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January 10, 2005

They call it sleep

A sleep researcher in NC has just launched a very interesting blog called Circadiana, which I found via BoingBoing. I really enjoyed his post Circadiana: Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sleep (But Were Too Afraid To Ask). (David, I hope you read it!)

The author says a lot on the subject that I've believed for some time... the difference being that he has research data to back him up. I really do believe that the social and business constraints (or lack thereof) around sleep are one of the major causes of illness--right behind smoking and obesity. Coturnix, as the author calls himself, also points out some fascinating research on sleep cycles and their relation to depression and bipolar disorder.

He makes a great argument that there is almost as much ignorance and cultural weirdness about sleep in this country as about sex. And Coturnix clearly lays out certain salutary relations between the two that I have always believed in:

Make a routine in the evening. The last 2-3 hours before bedtime stay out of the bedroom (bedroom is only for sleep and sex), and switch off all the screens: no TV, no computer, no gameboy. Reading a book while sitting in an armchair in the living room is fine. Just sitting on the porch and thinking will help you wind down. As the evening progresses gradually turn down the lights. Once the bedtime arrives, go to the bedroom, go to bed, switch off the light (pitch darkness) and go to sleep if you can. If you cannot, get up for a few minutes, but keep your lights dim, still no screens, no caffein, no food.

Of course, all of the above are the strategies to shift your clock to a "socially accepted" phase. But you are not crazy or sick. It is the societal pressure to get up at a certain time that is making you sick. Try to get a job that fits your natural schedule. Work at night, sleep during the day (in a pitch-dark, light-tight, sound-proof room) and enjoy life in all its quirkiness.

If you need to go to the bathroom in the evening or during the night, do not turn on the light. Can't you find your vital organs in the dark? If neccessary, a very dim nightlight (or indirect light from the hall) is OK. If you wake up in the middle of the night, do not get up or switch on the light. Have sex instead. Hopefully your partner will enjoy being woken up by your kinky activities. You will both crash into pleasant deep sleep afterwards.

Those of you who know me know how much trouble I have sleeping, and how happy I would be if I could shift my schedule later to fight my natural night-owl tendencies. But as both work and husband expect me to hew to certain norms, I'm going to use the good info provided on Circadiana to do a better job of passing for a "lark."

Posted by jay at January 10, 2005 02:16 PM | TrackBack
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There was an interesting article in Men's Journal in December of 2003 that discussed how we don't really need 8 hours of sleep. In fact, some people operate at a higher level with very little sleep (generals in war time for example). There's even a drug out there being tested that helps you operate with virtually no sleep for days and no ill effects. I can't imagine that you can go on like that without the need for some serious recharging, but it's an interesting theory nontheless.

Posted by: Annett on January 14, 2005 11:15 AM

Finally, sleep without guilt! I'm hopelessly larkish, I used to say I was 'solar powered' - up with the sun and down when it's gone. We had to up the wattage in all our light fixtures at the foreign office just so I could stay up past 530, when the sun drops below the mountain, there. Here in our snowglobe, a modified hibernation seems a natural response to the cold and dark of winter.

On our recent travels south to Italy, we noticed that the Italians sealed themselves in to their houses mid-day, blinds bolted shut, town squares abandoned. Why? Napping, that's why. Culturally approved sleep. The downside (for the larks) was the late dinner hour, well past bedtime. It took extreme effort not to do a face plant in to the pasta.

FYI, National Workplace Napping day is April 4th.

Posted by: pam on January 16, 2005 10:50 PM
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