I Have Not Slept In 23 Years

I don't get any sleep

Last Sunday morning, I woke up from six hours of sleep following a four-day, end-of-summer Fun Binge with the kids. I considered myself lucky to have indulged in those precious six hours, as not unlike the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex, sleep went extinct for me several millennia ago. This is something I blame squarely on my children.

From ages zero through thirty, I slept like any other normal, slack-ass kid. Sleep sessions ranged from a low of ten hours to a high of eighteen, depending on my state of development. But never less than ten. Never. Some hockey-masked psycho could hack my bed apart with a chainsaw while the Third Armored Division ran drills outside my window and I still would get in at least ten hours.

Fast forward to the band days, and sleep became a rare and precious commodity. When we were on tour, the typical day ended at 3:00AM and fired up again around 7:00AM, or even earlier if we had a morning radio show appearance. “Sleep” is not an adequate verb to describe the state of consciousness that occurred under these circumstances: I basically went narcoleptic whenever I could. I learned how to go from zero to coma in ten seconds, and executed this trick on buses, in restaurants, in broom closets, and even side-stage during the opening band’s performance. However, on a coveted day off, I could fall asleep while a pack of feral hamsters nibbled at my flesh and still get eighteen straight hours of uninterrupted, death-like slumber.

But all that changed when my son was born. Becoming a parent is like a Faustian bargain with Father Time, wherein page four, paragraph two, subparagraph B states, “Your circadian rhythm will be completely fucked for the rest of your life.” Though the contract was ratified around the third trimester (“Honey, I’m uncomfortable, and I can’t sleep…so neither will you”), it really kicked at the moment we brought home our precious issuance of devoted love, who launched into one of three patented screams every two hours: I Am Starving, Oh My God I Have Soiled Myself, and Come Entertain Me.

I held on to the hope that sleep patterns would return to normal after the first year or so, but there was an insidious and ironic side effect of this Manchurian Candidate-style conditioning: when the baby stopped crying at night, I’d wake up in a panic every two hours anyway, wondering if he was quiet because he was dead. This continued for another few years.

Things didn’t get any better when the second round of kids came along. I am currently in the seven-year period where the only antidote to my daughter’s bad dreams is to let her sleep in my bed. Sleep, in this context means, “Let me sprawl out on your bed horizontally and dig my razor-like toenails into your back.” There are nights I invariably end up sleeping on my own bedroom floor. (“Daddy! Did you have a slumber party last night?” “Yes. A party. Precisely the word I was looking for”).

I am pretty confident that, sometime in the next few years, I will no longer be awakened by crying nor by the terrifying apparition of my daughter standing in the darkness two inches from my face. But the damage is done. The mere creak of a door hinge or the rush of a flushing toilet or even the barking of some random dog eight miles away snaps me out of my barely-alpha brain state. And then another two years down the road, things will take an even sharper turn for the worse as my daughter turns fifteen, and boys come sulking around like a boner with two legs and a half-developed hippocampus. Many will be the nights I lay sleepless in bed, my Little Unicorn Princess ostensibly “at a girlfriend’s house,” knowing full well that some acne-crusted jizz machine is perpetrating testosterone crimes on my daughter, the exact same way I did with numerous girls when I was her age.

My brother, who, with two boys of his own, knows the torture of decades of sleep deprivation, has informed me that science has proven one can catch up on lost sleep. In fact, sleep can even be “banked” to a certain extent and used later, like a serotonin credit card. So, I looked this up on Sleep.org, and here’s what I learned from their FAQ section:

Q: Can you ever really catch up on sleep?

A: No, you can’t, you fucking idiot. Why did you ever have kids to begin with?

(Ok, maybe that was my interpretation of the subtext of the answer. Here’s the real deal):

Q: Can you ever really catch up on sleep?

A: Yes, you can do that by ultimately getting back on a regular cycle of seven to nine hours of shut-eye per night. It can take days or even weeks for your body to return to a normal pattern. In the meantime, if you’re trying to make up for lost time, go to bed early and wake up at your normal time instead of sleeping in late. To get your circadian rhythm back on track, avoid bright lights before bed and keep your bedroom as dark as possible. Get back on schedule by going to sleep a few minutes earlier every night until you’re back to your regular bedtime. Taking melatonin can also help you doze off at the right time. Also, avoid eating, drinking and exercising right before you hit the hay.

So, no glass of wine before bed. Why don’t I just kill myself now? Then I’ll sleep. Doesn’t solve the wine problem, though.

And, as it turns out, there is no such thing as a Serotonin Credit Card. There is, however, the conversely horrendous-sounding Sleep Debt.

