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20 June 2012

Posted by DMC on 21 June 2012 in Diary |

As the last few entries of this blog touch on the subject of sleep, I was very interested when’ ‘my lovely’ drew my attention to the’ body and soul health’ section of yesterday’s Times (19 June 2012) which dealt all about sleep.

I have always been, what the experts would probably label as, an insomniac. Basically, I only need about three hours deep sleep each night, although I would tend to doze in bed for around six hours. As a result I have ‘extended’ my life by about 10%. What on earth is the point of spending one third of your life in bed.

How often have you heard someone say that they cannot do with less than eight hours sleep a night? Or, put another way I can’t do less than spend a third of my life in bed. By restricting the amount of time you spend in bed you greatly enhance the probability of succeeding in one or other of your fields of endeavour during waking hours.

Okay, I will admit that with my waking pattern. I would be to be classified as an insomniac but I would refute being labelled as such. For the very reason that I decided, over the years, how much time I need to spend in bed and, as a result, normally sleep very soundly for the first 2 to 3 hours. After that I am drifting just below the level of sleep and it is during these hours that so many good ideas as have come to me, or solutions to problems, which I’ve been struggling with, become as clear as daylight. Thus, for as far back as I can remember, I have kept a neat pile of cut scrap paper on the side table to my bed, then, as and when one of these ideas springs to mind, I would scrawl a note on the top piece of paper before confining it to the floor. Sometimes there would be up to a dozen such notes most, of them , I could decipher and found useful but I must confess that, some were totally incomprehensible!

The Times supplement included an article entitled ‘On the trail of the elusive Big Sleep’ which went onto say,’ We are more tired than ever and seemingly no closer to a good night’s rest.’

It was a long article which I have no intention of trying to précis but would suggest if you are really interested in the subject, particularly if you consider you are an insomniac, then I advise you to obtain a copy of the article and read it for yourself.

One point, however, I found of particular interest, in his days of advanced technology and the ever increasing screen time to which, in particular, our young are exposed. On this point the article had this to say:

‘Researchers at the University of Gothenburg warned last week that computer and mobile phone use had a detrimental impact on sleep and found links with depression. They interviewed hundreds of people, aged 19 to 28, and concluded that we struggle with information overload. Regularly using a computer late at night is associated not only with sleep disorders but also with stress and depressive symptoms.’

Beyond that, I cannot resist listing the headings of the 10 points that the author of the article made under his overall comments of How to Sleep.

  1. Take regular breaks during the day.
  2. Follow a regular bedtime routine.
  3. Manage the work/home boundaries.
  4. Exercise
  5. Minimise stimulates.
  6. If you wake up during the night avoid looking at your clock.
  7. Learn how to power nap.
  8. Keep your sleep environment free of clutter and junk.
  9. Let go of wanting to sleep well.
  10. Check your nutrition and try supplements.

     

I accept that these 10 points, which are, of course, amplified in the article itself, were written by ‘a sleep and energy therapist’ who can profess an expertise which I cannot, however, I really wonder whether anyone could conscientiously follow this regime. As from me . I have certainly regularly failed to observe most of these rules, without worsening my chances of a good night’s sleep.

 

Many years ago, I did worry about the amount of sleep. I was getting and the more one worried about not sleeping the more likely you are not to be able to sleep. I resolved this dilemma in my own way. As I lay in my very comfortable, warm and cosy bed, unable to sleep, I lectured myself on my good fortune compared, for example, to the troops in the First World War who spent days or weeks, in muddy trenches, in freezing cold or wet conditions, perpetually under bombardment from the enemy, perhaps having to stay awake for two or three days, with just catnaps in between. The more I thought of the misery suffered by these brave men the more my worry about not sleeping myself diminished. The final vanishing point appeared when, after all that I convinced myself that, in any case, to miss a night’s sleep really was not the end of the world and that provided I had had a good rest all would be well, and indeed it was. Using this technique. I usually fall asleep within 10 min or so

From time to time. Articles appear in the media trying to convince us that we need a minimum of eight hours sleep. Apart from the obvious that we are all different and some might need that amount of sleep and others could well do without it, I would be bold enough to suggest that it is nonsense. By limiting the amount of time I have spent in bed, over my 78 years, I have probably added six or seven years of awake time which I have been able to dedicate to something positive. For example, in my late 50s. I was doing a Masters degree in law at King’s College London; I was writing, what have become leading textbooks on the subject of practice and procedure in litigation and arbitration, as well as doing a full weeks work. Without those few extra precious hours I would never have been able to maintain this output

 

The article also concludes that “poor sleep Cagney to diabetes, heart attacks and a lower IQ”. I have certainly managed to avoid the first two as to the level of my IQ I can only leave it to my readers to decide.

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