Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sleep, NOT an 8-hour block

David Randall has an interesting op-ed on sleep in the NYTimes:
Typically, mention of our ever increasing sleeplessness is followed by calls for earlier bedtimes and a longer night’s sleep. But this directive may be part of the problem. Rather than helping us to get more rest, the tyranny of the eight-hour block reinforces a narrow conception of sleep and how we should approach it. Some of the time we spend tossing and turning may even result from misconceptions about sleep and our bodily needs: in fact neither our bodies nor our brains are built for the roughly one-third of our lives that we spend in bed.

The idea that we should sleep in eight-hour chunks is relatively recent. The world’s population sleeps in various and surprising ways. Millions of Chinese workers continue to put their heads on their desks for a nap of an hour or so after lunch, for example, and daytime napping is common from India to Spain.
You’re talking my language here. I love naps, always have. And, while I generally get to bed relatively early, I rarely manage a solid 8-hour block. Often I’ll get up in the middle of the night and do some work. Or I’ll get up and 4 or 5 AM, do some work and two or three hourse, and then get another hour’s sleep.

But I seem to do OK.

And then there’s this, after discussing some historical references to first and second sleep:
It seemed that, given a chance to be free of modern life, the body would naturally settle into a split sleep schedule. Subjects grew to like experiencing nighttime in a new way. Once they broke their conception of what form sleep should come in, they looked forward to the time in the middle of the night as a chance for deep thinking of all kinds, whether in the form of self-reflection, getting a jump on the next day or amorous activity. Most of us, however, do not treat middle-of-the-night awakenings as a sign of a normal, functioning brain.
Well, now that I’ve been so informed, I’ll start being even more tolerant of mid-night wakings.


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