Natalie Morales is best known for her work as an actress, delivering understatedly buoyant performances in "The Grinder," "Parks and Recreation," "Girls" and the short-lived sci-fi/comic book adaptation "The Middleman." She’s also an equally talented writer and director, boasting an impressive portfolio of sketch comedy, music videos, and other short films. She recently directed a new music video for "Come on" by Holly Miranda, too:
In whichever form she chooses — from her starring role in "The Grinder" to this dreamy music video she helmed for The Georgia Sand — Morales works with a spellbinding lightness, pirouetting effortlessly between the serious and silly. It’s an achievement that seems all the more impressive in light of her struggles with sleep, but more on that below the fold.
In her own words, here’s Morales on messed-up REM cycles, creepy hotel clerks, and her (potentially) groundbreaking theory of dreams that she asks everyone about.
I absolutely don’t have a regular sleep schedule. I need a lot of sleep to function well. At least 8. Here's the problem though — my REM schedule is so self sabotaging. I did one of those sleep apps where you turn it on and put the phone on your bed and it records your movements to tell you what your sleep patterns are like. Consistently, no matter what time I went to bed, REM for me is always between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. So if I'm ever woken up before 10 a.m., I'm exhausted. But people just think you're lazy when you tell them that.
I actually have the same habit morning and night: puzzles, crossword puzzles — any kind of puzzle game on my phone. I love Monument Valley. At night, doing some puzzles makes my mind stop thinking about daily b.s. and calms me; in the morning, doing a puzzle shakes off the cobwebs. Or maybe I'm just addicted to puzzles?
I think I've definitely gone 40-50 hours without sleep. I have the kind of insomnia where once I fall asleep, I can stay asleep, but sometimes I go through periods where I cannot for the life of me, fall asleep. Usually stress/nerves/excitement-related, sometimes completely unrelated. It will be a whole week and if I'm lucky I'll get an hour here or there because I'll have to wake up for work or something in the mornings.
When I was shooting the pilot for The Middleman, I had it real bad. I couldn't fall asleep. Someone gave me melatonin and I took some and slept sort of okay, but the next day at work I fell asleep during a take. It made me very sleepy for the next two days.
I don’t really have any recurring dreams or nightmares. Sometimes I dream I'm flying, but they're never the same.
I have this theory — and I ask everyone I know about it as my own sort of experiment — that every child has a recurring nightmare and that we all remember it as adults. Mine was that my mom got in a station wagon (the kind with the wood paneling) at night, drove away and left me in the middle of the road, alone. My cousin's is my favorite: She jumped on this bouncy armchair her parents had and bounced so high she landed on a railroad track, head right in the way of a train coming at her.
I stayed at this tiny hotel once for work and, when I checked in, the front desk guy showed me to my room and closed the door behind him and wouldn't leave. It got awkward and then he finally left. Later he tweeted about recognizing me and having the hots for me. It was so creepy. He had the keys to my room!
I also feel like I have been stuck in hotel elevators at least twice. But I can't be sure, those memories might be dreams because I can't remember much else about them and it seems unlikely to have happened more than once?
If they were dreams, they were really, really realistic.
On my bedside table? A collection of John Muir's essays, a rock salt lamp, a bottle of water and some Ibuprofen.