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Voice: Nocturnal in a diurnal world

April 18, 2001

It is hard to be a nocturnal in a diurnal world.

It wouldn't be quite so hard if diurnals (day people) would let nocturnals (night people) sleep in the daytime. But rested from a long night of sleep, the diurnals think we nocturnals are lazy if we dare close our eyes after first light, even though we have been awake while they slept.

If a nocturnal must work in a daytime job, he or she is a displaced person in the work place. The nocturnal is, alas, the one most likely to be caught sleeping on the job.

I think I must have been born an insomniac. I dread to think what I may have put my mother through in my infancy, staying awake all night, I, of course, keeping her awake.


As far back as I can remember — and as they say in the backwoods, that's a mighty far piece — I was awake while everyone else in our household slept. There was no late late late show to watch back then, so I spent my nights reading and writing.

When my first three children were infants — the twins were only 13 months older than their younger sister — they paid me back for having kept my mama awake when I was a baby. They paid me in triplicate; one or the other kept me awake 24 hour a day. I was so sleep-deprived that I walked around in a daze. It's one thing to stay awake 20 hours at a stretch; it's quite another to go 48, 52, 64 or more hours without closing one's eyes.

One would think that when those colicky babies finally started sleeping at night. I would also.

But no. My too-active mind wouldn't slow down before 3 a.m.

You can't imagine, if you are a diurnal, what a blessing TV is to insomniacs. The world is awfully lonely at 2 a.m. The late late late show is a great companion.

When I had to get up at 6 a.m. to be at work by 8 a.m., I yearned for the day when I could retire and sleep until 10.

But when I retired I married a man who, alas, turned out to be an early-morning skylark. I go to sleep at 3 a.m. — a respectable hour for us night owls — and at 5 my husband awakens me, banging about.

After I am fully awake, he goes back to sleep. I stay awake.

If I dare close my eyes in the daytime our housekeepr awakens me. She wants me to take sleeping pills so that I will sleep at night, like eveyrone else. It doesn't occur to her, or to anyone else who is durnal, that the world is a silent, peaceful place at night, devoid of the rude cares that ret us in the day, a time when there are no phone calls, no "visitors from Porlock" to interrupt one's period of contemplation.


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