Tag Archive | sleep

Owls vs larks

I’m an owl. 

I like staying up late and burning the midnight oil. I like watching TV and reading books when it is quiet and dark all around me. I’ve worked on uni assignments and documents for work into the wee hours. 

Staying up late may be less to my natural rhythms and more that there are fewer distractions and less noise?

I’m not a grumpy owl. 

Happy owl

While I do like my morning to go slowly and for hours – I can make breakfast last hours and happily stay in my nightie until the afternoon and then get moving – I can jump up and get going happily in the morning if needed. 

Some say you can’t change your owl or lark nature. 

If you have to get up early for work and you’re an owl who happily stayed up until midnight, it can be hard. Go to bed earlier, larks say. Well it’s not easy for an owl to go to bed by 9.30. It feels like it is still evening, not night time. 

But there’s things you can do apparently to help modify your internal rhythm. 

On waking up, expose yourself to bright light. Sunshine is best. And directly on the face. Not looking at the sun, of course, but no sunnies blocking the light getting into the eyes. 

Problem is if you have to get up before the sun does! For me now, the sun rises at 6am. And I have to get up then for work, so not much sunlight. And I don’t have time to go for a walk in the sunlight. I have to leave for work by 7.15. 

I might get up, have my shower, get dressed and have my breakfast on the front verandah which gets the sun in the morning. Not spending some time checking the news on my iPhone before my shower!

The last few nights, I’ve been in bed before 12 and woken naturally at around 7-7.30. No alarm. Just waking at the right phase of the sleep cycle. I fear I haven’t used the morning light well – sloathing on my lounge or bed, reading books and the internet and drinking cups of tea. Maybe that reflects my owl energy cycle?

What about you? Are you a lark or an owl? When is your energy levels higher? And does your rhythm correspond to your work demands?

Sleeping apart

Mr S used to snore. There was no set type of snoring. He did it all – random loud explosive snores, constant grumbling snores, wheezy nasal snores. 

And he used to breathe on me. I know! How dare he breathe! 

We solved the latter with the purchase of a king sized bed. Now he can breathe to his heart’s (and lungs’) content. I don’t feel or smell it. We have the luxury of space!!!!

I tried sleeping with white noise or rainforest music through my iPhone (cause of course, he couldn’t be disturbed by it playing through speakers). But I got twisted in the headphones. And I found the ear pieces uncomfortable. 

I admit to being driven from my bed on many occasions by his snoring. Mr S was aghast! He sees separate sleeping as a sign of marital discord. Well, yeeeessss. The snoring is pissing me off. 

I worked out Mr S’s snoring pattern. He would mainly snore when sleeping on his back and the snores would be more frequent after about 1 or 2am. They’d also be more common if he slept on his right side but less than if he slept on his back. 

Mr S was dismissive of my concerns. He said I couldn’t talk being a Dora The Snorer myself. I counter pointed with the fact that if his snoring is disturbing my sleep then it is a problem. Mine doesn’t wake him so it isn’t a problem. 

We got to the point that he would roll instantly if I pushed a little on his shoulder. I also worked out if I could tip his head back a little when he was lying on his side, he wouldn’t snore at all. (Almost like tipping the head back for CPR.) But that wasn’t easy to do and he normally woke up, even when I surreptitiously pulled on his pillow to move his head. 

Of course all this means I had to take action and I had already been woken. 

Now I’ve just read Sleeping Apart Not Falling Apart: how to get a good night’s sleep and keep your relationship alive by Jennifer Adams. Mr S was quite alarmed at seeing it in the pile of library books on sleep. He really doesn’t want separate rooms. 

At this point I can say my sleep issues are not to do with Mr S. He no longer snores! After more than a decade, we have clear, quiet, non snoring sleep. 

The miracle is a nasal spray. Nasonex. It works. I’m too scared to read up on the side effects lest I have to go back to hearing snoring. 

Some interesting points in Ms Adams’ book, even though I won’t be sleeping separately. All the research and surveys find that women are less happy and have their sleep more disturbed when sharing a bed than men are. And, although the biology gives no reasons, men fall asleep more quickly in the main than women. 

