So, Saturday night has come and gone, and yet again I got very little sleep. In fact, the grand total of one hour’s sleep. Much as I’d love to claim that this was because I was dancing the night away or enjoying good times with a gang of friends, the truth is rather less exciting. I’m tired, cranky and feeling hungover, without having drunk a drop or danced a step. And before you say, ‘Well, so what if you’re tired? Staying up late doesn’t matter on a Saturday,’ please just remember what I do for a living. Sunday morning is not a good time for me not be firing on all cylinders.
The truth is, I never sleep well on Saturdays. Sleep has always been a problem for me – I stay up far too late, and am pathologically unable to wake up in the mornings. It’s not even as though I can claim it’s insomnia; once I do get into bed, it’s rare for me to be tossing and turning or lying there awake, and I almost never wake up in the night. My trouble is that I just sort of forget to go to bed. I often don’t realise that I’m tired, or if I do, I only realise it with half of my brain – and unhelpfully, that’s never the half that follows up the realisation with “hey, let’s go to sleep.” Usually, I get caught up in work, or surfing the internet, or ‘just one more episode’ of Doctor Who, and before I know it, it’s three o’clock in the morning. Or four. Or five.
This happens to me most nights of the week, but Saturday nights – well, they are in a league of their own. I know full well that Saturday is the one night of the week I really do need to be well-rested, but somehow that never seems to translate into the willpower to finish my work at a sensible hour, get a bit of downtime and then get myself into bed. And even if I do manage to catch a few hours of shut-eye, it’s rarely good quality, useful sleep that makes me feel rested or refreshed.
This is a nice graph from an iPhone app called Sleep Cycle, which promises to measure your sleep rhythms and wake you up at an optimal time. It’s got rave reviews on the App Store from people who say they have never been woken up by any alarm clock ever, but now leap up from their beds every morning with a spring in their step and a song in their hearts. I could sleep through the proverbial bomb going off in my bedroom, so, despite my scepticism, I decided it was worth a try. Actually, it doesn’t work. I still sleep through the alarm, just as I always have done, but the app does play nice ambient noise while you’re falling asleep, and give you neat graphs like this when you wake up, so it wasn’t a total waste of 69p.
Anyway, I digress. The point is, as you can see, I don’t sleep well on Saturdays. I’ve always taken longer to wind down on a Saturday, but at the moment I’m only getting one or two hours in bed at most, which is patently ridiculous and unsustainable. It’s not as if I’m even just pulling an all-nighter to get stuff done for Sunday (although that’s not unknown either). This Saturday, for instance, I was up all night reading internet articles and blog posts about Perseveration. No, the irony is not lost on me either.
The bizarre thing is, I’m not even stressed out about Sunday mornings any more like I used to be. In days of old, there used to be a couple of difficult folks in my congregation and I’d spend hours lying awake worrying about what they would say or do the next day – but not any more. In my previous Parish, I didn’t have anyone to check that I was out of bed at the right time, so I would stay up all night just to make sure I didn’t sleep in – but that’s not relevant any more either (thanks, long-suffering Waker-Upper). So in the past, not going to bed on a Saturday night was – well, if not entirely healthy, at least functional and vaguely rational. But now it’s neither of those things. I just can’t seem to break out of the pattern.
Thanks to my marathon night of web surfing, I now know that there are at least two broad definitions of Perseveration. (Well, probably more than two, but all this vocab is still new to me, so let’s not complicate the issue too much.) Usually, when people use the term Perseveration, they mean it in the sense of getting caught up in an action or a special interest, to the exclusion of everything else – like, for example, spending all Saturday night reading blog posts. But Perseveration can also mean continuing to carry out an action or behaviour pattern even when it’s no longer relevant, useful or functional – like, for example, spending all Saturday night reading blog posts. So, it turns out that I have been perseverating by perseverating. And what am I perseverating about? Perseverating.
I hereby invent the term Meta-Perseveration. Anyone who knows how to break this insidious cycle should feel free to get in touch. Preferably before next Saturday night.