Saturday, February 18, 2017

Getting your Kip

 Someone posted a list on how to get a good night's sleep. At best it's a hodgepodge list of cobbled-together quasi-science. It's also making a lot of cultural assumptions. Which got my goat. Or my rhetorical flycatcher.

Here's the list.
Tips for good sleep include:
Eliminate caffeine.
Avoid naps.
Don’t drink alcohol.
Don’t eat a large meal near bedtime.
Try to go to bed and get up at the same times every day.
Reserve your bedroom for sleep – no TV, piles of laundry to sort or even books. If you can’t sleep, get up after 20 minutes.
Go into another room and read or listen to music until you’re sleepy.
Avoid bright lights and electronic screens before bedtime.

At first glance the list looks good, and some of it's fairly sound advice, except that napping is good for you, unless you're an insomniac.  (We do love our lists. They make us feel so organized...)

I would move Exercise to the very top of the list. Exercise during the day (not in the evenings after work). It releases endorphins. Exercise at night will certainly rile you up. 

Eliminate caffeine. Or just don't have any after after 2 PM. That includes chocolate. Yes. (Gasp!).

Avoid naps. You decide. Some people thrive on naps. Depends on the culture too. Me, I can't nap and I don't like falling asleep too early because I will wake up at 2 AM raring to go. I sometimes get my best work in during the middle of the night. 

Don’t drink alcohol—let's amend that one: after dinner. Why cut alcohol out completely unless you have a problem with it? Seems silly. I can see getting blottoed before bedtime could be a problem, but a glass of wine with dinner is good for the heart. It releases endorphins. Just like exercise. And chocolate. What should be on that list is no sugar (in the evening) because sugar, like caffeine, interferes with sleep. As does chocolate. Yes, chocolate.

Don’t eat a large meal near bedtime. Well, duh. Digestion and sleep don't mix well. Eat your dinner at dinnertime. Unless you're in Spain, or anywhere in the Mediterranean, then eat your dinner during the day and your supper late. But then, take long afternoon naps, call them siestas.... Oh wait, you're still sleeping after a big meal...

Move this list to another culture and the paradigm falls apart. How we divide our day with food and sleep is entirely cultural. There is no one correct method.

I did some research on sleep patterns since the Middle Ages It turns out this eight hours of solid sleep a night is a post Industrial Revolution thing. And all kinds of myths have arisen around the concept of what constitutes sound sleep patterns. Most of them are bogus. (See my reading list below.)

The point on that list that rankled me most was: Reserve your otherwise empty bedroom for sleep and have nothing in your bedroom, including laundry, or books...that is so post 20th c., and a first world notion. For whom is this sleep list meant for? It strikes me as very Northern European Anglo-centric. Waspish even, with a Puritanical hangover. Laundry causes sleeplessness? Oh my. There's an embedded judgement in there.

If clutter were a factor causing sleeplessness, then no one would be able to sleep in their bedrooms—since at least the Middle Ages. In fact, during the Middle Ages, most people didn't even have bedrooms. Or beds. Besides, you can't see those clothes hanging on hooks and book avalanche invading your sleep space when the lights are turned off—unless you have very good night vision.

I've lived on other countries, and slept in some odd places. My bedroom in Leningrad was also a well-stocked famine pantry. I slept on large vats of canned foods, the cupboard above my head was stacked with dried bread, dried garlic and onions hung from the walls. (I won't mention what it was like sleeping in the Indios' best company beds in Andean huts.) Most people in the USSR didn't even have separate bedrooms, the living room couches converted into beds. I doubt that it's changed much.

Ditto that in Japan where the communal living space converts to sleeping space. Where everything is beautifully austere and clutter-free. I could go on...

And what about we artists in our live/work spaces? Clearly clutter has little to do with getting a good night's sleep. Messy rooms, messy desks, equals a fertile imagination. No books? What's with that? My old poetry professor David Bromige propped his bed up with books. (Don't ask how I know, and no, it wasn't me).

I get the idea—remove anything from your room that you might be stressing on. But that sounds like a case of evoking sympathetic magic as Prof. Dundes might have said.

