Monday, June 18, 2007

I'm getting sleepy. . . very, verry sleeeeeeepy. . .

I read a horrible thing the other day: we spend roughly 1/3 of our lives sleeping.

No animal in the forest could regularly go semi-unconscious for 8 hours and live to tell the tale. (Okay, there is the bear, which hibernates for a few cold months, but that's another case entirely.) But humans somehow evolved to need large blocks of mental rebooting time. Which could only have happened if our ancestors actually trusted each other enough to go unconscious in each other's presence. A happy thought.

All vertebrate animals sleep. [Insects(bees, beetles, grasshoppers, and ants), arachnids(spiders, ticks, and mites), and crustaceans(lobsters and crabs) don't sleep; they just sort of go quiet for periods of time.] From studying brainwaves, we've learned that reptiles don't dream, birds dream a little, and mammals ---that includes us-- all dream during sleep.

Different animals sleep in different ways. Some animals, like humans, prefer to sleep in one long session. Other animals (dogs, for example) like to sleep in many short bursts. Some sleep at night, while others sleep during the day. Cows can sleep while standing up, but they can only dream when lying down. And whales and dolphins are "conscious breathers" who have to keep breathing while they sleep. . . so only 1/2 of their brains sleep at a time.

We're born knowing how to sleep. . . but getting to sleep, that's a whole other story. From the time we're little we're trained to prepare for sleep with rituals that soothe, relax, and comfort us. We have snacks, take baths, put on special clothes (jammies), say prayers, and reach for a comforting object to hold (a blankie or a stuffed animal) while somebody we trust turns out the light. All of which puts us in a safe, drowsy frame of mind and reassures us that the world will still be there when we wake up.

Then we grow up and we go through periods of defiant sleeplessness (generally "pre-school" and "college") and then through a series of life changes that alter where and when and how we sleep (dating, courtship and early marriage). Then babies shred our old rituals of approaching sleep, and some of us never really get back to a comfortable routine again. Some of us, after some trial and error, find a satisfactory combination of conditions that allow us to get some quality shut-eye.

A number of people I know have been diagnosed with "sleep apnea"-- brief periods during sleep in which they stop breathing. These folks use breathing machines that become part of the pre-sleep ritual. Some people have to have a certain number or kind of pillows or a certain thread count in the sheets to be comfortable. Some have to have a snack before bed or a certain beverage. Some can't get to sleep unless they've had a nighttime shower or a soaking bath. Some insist there be a fan blowing air over them. Comedian WC Fields couldn't sleep unless it was raining, so his girlfriend arranged to have a garden hose turned on the roof over their bedroom each night.

People hug body pillows, wear sleep masks, say prayers or do meditation exercises. Some people sleep in the nude, others wear socks to bed. Some read or listen to soft music until falling asleep. Men often have the "check the door" syndrome. . . unable to go to sleep unless they've checked every lock and window in the house. Couples sometimes have intertwined nightly routines: one always get into bed first, the other always turns out the light; they rub each other's backs; they say prayers together; they kiss and say "I love you." Some sleep spooned or cuddled up, some hold hands or touch feet, while others can't be touching at all.

Personally, I can't stand to be too warm or weighed down by covers when I sleep. I'm extremely picky about nightclothes. . . have to have short, silky gowns with no sleeves, so they don't strangle me in the night as I move around-- which apparently I do a lot. I wear ear plugs most nights, have to brush and floss before bed, wash my face, and take a glass of water to the bedside table. I hate it when it's too light in the room-- quite a change from the childhood days when I wanted a night light.

So what are your sleep rituals? Found any products or gadgets that help you sleep? How have the changes in your life affected your sleeping? What kind of bed do you sleep on? Temperapedic, Select Comfort(sleep number bed), water bed, or innerspring mattress? King, Queen, or Full? Gown or pajamas or the sig.other's T-shirt? Cotton or synthetics?

**And by the way. . . the adorable infant sleeping above is my new granddaughter, Kate!**


Keri Ford said...

