I must engineer a perfect storm of daily routine in order to go to bed – or, more accurately, to fall asleep – at a reasonable hour.
I half-joke that my circadian rhythm runs long, but its pulses run short. Left to my own devices (i.e., an interpersonal “constant dark) I will tend to regulate to a roughly 26 hour day with sleep in multiples of just over three hours, and my intellectual pursuits don’t tend to peak until somewhere in hour fifteen – relatively late in a 26 hour day, and prohibitively insomniac in an actual earth day.
That natural state isn’t especially agreeable with a five-day work week. It used to be that on Sundays I’d have to beat my body into submission with a heavy dose of benadryl, which left me leaden in Monday morning meetings. Lately I’ve attempted to coordinate an intricate assemblage of coincident events – a sunrise clock, regular meals and exercise, a balance of heavy thinking and fun – distributed to the appropriate hours to leave me pleasantly drowsy somewhere prior to midnight.
The ultimate irony is that even if I get to sleep at a so-called “reasonable hour” and wake up appropriately early for a responsible business person my resulting day will be devastated – I’ll either drift off too early, or be jazzed and awake much too late. Either way, two “normal” days in a row are few and exceedingly far between in my life.
In discussing this issue recently I fielded several recommendations for Melatonin supplements.
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that – amongst other roles – helps to regulate circadian rhythms. Its production is hindered by exposure to light, which means if you live in a constantly illuminated environment (i.e., offices at home and at work, stages awash in spotlight … you know, all the places I live) your bodily levels are most likely out of whack.
Curiously, its sale as a supplement is illegal in some locations, such as Germany and New Zealand. Even more curiously from a body chemistry standpoint, it’s synthesized from tryptophan (AKA, the thing about turkey that makes you sleepy), which is in turn synthesized via of serotonin (AKA, the euphoria-causing agent that LSD mimics, and that heavy use of MDMA/ecstacy depletes). Supplemental users report that heavy doses can induce vivid and/or lucid dream states.
(I went through this whole “brain chemistry of drugs” phase when I first read The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test and Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, especially the latter, because Hunter kept taking drugs I had never heard of before, let alone understood the effects of.)
Knowing all of this about Melatonin before it ever hit my tongue lent it a certain air of panacea, even if it was to be a placebic panacea. And, sure enough, every night that I’ve taken it I’ve been to bed before midnight and awake before 7:30 – yes, it’s induced multiple “normal” days in a row!
However, it has also had a certain side effect – maybe also placebic, but no less curious if that’s the case.
Though shorter, in a circadian sense, my days are definitely longer. Or, maybe just the hours.
I don’t really know how to explain it appropriately. It’s not so simple as time going by slower, or that I’m moving more quickly.
For example, today I finished my usual amount of work, and went to my usual amount of meetings, and when I sat down to pack up I realized it was 2 p.m. rather than 5 p.m.. I had arrived around my typical time, and I didn’t feel exhausted, or restless – I simply felt as if I had lived an entire workday of life already. Except, most typical workdays don’t come equipped with a spare set of three bonus hours to get a jump on the to-do list of the next day.
That isn’t the only example, either. I’ve been more productive at home, and I’ve been waking up feeling more fully rested – even hang time between slams of the alarm button feel distended. The situation is rendered all the more unusual because I am typically an innately good judge of the passage of time – Elise used to jokingly use me to reset stopped clocks because I was so on-the-mark in my elapsed-time estimates in the absence of common giveaways like television shows or church bells.
It’s quite palpable for a placebo effect, and if it isn’t one then it’s certainly difficult to quantify effectively. If my prior days were 26.5 hours long and have now been scaled down to fit into an actual day then each of my prior hours are now compressed into less than 55 minutes, which still would only have yielded a nearly imperceptible bonus of a half hour by 2 p.m., and certainly would be hardly noticeable in the eight-minute interval of my snooze button.
So, what’s the answer? Am I just well-rested, and as a result experiencing a higher quality of life? Is it completely a placebo effect, soon to be followed by incredibly lucid dreams (though, actually, I’ve always had those)? Or, is it truly some subtle form of hallucination wherein I perceive myself to be moving at a completely speed than time itself?
And, more alarmingly, if the latter is true does that mean that everyone else has been moving at this speed all along and I am just now catching up? Or was I previously moving at a normal speed within my extended day, and am now dashing to and fro with an apparent sense of urgency to all who surround me?