My Talent for Sleep

Two years ago or so, I wrote here about my unparalleled ability to sleep. I know no one as adept at sleeping as I am. Time to update my post: I’m still the unrivalled master of sleep.

It all started when I was a child. My father was in prison, my mother an alcoholic. Sometimes, I didn’t have enough to eat. I realized that if I was going to survive, I was going to have to take care of myself. So I got part-time jobs to keep myself going. First paper routes, then delivering packages for a drug store, later as a gas station attendant, a theater usher, a store clerk—anything I could find.

One result was that I often didn’t have time for sleep. I got through high school by napping on school busses and during lunch hour. In college, I worked twenty hours a week to earn enough for tuition and food. I missed my college graduation ceremony because I was in the hospital for exhaustion.

I suffered my second bout of exhaustion when I was in my thirties. I went back to school to earn a masters and later a doctorate while working fulltime at a demanding job at the National Security Agency and taking care of my wife and children. I succeeded but wore myself out in the process.

My years in Vietnam between 1962 and 1975 tested my ability to go without sleep. Days and nights on the battlefield often left no time for rest. As the fall of Saigon loomed in April 1975, I went for days without sleep and had almost nothing to eat. After my escape under fire when Saigon fell, I was diagnosed with amoebic dysentery and pneumonia due to inadequate diet, sleep deprivation, and muscle fatigue. I slept for days.

More tomorrow.

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