Ihave a theory about sleep that is supported by anecdotal evidence, mostly by people like me. Humans, their bodies, are “master adapters” to anything it experiences on a regular basis. Even abuse.
I borrow from sleep frequently and rarely pay it back.
It’s the only way I know to find more hours in the day to write while maintaining a full-time corporate job and a three-hour daily commute. I stay up late getting about 2 or 3 hours sleep on weekdays, and a whopping 4 hours on Saturday and Sunday.
Surprisingly, the human body will adapt to this sleeping pattern. Still, I’m not proud of it and don’t recommend it.
My advice: Don’t do what I do or you will undergo a surgeon’s knife. And I’ll only have myself to blame for my early departure from this planet. Oh well, I mean, what the hell. Who am I kidding? I don’t sleep.
My Keyboard Pillow
Similar to public drunkenness, severe prolonged lack of sleep can be embarrassing. I fall asleep while getting my teeth cleaned and during haircuts. Both involve sharp instruments.
At home, I fall asleep sitting upright in my Aeron writer’s chair. When I wake up I see an oil smudge from my forehead on the laptop screen, and little squares from the keyboard pressed into my cheek.
Sometimes I’m passed out asleep when my head teeters then topples over picking up speed on the way down.
Imagine the forest scene of a logger hollering “TIMBER!!!” as my upper body gives way, free falling forward making contact with my MacBook Air. BANG! My head slams the laptop hard. I wake up with a bloody face.
Head whipping is no joke either. They range from a series of little dips to near free fall whips. The “whips” occur when I still have the energy to catch myself while dozing off.
While falling asleep, my head begins its descent, and I catch myself before it strikes the keyboard. The pull-back motion makes a loud crack sound in my neck.
The worst injury though may occur the instant my head makes contact with the laptop, and I quickly awaken with an upward motion similar to a lion tamer’s whip. This instinctual overreaction causes my head to lift up with such force it creates a whiplash. It was this neck trauma that caused severely herniated discs in my spine.
Repair & Replace
Of course, the remedy is to get more sleep, but I have sacrificed my health for words on the page for so long it has become a regular way of life. Risking my health night after night with Big Bangs and Head Whips makes me a dip shit. No doubt.
Unfortunately, on occasion, the injury is too severe and requires a surgeons knife to repair.
I woke up one Saturday morning unable to raise my upper body or scoot off the mattress without experiencing an intense shot of pain in my upper back and left arm. That level of agony felt like being run-through by a dull-bladed cavalry sword. Not many people get hacked by an experienced swordsman on horseback these days. At least, not to my knowledge.
The surgeon opened the front of my neck to insert two cadaver bones and a metal cage into my spine. The process is called spinal fusion. Following the surgery I wore a molded plastic neck brace for six weeks and a soft neck brace for another four weeks.
After suffering facial wounds, keyboard imprints, and spinal surgery my absurd sleeping habits have continued as before, even after leaving a corporate career to write full time.
The Joker’s pencil trick in the movie The Dark Knight comes to mind. I’ll probably pass out asleep while editing my manuscript by hand someday. As my head free falls downward, the pencil pushes through my eye socket where it skewers my brain. Lights out.
I die with an eye toward a killer ending.