More on sleep

I’m working on improving my sleep patterns. (Yet again!)

I am always so rested during holidays. Of course nearly all teachers are tired during term. The hols prove to me I am not getting enough sleep in term. I look and feel better with such restful and longer sleep. I may not be able to reduce the stress and its impact on sleep but I will have to ensure I get to bed earlier when back at work.

Part of my sleep improvement regime has been to borrow the books in the central branch of my public library on sleep. 

I’ve just finished The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post. Honestly I’m skimming this book, and not because I learnt enough from the book I wrote about yesterday, Night School by Richard Wiseman. It was lucky I read Wiseman’s book first. I liked his style. 

Taken in holiday unit with nails done courtesy of gift voucher from Mr S.


Huffington writes in the style of American self-help books that want to appear authoritative. Each paragraph starts by referring to some seemingly important person, “John Blah, CEO of Massive Corporation says…”, “Jill Cleverwoman , head of research at Big Prestigious College, concludes…” Aeach paragraph with few linking words to the previous. I much prefer Wiseman’s more narrative style. 

Also Huffington sensationalises the stories, and almost labours the point, with multiple horror stories on the lack of sleep. Sensationalism from the founder of Huffington Post! Who’d a thought it! I get it she was well and truely rocked by her collapse from lack of sleep, but I think it is just her style of writing. And clearly one that appeals to most. But I’ve never been a tabloid sort of person. 

And this book is too American. Eg, the drugs referred to are all American. As are the cultural and historical references. (Not a criticism but an observation.) This makes it slightly less useful or interesting to non-Americans. 

I think what irks me is a journalist presenting herself as an expert. So she had an experience. So she’s read lots and done a TED talk. “The question I get asked all the time.” You’re not a doctor. You’re not a sleep expert. Your not a psychologist. Youre a journalist/business owner. And while I’m not accusing her of plagiarism (though she did settle out of court in a case of plagiarism regarding another book) this book seems to follow a lot of Wiseman’s book which was published earlier. And, I suppose, it always irks me when people have made their fortune but then say don’t do what I did, there’s more to life than financial wealth. Oh yes, easily said when you can now live on your millions by not working as you did but probably wouldn’t have got there without working madly, and sleeplessly.  

If you’re going to read one book on sleep, I’d go for Wiseman’s. 

Still there’s much to learn. Here’s some take-away points:

  • Burn out seems to be associated with success. Saying you’re overworked is like saying you’re important. Whereas leisure time used to be the symbol of higher classes, now it is working very long hours, at the expense of sleep. And strangely, while the poor struggle to get 40 hours work a week. 
  • The theory that in pre-industrial society it was normal to have your night sleep in two phases. This before electric light. People apparently slept for half the night, woke and then spent some time doing other things – tending to animals, praying, loading the fire, having a conversation, having sex. Then going back to sleep. If left to my own devices, I often do this, even when really rested. 
  • Wiseman wrote about this but I forgot to put it in yesterday’s post. When you sleep, your brain washes out all the toxic waste proteins that accumulate between brain cells every day. The washing away of waste chemicals and toxins happens only when we sleep and may help in prevention and treatment of dementia. (With my hypochondria, this is very useful. I have diagnosed myself with early onset dementia several times in the past year.)
  • The less we sleep as we age, the faster the brain ages, so gaps increase which decreases cognitive performance. 
  • Developers of artificial intelligence are finding machines which sleep and dream perform better!!! How amazing/scary is that???
  • Sleep can help you not catch the common cold. One research project found that those who had less than an average of seven hours sleep were three times more likely to get the cold (via nasal drops with the rhinovirus – fun research project to be a participant in, hey?) than those with eight hours or more of sleep. But if you do get the cold, sleep helps you recover. 
  • People who suffer from insomnia become anxious about going to bed as they anticipate not sleeping. So they learn to associate bed with sleeplessness and frustration, making bed a cue for wakefulness. This is me! It’s why I sleep on the lounge no worries but struggle once in bed. Cure: optimise bedtime conditions and change associations. 

The “how much sleep is enough” table is interesting. I bet most teenagers do not get it. Probably none of us are.

  • School-age 6-13 years: 9-11 hours
  • Teens 14-17: 8-10 hours 
  • Adults: 7-9 hours

Huffington does pose the pertinent question. If you know sleep is crucial, why are you not doing it?

Her answer: changing all bad habits about sleep is a long process requiring small steps. But more on this tomorrow. 

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9 thoughts on “More on sleep

  1. Lol I am visiting your blog at 4:17am – enuff said! My excuse though is that I’m still so messed up in time-zones.

    All the sleep reading in the world still makes it hard to solve the problems that cause sleep issues. Especially work and its demands, stresses and busyness, particularly in a role like yours. It’s hard in any role involving a lot of human interaction to make it fit neatly into the defined parameters of an 8 hour day.

    I don’t know what the solution is but I think its great that you are so focussed on improving. Health can’t just be taken-for-granted and needs that level of focus.

    • Getting up around 2-4am is apparently a common problem. One I share. Solutions include: not turning on electronic devices, if there’s something on your mind writing it down eg list of tasks, doing something that distracts you but uses your hands as well like a jigsaw, reading with a small light, doing some meditation, visualisations or list of things to be grateful for. Hope these help!?

  2. Was there any more information about the recommended 8-20 hours sleep for teens? I don’t think I’ve heard a suggestion that high before! ­čÖé

  3. I have a fastidious sleep routine – which makes me a painful bore to date or go out with :p Seriously. I like to have no screens from 8.30pm (I coincidentally get a summary email each night at 8.20pm, which acts as a cue). I then shower, tidy up as needed, and read a book. one night recently, after turning off the light, noticed I wasn’t ‘sleepy’ so turned the light back on and read some more. I’m not likely to get ‘out of bed’ if I can’t sleep, that’s one rule I’ve not taken on board. I also sleep in ear plugs – a long habit from student years. Anyhow, I’m asleep ideally by 9.30pm and up at 5.30am on weekdays, and then weekends I sleep til I want to get up – which can be til noon if there’s nothing on, but usually til 9am or so!

    • That’s some serious sleeping hours. You are what the book I’m reading calls a super sleeper. I used to be before kids and stress and snoring husband. He no longer snores and my kids haven’t kept me up for decades. So I need to be a super sleeper again.

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