50 and unemployed. Day 7 – Sleep disfunction.

I slept until 10 a.m. today after staying up until 3:30 a.m. watching a Harold and Kumar marathon.

I do love some parts of unemployment. Except for the lack of cash.

What impressed me most about all of this is that I finally slept, really slept, past 7:50 a.m. and I hadn’t been tossing nor turning. Normally I have zero problems sleeping. I can fall asleep at my desk, behind the wheel, while pushing a cart in Costco or sitting at the kitchen table. That’s because as a grown adult, sleep is one of those precious commodities that there’s never enough time for.

I feel bad for the countless women I know who take a pill to fall asleep or who wake up in the middle of the night thinking about work. I can think of little worse than work or reality interfering with such a precious and glorious commodity.

But lately, I’ve been in the same boat. Now that I have all the time in the world, I can’t sleep. Shit.

For the first time ever, stress is keeping me awake. I can fall asleep with no problem but then I wake up. Early. Toss. Turn. Think until I finally give up and get out of bed.

It sucks. It’s like I’m one of those 4-hours-per-night people minus the productivity.

Truthfully, I hate those people who are proud that they don’t sleep. I know there aren’t many of them – the people who biologically  don’t require more than 4 or 5 hours per night. Yes, they’re heads of companies and hack president-elects (seriously?) but their inability to sleep is nothing to be proud of.

I may not have ever cared that there are sleepless freaks in this world had I not worked for one in the past. But at the job I held BEFORE the one I just got canned from, my boss was a 4-hourer.

Yes, he was someone in the top echelon of the company, had started other businesses, held big important jobs at national tech giants and was wildly successful. But he was still an ass and told us repeatedly that he only needed 4 hours of sleep.

Here’s the deal: it’s one thing to not need sleep. But keep that shit to yourself. And definitely don’t bother me or anyone else when you’re awake and shouldn’t be.

But that wasn’t how he worked. The 4-hourer would send long, painful emails that he dictated into his iphone starting at 4:30 a.m. (Know how Siri never quite gets what you say right? Imagine that in email form – an 800-word email. Then imagine you’re the recipient of the email and are supposed to understand what “I biscuit another vendor butts” means and how you’re supposed to respond.) Texts would follow shortly thereafter, before any normal human was willingly out of bed, not even the ones who woke up early to exercise.

By 8 a.m., the 4-hourer would get antsy because people hadn’t answered him yet and he’d start taking matters into his own hands by working on his staff’s projects. If you were the lucky one whose project he commandeered, that meant you’d be greeted with a directive to change everything upon arrival at work that day. You’d throw all other responsibilities aside – deadlines and commitments be damned! – and dive into what he said he needed because it had to be done ASAP.

About the time you’d finish redoing everything, he’d show up at your desk with the project in hand telling you he already took care of it. Throw yours away. It was all unnecessary now.

“Why do I have this job?” you’d think to yourself.

The 4-hourer, incidentally, was also a hypocrite, a jesus freak, and a micromanager. And he did this weird thing with his mouth whenever he met with you one on one. It made him look like a camel chewing on an extra tough blade of grass. It was oddly uncomfortable to be around.

“Do you have something in your teeth? Need a glass of water?” I asked once. “A Kleenex?”

“No,” was his answer.

I broke all of my rules about looking for jobs before passing the 18-month mark, dropping it pretty quickly down to 6 months, mostly because the 4-hourer had created a toxic environment where only yes-men and yes-women (there were few of those BTW) could survive. Eight people in our 12-person team self reported they were taking anti-anxiety meds, which seemed like a really high number, but it was the healthcare industry so maybe not. I was one of the 4 who didn’t, although I had an editor who took enough for me and the horse that lives behind my fence, too.

The 4-hourer’s sleep disfunction reached a head the day his most loyal senior staffer begged him in a meeting not to send work-related emails on Christmas day. The staffer couched it as “you need a day to relax with your family” but really that staffer was at the end of his own rope, his marriage was falling apart, and he hadn’t himself slept more than 5 hours on any night in the past 3 month because he made the mistake of leaving his phone on the night stand (“It’s always important. I have to be available.”).

The 4-hourer promised he’d try.

That Christmas, I received only 4 emails, none of which were spreading good cheer. The senior staffer? He got 10. Apparently that was cutting back for the 4-hourer, which pleased the senior staffer to no end.

I left the job a month later.

Here’s a little advice: if you have sleep lasting less than 4 hours, see a doctor. If it’s because of a biological condition, maybe drinking heavily or even moderately would help.

Still can’t sleep? Become an internet troll (it works for The Donald). Paint your house. Read a book. Bake stuff that your family will want to eat when they wake up. But whatever you do, don’t bother the sleepers. You may not think there’s a problem when you sleep that little but the rest of us will readily admit we’re complete assholes when we don’t get enough sleep. And we’ll probably admit you are, too.

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