You snooze, you win

Last week, our cover story dealt with a much-discussed issue of these frenzied times—the shabby sleep habits of Modern America, which can be acute in a 24-hour town like Reno. Reading Kris’ article reminded me of where I was one year ago and how much thinking I was devoting to this very topic.

It was in late October of last year that I found myself trying to screw up the nerve to tell the managers/owners at The X of my decision to leave the station for a while, a long while, beginning in early January. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it. There were a few reasons being added to the mix, but really, the main one that was driving me was this nagging desire to sleep until about 6:30, maybe even 7 o’clock, not just on the weekends, but every damn day of the week.

See, as the only morning man in the history of The X ever since we came on the air on Nov. 1, 1990, I had been waking up at 4:10 a.m. for the last 14 years of my life. One thing that was becoming vividly clear was that, while such a lifestyle was tolerable, maybe even kinda cool as a 41-year-old, it was becoming less and less OK—and, on occasion, extremely detestable—as a 51-year-old. I began adding up the years I had spent doing morning radio shows: 14 at the X, three in Denver, and another seven in the early ’80s at KOZZ. Twenty-four years of my life, almost 50 percent of it, getting up at effing 4 in the morning. When considered in that light, this life pattern didn’t just seem unnatural or slightly odd but somehow dangerous, as if one sleep-deprived year was akin to one year of smoking. Had I mutated myself into some sort of Homo Blearius, a sluggoid primate completely dependent on that 90-minute nap in the afternoon? And when I lost the ability to take those naps about three years ago, for whatever mysterious bio-physical reason, was that when the frog in my pot began to notice that, gee, the water in here is beginning to warm up a bit?

The sleep dep warning signs were undeniable—ordering ventis at Starbucks instead of grandes, nodding off in the golf cart between shots, developing a dangerous dependence on black-market boner pills from India, wearing pajamas and slippers to Mexican restaurants and pleasure-listening to CDs of snorers and sleep apneans. When I bought the black-light poster of Elvis sprinkling crank on to his pancakes, it was obvious something had to be done.

Well, here I am, nine months later, nine months into my “Alarm-Clock-You’re-Not-The-Boss-Of-Me” lifestyle. You know what? It’s been a really good time. A very quiet, very peaceful good time, for sure, but a really good time, nonetheless. I used to tell people that I had trained myself to get by on five to six hours every night. What a load of Shinola. We live in a culture that tries to tell us that sleep is a wimpy waste of time, that walking is for losers, that eating fruit is sorta gay. All signs that our culture might well be stone-cold crazy. Back in the ’70s, Warren Zevon sang, “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.” He should be all caught up in about a year or two.