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Last night, I got in bed right after our young son went to sleep, at 8:45. I read for probably less than a half-hour and then fell asleep, fully clothed. Why was I fully clothed? Because I was convinced I couldn’t possibly be out for the night and refused to change into my pajamas. (Or at least out of my underwire bra.)

At 38, I still find myself having the notion that grown-ups stay up late. There are certainly many times when I’m up cleaning dishes, folding laundry, researching a household purchase, making a worksheet, writing lesson plans, learning a Torah reading, or catching up with a friend. Yet, more often than not, I simply feel somehow obligated to stay up later than my body and schedule would suggest is wise–too tired to knit, read, write, or even interact.

There are complicating factors–sometimes, after my preschooler has been particularly clingy, I just want a few moments without being pawed, kissed, or climbed upon. Often, I just want to be idle. I like the soothing glow of the TV way too much, and a pleasant escape into Dr. Who or a cooking show often sucks me in. Or I juggle ten games of Scrabble and other iPhone games.

Lately, I have been trying to go to sleep earlier, but I find it requires as much self-discipline as dieting. Which is one of the reasons why I have been reading more before bed. A friend told me that Michael Pollan has said that if he’s eaten enough and still is hungry, he asks himself if he’s hungry enough for an apple. If yes–great. An apple will certainly provide nutrition in a way that won’t harm the body. If the answer is no–then the hunger isn’t really about food, and he needs to think about what the hunger is about. So reading is like an apple–the nutritious test of what my wakefulness is about.

Anyone else find that a childhood misperception shapes their sleep or other habits?