For years I’ve been moaning about having to teach night classes followed within 48 hours by an early morning class or meeting. By nature I’m a morning person (though not an extreme one), and the only time I ever coped well with night classes was back in the last century, when I was able to stack all my obligations in the afternoons and evenings, thus allowing me to sleep from roughly midnight to 8:00 a.m. on a regular basis.
For the first time in the twenty-first century, thanks in part to Zoom and also to some retirements, I have that schedule again.
And yet after my first night class of the semester, I was up till 2:00 a.m. and still didn’t sleep well. Too much stimulation: a day full of new people! a different classroom! also an unhappy colleague to talk off a ledge, and staying late to scan some things that need to go on the V(i)LE site, and finally lying awake thinking (more with pleasurable excitement than with anxiety, but still, awake) about things I needed to do. I hope I get used to the new people and classroom. I never realized the extent to which sheer physical exhaustion used to help me sleep after I got all keyed up to stay awake for class and the drive home.
At any rate, I’m now regularly doing work after dinner, to replace the now-missing mornings. It’s interesting! It feels like re-connecting with my grad-student self. Like early mornings, evenings are peaceful: incoming e-mail is rare, and there’s a feeling that “normal” people are doing other things, not demanding my attention.
Actually my morning-person leanings have been in trouble since last summer, when for various reasons I kept being unable to sleep till very late, and then either sleeping late the next day or taking naps. But basically I was tired all summer. The fall term put me back on a closer-to-normal schedule, but I was still tired a lot of the time.
Then when I had Covid I sort of turned into a cat, no circadian rhythms at all. I couldn’t sleep for more than a couple of hours at a stretch, because I’d wake up congested and coughing, or otherwise uncomfortable. I drank a lot of hot liquids to soothe my throat, so my bladder also woke me up regularly. But all those liquids lacked caffeine, and I haven’t restarted my very modest caffeine habit (usually a single serving of green tea in the morning). I’m sure I would have recovered faster if I’d been able to sleep more, or at least more hours in a row, but it just wasn’t happening. Naps round the clock were the best I could do.
Once I was able to breathe better, I’ve been in bed for eight or nine hours most nights, sometimes even ten, and asleep for most though not all of it (I often wake up for awhile in the middle of the night). I miss the flavor of my fancy green tea, and the alert feeling when the caffeine kicked in, but on the other hand, I don’t seem so generally draggy in the morning. Or maybe I’m a little bit draggy all the time, but not especially so when I first get up.
Though the semester has started, I still have a lot of teaching prep to do, the kind of stuff I like to have done before classes begin. The syllabus for that night class is very rough, and the V(i)LE sites are much less populated than I’d like them to be. But that work is just going to have to get done in the awake hours that I have. Though I keep thinking I’m mostly back to normal, every time I push myself a little the body pushes back and tells me no, you aren’t really. Long nights, short walks, and gentle yoga are where I’m at right now, physically. The brain seems to be in decent shape, for which I am grateful. That means I’m able to do the work that needs to be done, that I want to do, am excited about. But I can only do so much of it.
I’m not complaining. Mostly I’m just noticing differences. It’s like when I was ill in November 2015 and time stretched out so hugely because I wasn’t doing anything. Last semester seems like at least a year ago, and in other ways as well I feel insecurely anchored in time (see above re graduate-student self). Probably the demands of the semester will take over and anchor me again, soon. For now I’m somewhere between dragging and floating, and immensely grateful that I’m able to keep to a consistent sleep schedule this term, even if it’s not what I would have said was my preferred schedule. I don’t think I could cope with one of those 33-hour turn-arounds I used to have.