Sleep Deprivation

Nook First release 7/23/13

Nook First release 7/23/13

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 63% of Americans report they don’t get enough sleep at night.

Scientists are trying to put the blame on technology, saying the use of television and computers prior to sleep throws off natural melatonin and circadian rhythms with artificial light. Before computers, we sat in the dark? I don’t mean to make light of their studies (Ha, ha), but going to sleep isn’t the problem for most of us. It’s staying asleep. (and if I watch TV before bed, it isn’t light keeping me up, it’s my brain on zombie overload or mentally fixing bad story lines) I’m not arguing that light doesn’t influence sleep. I’m sure it does. People used to go to bed not long after dusk because candles were expensive and criminals inhabited the dark. But even then, they didn’t necessarily sleep eight or nine hours straight. Research shows our ancestors actually woke up in the middle of the night and carried on business for a short while before returning to bed. Probably good for the population explosion.

But with all our modern lighting capability, 21st century man has no reason to go back to bed. He simply gets up when he wakes, accomplishing the six-hour sleep but not catching up the extra few hours later. And the National Sleep Foundation thinks naps are a bad idea? Yeah, they’re mostly impossible with our lifestyle unless you happen to live in parts of Europe or South America, but naps seem like an eminently suitable answer to our short sleep schedules. Maybe we should start a campaign!

How well do you sleep? Do you sleep for six hours and simply get up? Try to go back to sleep? Sleep all night long—and if you do sleep blissfully, do you exercise heavily during the day? I’m testing those sleep polls!




Sleep Deprivation — 14 Comments

  1. I spent years resisting the idea that sleep was necessary. I used to go to Aikido class at 7 AM most days, but would often stay up until 1 or 2 the night before watching TV or reading or just not going to bed. And when I read Nancy Kress’s novels on the Sleepless, I was very, very jealous. I resent the idea that so much of a short life is spent asleep.

    But I have finally realized that I feel so much better after 7-8 hours of sleep a night. I’ve been watching my blood pressure lately (it got a little high and I was working on making behavioral changes to get it down) and discovered that too little sleep was one of the things that would make it spike. I’m now pretty convinced that the sleep researchers are right about these things.

    I usually sleep fine unless I’m worried about something. And if I drink coffee in the afternoon because I need to stay up late, I often have trouble staying asleep after I go to bed, even if I’m exhausted.

    • I’m not much of a coffee drinker, but so far, I haven’t found that it affects me one way or another, which is a pity when we’re doing a long drive!

      But yes, as I understand it, the relaxation of sleep not only clears up our neural passages and prepares them for the next day, but it gives our bodies a chance to unstress and recuperate. If only my brain would accept that!

  2. Unless I’m feeling ill, I sleep about four hours a night. If I’m sick, as happens every three to four months, I sleep about nine to ten hours a night. I suppose it averages out.

  3. Almost always I am a champion sleeper. But going to sleep has always been a problem–as a teenager I’d read until 2 am most nights, then get up at 7 (for certain values of “up” where up = shambling through the morning routine like a zombie), and even when I tried to go to bed early, I would find myself resisting. It became a matter of self-definition: I was the last one in the house to turn out the light, and most nights I still am. Unless I am absolutely exhausted, I lie awake for what seems like hours, brain spinning. I have tried relaxation techniques, white noise, melatonin, everything but drugs, and still I lie there whirring. On the other hand, once I’m asleep I stay asleep.

    All this is complicated by my body clock, which prefers me to be active after noon and until about 3 am. Being a parent has necessitated that I learn to pretend to be a morning person (see “shambling zombie” above) but it’s all pretense. Nowadays, with an hour commute to get to work, I catch up on my dozing on the train. But I am at a loss to explain why it can be easier to drift off while sitting on Caltrain, fully dressed, upright, and surrounded by strangers, than at home in my own bed, surrounded by no one more sinister than the Spouse and the dog.

    • We’re all so different, it’s fascinating! I’m sure body clock has a lot to do with your inability to sleep at normal times. I have a friend who doesn’t function until noon and going to bed at 4 AM works perfectly for her. Civilization interferes with abnormal bodyclocks the same way it does naps.

  4. I’ve read some studies about teenage sleep habits when I had a sleepless teenager. Seems that the hormonal surges and growth spurts disrupt the circadian rhythms. Teens actually function better on a noon to 2 AM pattern. If the kids go to bed early, they don’t sleep. Some school systems experimented with high school schedules starting at 9 AM instead of 7–howls from the families who thought their teens needed to work after school. But absenteeism and illness among the students plummeted by over 50%.

    Me? I cherish my sleep. I go to cons and leave the parties early because I have to sleep to function. I don’t do caffeine after noon and I try to do something exercise like every day. Otherwise I don’t sleep. The better I sleep the more productive I am when awake. More awake hours don’t help.

    • Yes! I have a granddaughter who actually requires almost 11 hours of sleep a night (she’s a tween). If she attempts to break that pattern for several nights in a row, she actually has an emotional meltdown. It’s pitiful to watch. She’s an extremely intelligent, well-behaved child but she cannot control the meltdown.

      So sleep is hard-wired into our systems. I’ve always needed more than average, but since turning 40, it’s been harder to achieve. So it could be the reverse of those teen hormones. Quite fascinating.

    • Probably a lot of variation in the teens. . . .

      though what is really painful is that if you are put in a room with no clock and no outside windows, our cycles average 25, not 24, hour days.

        • Mine is so far from usual it’s made my life a constant struggle.

          I’ve dealt with insomnia all my life, but last year was the worst because I started getting chronic migraines as well. It got so bad, I had to quit my day job. Once I started working from home, I decided to let my body choose my schedule. I immediately shifted to a 48 hr schedule–32 hrs awake, 12 asleep–and stayed on that schedule all winter. I’d never felt better. The migraines even went away. I only felt exhausted if I stayed up for 3 days or more.

          I’ve since shifted back to a 24 hr schedule because I started getting exhausted (after four months on 48 hrs), but I still need to pull at least one all-nighter a week as a “reset,” otherwise insomnia kicks in.

          I’m just hitting my mid-30s, and I have never heard of anyone having their circadian rhthyms as screwed up as mine. On my 24 hr schedule, I often sleep too much and feel groggy and listless most of the day. Waking up before 10 am gives me a pounding migraine no matter how much or little sleep I’ve had. Waking up at all is such a chore, the further I am from that state, the better I feel. I’m thinking of going back to 48 hrs again. I only feel good when I’m pulling all-nighters.

  5. Black-out curtains. Lovely things.

    If I’m sleepy mid-afternoon I may split up my sleep into an afternoon nap of a few hours and then sleep rather less that night.

    • If only I were so lucky! But I’d have my husband drilling holes in the wall, my granddaughter asking to use the bathroom because my husband is drilling hole in the other one, my publicist calling to ask about the size of the bookmarks… No, while the rest of the world is awake, napping doesn’t happen. I’ve tried, oh, how I’ve tried!

  6. I was like Mad in my teen years, taking easily two hours to fall asleep, learning to be a lark. But I got ill once, and it changed my rhythm. Now, I struggle to get to sleep before two, and when I beat it back to be more on a modern schedule, I’m lucky if I sleep 12-4 and then 5-7. Strangely, an over the counter cream used (for me–this varies with your adrenal rising action) between 11 pm and 1 am is one of the few things that helps me sleep.