Insomnia Is His Friend

There are those who, rather than fight insomnia, decide to embrace it. Los Angeles musician and sound artist Jean Paul Garnier is one. Garnier’s erratic sleep pattern inspired him to begin work on an eight-hour composition called “Sleep Map,” which he hopes one day will help others get a good night’s rest.

There are those who, rather than fight insomnia, decide to embrace it. Los Angeles musician and sound artist Jean Paul Garnier is one. Garnier’s erratic sleep pattern inspired him to begin work on an eight-hour composition called “Sleep Map,” which he hopes one day will help others get a good night’s rest. This week he told his story on the radio station KQED.

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Photo by Steven Cuevas, KQED

“I remember going back to when I was 5 or 6 years old being an insomniac,” he told reporter Steven Cuevas. “Because it’s been so long and I’ve fought against it for most of my life, I’ve been happier and my life’s been better since I decided to embrace it and work with it instead of fighting against it. So now, that’s just what’s become normal in my life and it works for me.” (For the full story, click here.)

A Night Owl?

This raises the question of whether Garnier is just naturally a night owl—a person whose body clock runs late, who stays powered up till the wee hours and then habitually sleeps till 9 or 10 a.m. While this may in part be true, to hear Garnier talk, his sleep is broken and completely unpredictable. Typically it comes in short bursts rather than in a single consolidated period. But now, whatever odd hours Garnier is awake, rather than lie in bed agonizing about it, he’s up in his sound studio composing.

I wouldn’t trade my now-more-regular sleep pattern for Garnier’s irregularity. Been there, done that, and it didn’t work for me.

All the same, I envy a guy who can marshal enough brain power to “layer isotonic tones” and create “ambient, ethereal music” at 2:22 a.m. In my case, my brain checks out somewhere around midnight. Not only is trying to do anything intellectual then impossible, but it hurts! Not to mention the achiness of my arms and legs which, on really bad nights, crave immobility. The idea of actually getting up and doing something—never mind being productive—is anathema! I’d rather kiss Newt.

On the other hand, if I had it in me to create beautiful soundscapes at 3 in the morning, I don’t think I’d resist departing from social norms and making peace with erratic sleep. In sleep as in our waking hours, we’re all different, and the consolidated sleep pattern held up as a model by sleep experts today is not for everyone.

What activities do you do when you’re awake at night?