a thimble-sized vial of a substance promising, based on their TV commercials, to give you diagnosably manic amounts of energy for five hours at a time is generally not advisable. But all of a sudden, taking a shot of a liquid probably made out of diet red bull and crystal meth run-off started to sound pretty appealing. Sure, it'll give you heart palpitations and a few (very slight) hallucinations, but it gives you ENERGY...for FIVE hours!

I haven't resorted to energy shots yet, but I have started paying for coffee in the morning, something I am generally opposed to, and have upped my Diet Coke consumption to two, sometimes three a day. I know, gross. But it's necessary. And I don't want to jump the gun here, but if I get cancer from this, I am totally suing my job.

In all of my recent musings about sleep, I have stumbled across some interesting things. For example, an op-ed in the New York Times last week discussed the healing powers of sleep deprivation therapy. The theory is that sleep deprivation can actually be used in a clinical setting to help treat depression, particularly post-partum depression. My mom, a psychiatric nurse, said that back when she used to work with psych patients, they would do both sleep deprivation and bright light therapies with the patients. Who knew? If curing depression is as easy as a few bright lights and no sleep, prisoners of war must be the cheeriest people in the world! I wonder if water-boarding cures depression, too?

Anyway, this op-ed claims that a night without sleep gives one a sense of euphoria (which subsequently wears off as soon as the patient gets a full night's rest). After my first sub-four-hour night of sleep before yet another long work day, I have to admit that I did feel a bit euphoric at work. I showed up after getting a woefully inadequate amount of sleep with a spring in my step, thinking, "Gee, I guess I don't need sleep after all!" I fancied myself a member of that elite club of people who just don't need more than four hours of sleep, like Fidel Castro and Martha Stewart. This sense of bouyant enthusiasm about my abilities to function without sleep for the rest of my life wore off by about 3 pm, when I was slumped over my desk, eyelids fluttering as I struggled to focus on my computer screen. So much for that theory.

I've come to terms with the fact that I am someone who not only needs sleep, but loves sleep. I know there are people who love sleep more than me -- for example, my dad, for whom napping is a structured hobby just like woodworking or stamp collecting -- but I do enjoy it quite a bit. When it comes down to it, I am just not one of those high functioning individuals, like Bill Clinton, who can get five hours of sleep and be fine. I'm really more of a George W. Bush when it comes to sleep.

I can't believe I just wrote that. But there it is.

So, until I can go back to my dorkily rigid schedule of climbing into bed at 9, reading for an hour, and then sleeping a delicious eight hours of sleep before getting up to start my day, I am going to dream of sleep with my eyes open. It's kind of torture.

By the way, I wrote this very late at night, so if my lack of sleep has infected my writing, please forgive me. And maybe send me a 5-Hour Energy care package.