If I’m getting in the bed, I HAVE to have a fresh swipe of chapstick and lotion on my legs and feet, anywhere else (couch, floor, car, recliner) it doesn’t matter. No p.j.’s or p.j.’s(whether they be silk, cotton t-shirt, flannels). The bed can be made or the covers can be twisted up with that afternoon’s load of laundry piled on it waiting to be folded.

When I’m ready to go to sleep, I crash within seconds—something I gloriously passed along to the baby. I feel like I dream just as well in an hour long nap sitting up in the car as I do in an eight hour night of sleep in the bed.

The only time I can’t sleep well and have to try showers and relaxing stuff is when I’m writing that first draft. My characters won’t leave me alone to sleep.

FIONA said...

I can sleep with the lights on or off, on any kind of mattress, and in anything, as long as I'm not too cold and I have something to read before bed. A good read, even a chapter, is like warm milk for me---I sleep like a baby.

I panic if I'm on a trip and I forget to bring something to read. My DH and I had to travel suddenly for a family situation, and the hotel we stayed in had a bookcase in the lobby for guests. I picked up a volume of short stories and was thrilled & slept well in spite of the frantic day of packing and driving.

I have now put several volumes of short stories in our guest room. :-)

Michele Hauf said...

Oh, Betina! What a gorgeous pic of your granddaughter. So neat. And cute!

I'm a bath and book pre-bed person. Then I need any kind of jammies that won't strangle me, cause I toss and turn. And I've only recently decided that my tossing and turning has a very specific pattern. I think I toss exactly the same amount and direction every night. I'd like to have it filmed, to see if I'm right. But then again, maybe not.

Select Comfort, Queen, and my prized possession is my 800-thread-count sheets. Dreamy.

I usually fall asleep pretty easily, unless the bear next to me has already started his snoring ritual. I'm very good at poking, prodding and gently nudging the bear to roll over, which grants me silence for a few minutes. SIgh... We're out of Breathe Right strips, which is an excellent almost-cure for snoring. Reduces it by 80%, I'd say. And the Breathe Right Spray is excellent when used with the strips, which gives me a pretty peaceful night.


Betina Krahn said...

See-- I knew people have interesting sleep rituals and stories!

Keri, interesting that you have to have that swipe of Chapstick only before getting in bed. And was that a no pj's altogether? I wonder how many people in this country sleep in the nude? Is there a statistic on that? If so, where would I find it?

Fiona, I envy you your ability to fall asleep anywhere, any time. I used to be like that. . . now I'm a lot more finicky about the arrangements. I think it's aging. They say you need progressively less sleep as you age.

Michelle, that photo of Kate is one of my all-time favorite baby photos. . . it just happens to be my granddaughter! She's a little older than that now, but she's still a cherub. And I know what you mean about the Breathe Right Strips! We use them from time to time. . . I mean my own personal bear uses them. I'm an ear plug woman, myself. Bless my Bear, he says I don't snore, I "purr."

Is that man a diplomat, or what?

Keri Ford said...

Betina, I missed the spot at the bottom saying that was your grandaughter! What a cutie! She's a doll.

And yes, I can do nude sleeping. Or I can do p.j.s (my RWA roomie will be thankful for the pjs!)

don't know about stats, but I googled, and came across this site that claims sleeping naked improves your health!

MsHellion said...

That baby is so incredibly CUTE! That smile!

Rituals for bed:

I take a bath, usually with Lavender bath salts. In the summer (or warm months), there is a fan in my window and it runs all the time. In hot months, I sleep on cool sheets--and not a stitch of clothing; and in the cold months, I wear pjs and have flannel sheets--and lots of blankets. I do have a blanket I prefer to sleep with. In fact, I prefer blankets with a satin edge because I find I fall asleep faster curled up with a satin edged blanket than not.

And it's gotta be quiet. If my brother has the TV cranked on loud enough to be heard in another zipcode, we have words.