The idea of an empty bedroom equals a good night's sleep, also evokes the austerity of a nun's or monk's cell. For the record, they didn't sleep well. Or even through the night. There were novenas to be said, water clocks to be reset in the middle of the night. And that instruction: Go into another room to we repeat the past. That's exactly what the monks did. They said their prayers then crawled back into bed for their second kip.

And the current pseudo-science notion that anything electronic (blue light) including a Kindle, an iPad, your computer screen (or TV), disrupts or interferes with sleep patterns is unsupported "science." The whole "blue light spectrum" theory is one person's hunch, no scientific studies have actually been done on it, and it keeps getting repeated as a fact...until it becomes "fact." Personally, I think she had a grudge against K-Mart's Blue Light Special.

Now I love incandescent light, it's comfy, reminiscent of hearth fires and candlelight. I'm no fan of LED or florescent light, and I don't like the blue color range. So you'd think I'd jump on the electronic blue light bandwagon. But I don't think it disrupts one's circadian rhythm to the point of creating insomnia.

I'm still toying with how it ties in with the idea of light boxes and SAD. Or if that's its origin. Besides, by now, almost everyone uses those energy saver light bulbs, right? Hello? Blue light? Yep. So having that table lamp on is emitting the same color spectrum as my iPad or laptop?

Someone at Apple read that same theory and now since the installment of iOS 10, my blasted iPad starts glowing like an orange pumpkin with indigestion at sunset because of the so-called blue light theory. First few times it happened I thought I was losing my mind...Why is the screen glowing orange? No, I'm not getting sleepy. Is there something wrong with my eyes? TG I found the app that caused my iPad to glow so strangely....

That said, TVs and electronics can keep you overstimulated at night when you're trying to doze off...but they seem to have the opposite effect on me....zzzz.

What probably messes with our sleep patterns more than anything is our fear of not getting a good night's rest. We've been told that we need eight hours of uninterrupted sleep—or else. Just like we've been told that we need to drink eight glasses of water a day—or else. There's not science behind either notion. There is no magic formula.

While we do need at least eight hours of down time, how we get that sleep, as long as we get both REM and lighter sleep (or deep rest), and we're not tired, then all is good. Unless you're Margaret Thatcher operating on four hours of sleep a night while running a country, That's not good. (I don't want to know the sleep habits of the Orange One.) But there is such a thing as sleep deficit. Hey-ho, hey-ho, it's off to work we go probably messes with our sleep patterns more than we care to admit.

Snyx? Did I miss something? I wasn't asleep, really...

How did people sleep in the middle ages?
Sleep in the Middle Ages  
"We take sleeping in a bedroom for granted now, but in the middle ages, a separate room for sleeping was a luxury that only the most wealthy could afford. Cottagers slept on stone slabs covered with a thin mattress of hay or peat moss. Their one-room cottages were kept warm by an open fire in the middle of the room. In the winter, when all the windows were shuttered, the air was thick was smoke.
Historian Roger Ekirch explains in At Day's Close: Night in Times Past that a straight 8 hours of sleep is a modern invention. He cites sources from Homer to Thomas Aquinas who wrote of sleeping in two segments with a wakeful break in between. They used this time to pray, make love, do security checks on the house, or just reflect. Then they would go back to sleep until morning. This was considered normal. In the monasteries and cloisters, rising for prayers in the middle of the night were part of the cycle of prayer and thought to protect not only the religious community from demonic attacks but also protect the surrounding parish.
We tend to think that night time was completely dark before electricity but that was not always so. Since a fire was needed all night to keep the room warm, there was a soft orange glow in the room. If you needed to move around the house, you could light a candle or rushlight for portable illumination. Some towns had street lamps that gave a little light. The moon also shed light that streamed in open windows."

First draft: Most of it's sound advice, but the Reserve your so post 20th c. first world. If clutter were a factor, then no one would be able to sleep in their bedrooms—since at least the middle ages. And the electronic (blue light) screen thing is unsupported "science." One person's hunch, no scientific studies done on it, and it keeps getting repeated as a fact...that said, TVs and electronics can keep you overstimulated...but they seem to have the opposite effect on me...zzzz.

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