Get Your Zs!
Though I was never a big drinker, I used to be much more of a night owl and certainly spent a lot of time at bars and music shows, which run very late in Athens. (Headlining bands often take the stage as late as 1 AM; this used to work fine with my old schedule but now anything after 11 PM seems horribly late.) In graduate school, I’d go out 3-4 nights a week and would drink alcohol maybe 1-2 of those nights. If I attempted to wake up at a normal hour (8 or 9 AM) the next day, it wasn’t a pretty picture: occasionally I’d have a migraine episode setting in, but more often than that I’d just feel sleepy and queasy and not quite right. Luckily for me, grad classes were almost always in the evenings, so my late-night lifestyle fit well into my going-out schedule.
Over the last few years, I’ve decreased my alcohol intake and sleeping schedules significantly. I have, on average, maybe a one to two glasses of wine every couple of weeks. I go to bed by midnight most nights and wake up 8-9 hours later.
With this new lifestyle, you can imagine I was surprised when I awoke several times this summer with that murky, hungover feeling after having had an alcohol-free night out. I opened my eyes to find myself heavy and tired, and I felt the way I used to after having gone out on the town to drink. It took a long while to realize what was happening: my body does not—I repeat, does NOT—do well on fewer than 8.5 hours of sleep. I’m sure many of my morning grogginess over the years was due in part to alcohol intake, but I think the most likely culprit was my having screwed up my sleep schedule.
So much goes on in my town after 11 PM, and I hate missing out on parties and, most importantly, live music. But I can’t ignore how much more alive and energetic (and, often, headache-free) I feel on the days after which I’ve had enough sleep. My 25-year-old self would be grossed out at this statement, but I’ll say it anyway: I love my routine. I love going to bed between 10:45 and 11:30 at night, and I love waking up between 8 and 8:45. I am no longer interested in feeling pressured to sleep less in order to accomplish more during daylight hours, for I know that I work better and with more enthusiasm if I’ve rested my body as much as it needs. I can only hope that my friends (and especially my musician boyfriend) understand when I decline their invitations to see performances—as I tell them, “Sorry, but I’m just a mess if I don’t go to bed on time.”
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