AT 3 A.M., ALL BETS ARE WAY, WAY OFF.
You're lying in bed, sound asleep. It's the middle of the night. You're tucked snugly beneath your color-coordinated bedsheets, with your favorite fuzzy socks on your feet and your favorite moisturizer applied liberally to all your dry zones.
Suddenly your eyes pop open. Your heart is racing. You're digging your fingernails into the palms of your hands. You see the red numbers of the digital clock beside your bed - 3 a.m.
You're in your own paranoid hell.
This happens to me almost every night. For as long as I can remember, really, I go to bed feeling normal and wake up in the morning feeling normal once again (well, as normal as I get). But at 3 a.m. I'm freaked. I'm the emotional equivalent of a split end. I'm panicky, hyper and wigged out.
I know I'm not the only one. There are oh so many of us turning into sniveling, drooling versions of our day selves, consumed with worry, and battling with the boogie man in the middle of the night. There's a feeling of being stalked by something, a sense of impending doom, guilt, and fear ... something unspecific. Something witchy happens in the hour between 3 and 4 in the morning, a time that's been called the hour of the wolf.
I needed to know more about this cursed hour, so I started seeking out authorities who might have a clue. Some said that the panic hour might have to do with digestive cycles and appetite patterns. Half-digested Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey that I eat every night at 10 p.m. was to blame? I couldn't believe it. Other ``authorities'' said that non-REM sleep patterns and irrational brain activity were to blame. I also heard an inkling from an astrological source about suns being in the second house.
None of it got to me, so I turned to my own trusty method and asked myself: What would Neanderthals say? It's not scientific. But it works just fine for me.
Back in Neanderthal times, I imagine, we would settle in to our caves for the night, tummies full of Atkins-friendly high-protein and low-carb woolly mammoth flesh, snuggle up on our saber-toothed-tigerskin beds and drift off to sleep. But we wouldn't have had any locks on the doors to our caves, or security systems, or Rottweilers guarding our door. So how did we keep ourselves safe from the fire-breathing dragons and Neanderthal boogie men? The answer is simple. The 3 a.m. wake-up-and-check-I'm-not-being-eaten-alive instinct.
It makes perfect logical sense, doesn't it? At 3 a.m., Neanderthals would suddenly jolt awake, take a look around them, feel a little paranoid and check twice for goblins, make sure their leg wasn't being gnawed off by something, mumble ``ugga bugga'' to themselves, then fall back to sleep. We, the modern humans, are left with the trace memory. We wake up and wig out, make sure our bodies are intact, worry a little about the IRS, the presidential election, the bad thoughts we have about our bosses and the lies we've been feeding our spouses and then eventually fall back into la la land.
So let's all remember, when we wake up in hysteria at 3 a.m., that we're not alone. It's an ancient instinct, there are no dragons lurking outside. Just go back to sleep.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Oct 28, 2004|
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