The history and cultural differences of shared beds is curious – group sleeping vs couple vs single bedding. 

Where do I sit on the separate sleeping? I always think it is funny that when I finally became an adult with my own home I couldn’t get my own room and had to go back to sharing bedrooms. I do prefer to share, especially with a king bed, but I would like a room to withdraw to or retreat. A room of one’s own! Sounds like a good title for a feminist tract. 

Where do you sit (or lie) on this issue?

Do you suffer from your partner’s nocturnal rumblings? 

Are you disturbed by any noises at night and need a silent cocoon or can you sleep through fire alarms and the like?

Share your tales in the comments. 

If you want to read a radical plan for sleep undisturbed by snoring, reading or farting, get a hold of this book. 

Why you shouldn’t fall asleep in front of the TV

I have a bad habit of falling asleep on the lounge in front of the TV. It might be for an hour or two. Often I incorporate what’s going on the tele into my dreams. Not by conscious choice. I’m not seeing anything as my eyes are closed. It’s just that the sounds go into my brain. Does this happen to anyone else? Freaky, isn’t it?

While  I struggle to go to sleep when I finally drag myself to bed, I tell (kid?) myself that at least I’ve had a few hours of sleep. And hey, isn’t an hour before midnight worth two after midnight?

Well, no, not this type of sleep! And the science of sleep tells us why. 

My readings have told me the first two stages of sleep are light sleep. It can be easily interrupted. Yep, that happens to me. TV show ends and I wake up. Son comes in and asks a question and I answer. Someone makes a noise next to me and I wake up quickly. 

By falling asleep in front of the TV you sabotage your efforts to sleep later as you deplete your melatonin levels. Didn’t know that!!

And of course the problem is made worse by the blue light from the iPhone, which I have to sneak a look at, which we all know reduces melatonin more than just a light bulb. 

So it isn’t deep sleep. It’s an hour of light sleep and I’m not allowing my brain to enter deeper stages. 

Not good at all. 

But it gets worse. 

Remember I wrote about the 90 minute sleep cycle. Well, the ratio of the different stages of sleep is not the same throughout the night. 

You have longer deep sleep in the earlier cycles. So by disrupting my sleep in the early part of the night, I am robbing myself of the deep sleep, needed to clean out the brain (and possibly avoid the protein building up in the brain that Alzheimer’s patients have.)

Now don’t smugly think you’re so good by not falling asleep on the lounge. If you delay going to bed because you’re watching the tele, you’re also missing out on the early deep sleep. 

So stop with the binge watching of Netflix. Get to bed!

And don’t fall asleep in bed with the tele on!

Looking at TV from my position on bed. We hardly use it.

Oh, and one last thing from science. Apparently they are now measuring the “busy” brainwave spikes in deep sleep. They shouldn’t be there. They might be changes due to all our use of technology. 

It’s messing with our brain waves!

Even before the iPhone, or the invention of the polysomnography and the discover of brain waves, they knew early to bed made Jack clever, rich and healthy.

Last night I was again in bed by 10.30 and fell asleep almost instantly. Unfortunately I work at 3.30am, got up, had a drink and a wee, and went back to bed but I couldn’t go back to sleep. So I go up and surfed the net for two hours. Went back to bed and slept for two more hours! I have to work on this early morning waking up!

I know I should sleep but…

Why, if you know sleep is crucial for your health, are you not sleeping? 

I’m not talking about a medical condition that prevents you from sleeping. Though even then, it may be stress or some other health issue you’re not addressing. Nor am I talking about the heat and humidity we are suffering from in Sydney. Not sleeping in this mad weather is understandable. 

As Dar said in yesterday’s comment, we often stay up late because the immediate payoff of doing fun things wins over the delayed gratification of waking up feeling rested. 

Sometimes for me it just takes too much psychic energy to get off the lounge and do the bedtime chores and get into bed. The power of inertia keeps me on the lounge. 

Then there’s the feeling of missing out. Of a new show on TV. Of a repeat of a favourite schow. Of time for myself. (O love it when I finally have the lounge room to myself and Mr S has gone to bed and the boys are not home orcin their own rooms.)

