I was aware of it in the beginning, but somehow I forgot. I was aware the night before my last eight-hour sleep, when I curled up beneath my sheets. At that point I remember specifically thinking to myself: "tomorrow you can't do this". Or the night after that. Or the night after that.
I was aware when I woke up the next day. I understood that, the minute I left my bed, it would be a very, very long time before I would allow myself that same feeling — curling up beneath a blanket, getting warm. Waiting for sleep. Proper, deep, indulgent sleep.
But somehow I forgot. I forgot how much I loved that feeling. I forgot how much I enjoy the act of sleeping. Of being asleep, of waking up satisfied and lucid.
Now it's so strange, like I'm constantly in search of a full stop that never comes; like a run on sentence sans punctuation. Nothing feels like it ends, or begins. There is no closure. There is only the next cycle and a throbbing brain behind eyeballs lodged in their sockets.
Deep into my second day exhaustion is palpable, and it's a sad, desperate feeling.
I went for a walk because I felt like I had to do something.
I had gotten home just in time for my 6pm nap, I slept a light sleep and woke up with a start. It was at this moment that the reality of my situation became concrete — I would not be sleeping like a normal human being. Not for a very long time. My day would not have an end. It would simply blend into the next. All I had was this short four-hour cycle, and I would have to deal with that.
Instantly I felt an overwhelming weight pounding in at my chest, and I knew I had to go for a walk.
I was in full blown zombie mode. My wife had gotten home and tried to engage with me, but I found it really hard to respond meaningfully. I said the words I thought she wanted to hear, enough to make it look as though I was a functioning person, but she didn't look convinced, following me around the apartment as I stumbled in strange circles, looking for something to do.
“Promise me you'll stop if you feel really weird,” she had said. And I nodded as I walked out of the door. I needed to plod forward, towards some aimless goal, like the zombie I had become. So I walked.
I came home transformed, engaged. Ready to communicate with words instead of grunts and nods. I'm amazed at how quickly I can swing from feeling like an empty shell, to feeling like a regular person after a full night's sleep.
All I have is this cycle, this four hour cycle, and the extra time it grants me, but is it worth it?
It feels like a parody, a weird Faustian pact. I sold my soul for Alf pogs, for minutes that fritter through my fingertips like grains of sand I can't clutch. Hours spent gawking at the filtered glare of a laptop screen, mindlessly tapping out the words you read now, completely alone in this harsh artificial light.
My wife lies sleeping in the room next to me. At this precise moment I desperately want to be lying next to her. It suddenly occurs to me that, given the right circumstances, time spent sleeping can be far more valuable that time spent awake.
But here I am, awake, until the end of yet another cycle.
Follow Mark's adventures over the next month in the Sleeping Like Superman series on Lifehacker.