Insomniac Viewing Habits

Today (as this post goes live) is another out-of-town day for me, so it’ll be evening by the time I’m able to get back to any comments. But a little unusually for my out-of-town excursions, it’s also having a bit of an effect on the content I’m writing, if indirectly. See, my sleep phase was disrupted about a week ago (thanks to a beagle with an upset stomach), and it takes a while to get it back on track, at least if I let it take its own course. Unfortunately, I need it reasonably manageable tomorrow for the long drive, so that means I need to stay up longer tonight than I really want to, in order to ensure I wake up at the proper time instead of five hours early.

That’s not self-pity, by the by, that’s just preamble. See, it got me thinking — as I sluggishly tried to think of what to write for today — about my usual habits when I’m short on sleep but am not sleeping. I tend to be largely nocturnal, and I also tend towards insomnia in the form of being tired but being unable to fall asleep. And of course, in my case, that means watching movies and TV.

As I’ve mentioned before, my mood can greatly influence my viewing choices. Fatigue obviously is no different in that respect. But where it differs is that I’m usually only just barely alert enough to follow along with something, and I know it’s unlikely to stick in my memory. I don’t want to watch anything that I want to treat seriously at all. And so I generally don’t.

My insomniac TV watching usually takes the form of something that I can somewhat follow with the sound off — so as not to disturb anyone else. Pink Panther cartoons are a natural favorite, of course, but they’re not usually on long enough or at the right time to be much help. So what I usually wind up watching are old black and white features, sometimes silent films, and sometimes just talkies that I’ve pushed the mute button on. But I don’t watch them the way I normally would. I’m not likely to remember them in any case, so what would be the point? Instead, I make up my own dialogue as I go along, trying to see what story I can come up with from the actions on screen.

It’d be tempting to blame Mystery Science Theater 3000 and it’s habitual mockery for this tendency. After all, I was watching MST3K when I was a young teen, and it was surely an influence on my tastes. But I’ve noticed my father does the exact same thing, so I suspect it’s an inherited trait.

And so there are any number of old films which I’ve seen, but not heard, and of which I don’t remember anything more than a few flashes of frames. It occasionally leads to odd moments when I’ll be watching a film “for real”, not recalling it until it hits that one scene that amused me one night months or years before. But it gives me something to do until my neural system finishes synching up for sleep.

My family can’t be the only one prone to this. What do you watch when dreams aren’t forthcoming?

About Morgan R. Lewis

Fan of movies and other media
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22 Responses to Insomniac Viewing Habits

  1. le0pard13 says:

    Interesting post, Morgan (and sorry to hear about the dog). I think when I get into my not sleeping periods (usually associated with some physical ailment), I find I don’t watch much TV, cable, film, etc. during those dark hours. I read, anything. Be it a magazine, text book (mine or my kids), or a novel. I think I got that mother, too. Hope you get back to a normal sleep pattern, my friend.

    • Just one of the hazards of dog ownership (though thankfully a rare one). Poor pup couldn’t quite make it off the bed in time.

      I would probably read more if it weren’t for the eyestrain. When I’m tired my eyes tend to be pretty sore. Watching television is, surprisingly, easier on the eyes than trying to read.

  2. Tyson Carter says:

    I dont sleep very much ever, hence why I work nights. I may as well get paid if Im going to be awake 🙂

  3. Spikor says:

    These days, if I can’t sleep, I usually end up on reddit. But there was once a time before mindlessly clicking links, hoping that someday something will actually be funny again and not just another picture of some idiot’s cat… In those days, I usually played video games. Sooner or later, grinding out levels in a Final Fantasy would put me to sleep at the controller. But somewhere along the lines Final Fantasies stopped being interesting enough for me to want to grind out levels. City of Heroes filled that void for a while… but… well, you know.

    Lying on the couch and watching a movie used to work, too… but I stopped doing that when I became a Fat Guy with Glasses. I can’t see the TV well enough without the glasses.

    • Pfft. I got glasses at a young enough age that they’re just second nature to me at this point. About the only time I get out of bed and don’t grab them is if I’m just going to the bathroom and then back to bed.