That explains the late nights, even when the good angel is sitting on one shoulder saying, “Go to bed, Lucinda. You know you’re tired.”

But beyond the bad habits there’s deeper truths. 

We expect to be able to have what we want when we want it. Order up a meal. Connect to the Internet. Turn on the TV. And with our body – work now, read, go for a walk. We command and our body follows. So with sleep, we expect it to respond to our demands. I want to go to sleep now. “Now” varies depending on what’s in the diary (or on TV – I lead such an exciting life) and what was going on during the day. 

But sleep won’t be commanded. Our bodies need regularity and routine. 

And stillness. 

Which brings up another point. 

We are operating at such a speed and with so much activity, we’re creating an imbalance in our physiology. 

Dr Ramalakhan on her book, Fast Asleep Wide Awake, says she sees thickening waists as another sign of this overactive sympathetic nervous system. 

My waist is definitely thickening. Is it just too many carbs? Or could the stress be contributing to it? Is there a link between my sleep patterns, stressed and busy and noisy lifestyle and my waist?

And then she said those who operate in continual fast pace, and in stress, have their sympathetic nervous system locked on, that’s the fight or flight mode. Key sign: these people can’t stop or they’ll get sick and when they do stop, they do get sick. 

Back in own bed, reading and blogging

Lightening bolt. 

I get sick at the start of every holiday. My body just collapses in a big pile of “thank god that’s over”. I’m not being a hypochondriac here. Mr S says I go down at the start of holidays as I finally stop pushing myself on. 

So what to do? 

Besides reading Dr Ramalakhan’s book, I’m going to implement some of Huffington’s strategies. I will list them tomorrow. 

More on Dr Ramalakhan’s theories in future posts. 

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. 

Everything you need to know about sleep

If you think you can get everything you need to know about sleep in a blog post, you obviously don’t know there is a lot to know about sleep, too much to be contained in a blog post. 

Everything you need to know about sleep can be found in the book Night School by Richard Wiseman. Wiseman has an accessible and lighthearted style, making the science of sleep and the brain and the history of research accessible. Even if you don’t have issues with sleep, get S hold of this book and read it. There are interesting “quizzes”, including one to test how susceptible you are to hypnosis. 

Here’s some interesting points. 

  • Most of us do not get enough sleep. Sleep is essential for health, learning new skills and knowledge, and dealing with life’s problems. Dreams act as therapists. 
  • Sleep deprivation causes health problems, road accidents, and work place accidents; increases risk of diabetes, obesity and death; decreases your willpower and ability to problem solve. Most of us don’t know we are sleep deprived. 
  • Hours spent asleep have decreased, first with the electric light and then with TV and electronic devices. So switch off, at least an hour before bed time. 
  • There are five stages of sleep – 1 to 4 and REM. Stages 1 & 2 are light. 3 & 4 are deep. REM is where you dream. All stages are needed for different reasons. When you dream your brain paralyses your body so you don’t act out your dreams. (Well, all your body except your genitals.)
  • It takes 90 minutes to go through the full cycle of sleep stages. You wake most rested if you wake up at the end of a 90 min cycle. So you can work out when you should go to sleep to wake best refreshed. Say you want to wake up at 6am, then you are best to go to sleep at 10.30 or 12 or 9. 
  • An afternoon nap is good for you, helping you think more clearly. Aim for about 20 minutes, or for a long nap 90 minutes as that takes you through one cycle. 
  • You can become a super sleeper! Make your bedroom dark and not hot. (Easier said than done in much of Australia in summer.) Make a list of things that are worrying you – writing them down helps take the load off your brain. If you lie awake in bed, think nice thoughts, or count sheep, or do some mind games like naming countries going through the alphabet, or tell yourself to stay away. If you wake during the night, and cannot get to sleep, get up and do something that requires you to use your hands like a jigsaw. 

If you want to know more about dreams – how to control them, remember them, stop nightmares – read the book. 

I take my own pillow when we go away as it helps me sleep