Helen Brenna said...

Betina, that picture of your grand daughter is prize worthy! How absolutely adorable.

Interesting post. All the differences of all the animals.

I'm a very ritualistic person, I've discovered, with many things. Before bed I have to wash face, brush teeth, face and neck lotion, eye repair serum, and (I'm with Keri on this) chapstick's a must.

Two pillows, one tucked in front of me, I must be covered, but don't need pj's. Can't wear anything with legs, shorts or pants.

When I was younger, I'd fall asleep even before my head hit the pillow. Now ... menopause ... nighttime's a crap shoot!

The sleep number bed has helped. I usually keep mine set around 80ish, but can range from 50 to 100, which is as firm as it gets, but MY bear sleeps at 35 all the time, very soft.

I've heard about a dawn simmulator. Would like to try that. Oh, and has anyone heard about the light bulb the astronauts use to reset their circadian rhythms? Can you imagine how difficult it must be to sleep in SPACE?

Debra Dixon said...

Fabulous grandbaby picture!

My husband is one of the folks with sleep apnea. He's had a machine for like 10 years. When the decorator was getting all tweaked out about the side table for him in our bedroom, I had to remind her that no one was going to see the freakin' table because it would have a big honking piece of medical equipment sitting on it. You could tell she just barely stopped herself from asking, "But does he *have* to have it?" LOL!

Hubby goes to bed much earlier than me but he puts on his apnea head gear and I sit up and read or watch television. I have to do this in the bed because he's unhappy if I'm off in the other end of the house. He'd rather go to sleep in a room with a light on and the tv on rather than have me somewhere else. True love, huh?

lois greiman said...

I'm having a severe attack of baby lust! But I'll deal.

Anyway, I really don't think our sleep patterns are normal. Like you said, Betina, no other animal sleeps for long periods of time like we do, so I think we were meant to sleep on and off throughout the day. But work schedules insist otherwise.

That's my theory, but maybe it's just justification for a half dozen naps during the day. :)

Christie Ridgway said...

Me, too, on the Chapstick! It's a must. Also, fave sleepwear is a big T-shirt.

We go to sleep with the TV on. (Well, I go to sleep while the dh is watching Letterman or Leno.)

And that photo of your new granddaughter is incredibly beautiful. Makes me want to weep, especially during this graduation season where everyone seems to be getting older. My beloved niece graduated from college yesterday...and I have the sunburn to prove it!

JoAnna said...

Your granddaughter is beautiful!

I used to have trouble falling asleep and still do some nights. I just lay there tossing and turning until 2-3 in the morning, when I have to get up for work at 5:30:( So, I started exercising and wearing myself out everyday:)

I also take a benadryl if I am really having trouble sleeping and that will relax me enough to sleep.

I also have a sound and light restriction. If it is too loud or too light I cannot sleep. However, if I am in the car anything goes, I am out like a light.

Betina Krahn said...

Keri-- I can't wait to see this site!

And MSHellion, I totally understand about the satin edge on the blankets. I had the same blanket for years-- wore out the satin binding and had to replace the binding. But it wasn't every quite the same.

Helen, the sleep number bed is really a help. . . I started at 60 and am now up to 100!

Deb, half of my family uses the machines. I have stories about getting them through customs and using them in Europe. . . not happy stories, however!

Lois, yes-- we really do need to think about that whole 8 hour thing. I'd love a siesta midday!

And Christie, I have the same reaction when I look at that pic. I remember her daddy at that age. sigh.

And Joanna, there is just something about the hum and vibration of a car that induces sleep. I remember taking kids out for a car ride to help them get sleepy!

Kaitlin said...

Let's see...I can't sleep with anything on my legs (i.e. pajama bottoms, etc.). I can't stand to sleep with sheets that are tucked in. It could be that it's because I'm 6'1" and have always been too tall for any beds I'm sleeping in. :)

Also, your granddaughter is beautiful. She looks like a little angel. :)