Q: Besides feeling tired, what are the other consequences of sleep debt?

A: The potential short-term, negative effects include a foggy brain, impaired driving, difficulty remembering things, and reduced vision, while potential long-term ramifications include heart disease, obesity, and insulin resistance. And a complete psychotic meltdown.

(Ok, I added that last line. But it’s true anyway).

So, it appears as though sleep, like my fantasy of marrying Lisa Whelchel from The New Mickey Mouse Club, is forever a memory from a long-forgotten time.

Lisa Whelchel was a mousketeer

Lisa, I formally apologize for every thought in my 12-year-old head.

Having your sleep patterns altered forever pairs with: The 2016 Flowers Sonoma Coast Rose of Pinot Noir.

There used to be a “season” to rose, which coincided nicely with Spring, as rose is the first wine to be bottled following harvest in September or October. But with the advent of “Rose All Day,” and because the wine is just downright yummy and perfect with food, rose’s pattern has been forever altered. And I’m good with that.

2016 flowers vineyard rose of pinto noir, sonoma coast

Perched on top of soaring coastal ridges that border the Pacific Ocean, Flowers’ estate vineyards were some of the first planted on the extreme Sonoma Coast in 1991. The vineyards rise up just two miles from the rugged Pacific Ocean cliffs at elevations of 1,150 to 1,875 feet, where the resulting maritime breezes and coastal fog cool the vineyards during the heat of summer, allowing the fruit to fully mature with fresh, complex flavors along with a distinct coastal minerality and bright natural acidity. This is how Flowers earned a reputation for creating one of the premier pinot noirs in the United States.

What I didn’t know is that Flowers produced a rose, until boom, there it was on the wine list, calling out to me like the snooze alarm on my iPhone. This 100% pinot noir rose is created using a gentle, cremant press cycle, and then transferred to both stainless steel tanks and neutral French oak barrels, where native yeast fermentation does its magic. Before the alcohol can get too high, malo is cut short and the wine is blended and bottled. This results in a rose that has all the subtle complexities of Flowers’ trademark pinot, but with lower alcohol (12.5%) and tangy acids. This wine truly delivers, and is one of the few $30+ roses that is actually worth the price. Click here to purchase.

8 thoughts on “I Have Not Slept In 23 Years”

  1. I howled with laughter all the way through this post. Oh how I can relate with the sleep deprivation! Alex never slept and when she did, she was in my bed. Ha! Amelia was the same, only this time, my little nugget had chronic asthma so Craig and I took turns sleeping in a large over-stuffed lazy boy chair in her room. I had the same “wake up in a panic” in the middle of the night when one of the girls managed to sleep more than three hours without waking me. I’d run into their rooms and poke them to be sure they were still breathing. They still remember this! I am IN LOVE with Rose, like everyone else. I’m definitely going to look for this wine recommendation.

    1. LOL! Tanks, Karista! I swear, just night before last, Ella sleep-walked into my room, demanded my bed, went all horizontal on me and then woke up saying, “Why am I here?” It never ends 😉

  2. Hilarious!!! Yeah our first kid had Gerd. The screaming started around 6pm each evening til dark ‘thirty. Even the neighbors loathed us. After our fourth was born in less than 5 years I was so sleep deprived I didn’t realize I’d almost cut my thumb off while making dinner til I awoke from a semi-restful nap in the ER. Just Wait till they get to college. There’s a reason octogenarians nap all day. You’re exhausted from raising children.

  3. Bah!! So much wisdom laid bare. For the first six months or so, my son had to be rocked to sleep in a mechanical swing with simultaneous rounds of Twinkle Twinkle and Dad’s Improv for 30-60 minutes before he quit venting fury and finally gave in (or got dizzy, I’m not sure. The Pediatrician said this was normal. between 12 and 18 months we would read to him and sleep with him until he passed out, sneaking ninja like a few steps toward the bedroom door until “Daddy?” crushed any hope of a peaceful evening. What worked? Car rides? Nope. Ether? Jeez, now I think of it. The only consistent coma inducer for mini-me was…….a hairdryer. On Medium. Something about the white noise simulating the blood flow sounds of the womb or some such. Maybe you should try that next time you have insomnia, JT? (Don’t forget to turn the heating element off!) OK, story time done, time for a little pink noise 🙂

  4. Man, my youngest child is twenty-nine years old and I’m still catching up on my sleep. One of my children never slept for more than two hours at a time until she was way past two years old. The luxury of being able to lay down in my bed and realizing that no one is going to need me for the next nine hours is absolutely the best. Sleep is sacred. Sleep is holy. Sleep is life.

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