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Wednesday, 2.16.05: 3 A.M.

I've gotten into a bad habit of waking up at 3 A.M. What is it about that time of night?

I read an article about a woman struggling to find reasons for her worrisome middle-age memory lapses. One reason she uncovered was lack of sleep.

...often I was up at 3 a.m., when, in the words of the poet Richard Lang, the bedroom turns into "a switching yard for the freight trains of anxiety."

Good image. For me, it's the clash of hormonal chemicals that makes me alternate between tropical and frosty -- covers on, covers off, covers on, covers off. For some reason it's always worst at three.

Three is bad because you know you should still be sleeping. No matter how early you went to bed you haven't had a night's sleep. Three A.M. belongs to the previous day. It's not tomorrow yet.

5 A.M. is a credible wake-up time, so if you wake up at 4 it's "almost morning" and you can tell yourself it's okay to get up. Or "if I'm still awake at 5, I'll get up." That deal usually puts me right back to sleep.

If you wake up at 1 A.M. there is no reason to panic. You still have the whole night ahead of you and good hours of sleep to come.

But wakefulness at 3 A.M. cracks your night in half. It's still yesterday but tomorrow, while so far away will suddenly jump out of the darkness and start making demands on you. You begin to feel sorry for yourself. The problems you were counting on a good night's sleep to sort out, spill over in a tangled mess.

I'll finish with a quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald:

...But at three o'clock in the morning, a forgotten package has the same tragic importance as a death sentence, and the cure [day-time advice] doesn't work -- and in a real dark night of the soul it is always three o'clock in the morning, day after day.

Nasty time of day.




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