      The funny stuff on reddit is never on the front page. I find the funniest stuff is usually in AskReddit, in response to some of the silly questions there (though of course you always get those dips who insist on just copying some TV’s answer and claiming it as their own).

      • Spikor says:

        My glasses are second nature, now, too. What I meant was that I can’t lie (lay? lie? I don’t care) in bed or on the couch, and watch a movie, because I’ll fall asleep wearing my glasses. This kills either the frames, or my sleep.

        The thing I enjoy most about reddit is the all the drama. I find it absolutely hilarious when two groups of people, both not knowing a damn thing about anything, start arguing about a completely arbitrary point. 30 or 40 comment arguments about whether or not TMNTII is better than Turtles in Time. Xbox Vs. Playstation Fanboys. And of course, extremist views of all shapes and colours.

        Also, I’ve made a couple of good trades, and redditgifts exchanges are great, risky fun.

        • Ah. See, I watch from a recliner, so if I doze off with my glasses on, they’re generally pretty safe.

          I tend to avoid the more drama-prone threads on Reddit, but that’s because I don’t get quite the same joy out of schaudenfreude. 😀

  4. You have my sympathies on the insomnia! I’m old before my time and am now ready to go to bed at the earliest possible opportunity! If I wake up in the night, however, I do find it hard to get back to sleep and then I sling on some episodes of something easy to watch or just browse Netflix endlessly without actually picking something to watch.

    Nice piece Morgan!

    • Thanks, Chris. Waking up in the middle of the night can be aggravating, no doubt. I don’t think I’d want to be going to bed early, though… I find it more enjoyable to watch my movies at night than in the morning. 😀

  5. I hear you about being a night owl. I have lost track of the number of films I started watching and then fell asleep during only to wake up when the dog wants to go outside as soon as the sun rises.

  6. Reruns—always reruns. It doesn’t matter what’s on, just click about randomly and you will always find something—be it old reruns of Married With Children on TBS (which run a lot, sometimes four, five episodes at a time from sometimes 4. 4 30 AM generally straight thru til 7—seven days a week too!) or other things—the hub channel has started showing Sliders reruns at 4 AM as well (followed by Hercules reruns at 5–i caught one the other night and marveled at how skinny Bruce Campbell was a little over a decade ago!) TNT sometimes has Las Vegas or Numbers reruns too in the AM hours.

    When i was actually in high school—one of the local channels here always had Star Trek Next Gen on at 3 AM every weeknight—and that continued on for a good number of years where it got to the point where i got to know them all fairly well. There were also reruns of Mad About You at 4 AM and the used to be ultumate and most consistent late night fixture—reruns of MASH. MASH in particular is something I will always associate with late night insomnia i think more than any other show because MASH was ALWAYS there, filling out schedule holes, turning up at any given half hour in late night reruns just because there was a hole to fill in between late night infomercials and early morning news programming. MASH sadly no longer runs on the local channel here (I think it officially stopped around the time the local fox affiliate gave the entire 4 AM hour to pre-Good Day New York programming—but that’s where MASH was usually found by me and it almost always a solid, dependable, and reliable late night program to settle back with. I like to think someone out there feels the same way about Al Bundy—i love reruns of married with children, but i generally get too excited when i turn them on because i remember them all when they were either first run or when i first saw them in syndication when i was a kid discovering them for the first time. Its not like MASH where i wasn’t as excited upon watching them at 4 in the morning as a teenager because i didn’t know anything about the individual episodes themselves until enough time had gone by where i could actually start to recognize them as being episodes i had already seen!
    Still good question to ask—and in these days of netflix and whatnot it does bear some questioning how/if anyone aside from myself actually misses the days of late late late late night reruns of tv shows these days!

    • It seemed like MASH was everywhere in syndication, didn’t it? Syndicated reruns are certainly still around, but now it seems to be the exclusive domain of channels built around nostalgia.

  7. I put on the extended cut of “Dune” and that usually knocks me out.

  8. I have been a bit of an insomniac lately. Usually I just end up fiddling around with my phone or playing a game on the Vita until I’m able to fall back asleep. Once in a while I might put on something like The Simpsons or another old favorite, but not many movies.

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