I’ve been tired for years. My problem is my dog, Zeb. He’s 15 years old and needs to pee a lot, and unfortunately we live on the 5th floor in an old converted warehouse. That means that every three or four hours, either Laura or I have to put on something not obscene, walk to the rickety elevator, wait for it to arrive, ride the rickety elevator to the ground floor, walk outside to the designated dog area, then do it all in reverse. When this happens at 1:30 or 4:45 a.m. (or both, as is often the case) it’s really hard to get back to sleep.
I worry about my lack of sleep, and for good reason. According to the National Sleep Foundation, poor sleep has been linked to obesity, diabetes, hypertension and depression. But today I came across something that made me feel a little better about my situation – it turns out, sleep doesn’t have to happen all in one chunk of time. Naps can be effectively used to keep the body’s systems running smoothly, and historically, the eight-hour sleep cycle has only been around for a short time. Prior to the regular use of electric lights, people more often got their sleep in two shorter batches. These “biphasic” sleep patterns still exist in undeveloped communities around the world.
This is good news for me, since I am self employed and I can often steal an hour here or there for a nap, but what about those of you who wake during the night and then have to go work at the office all day? The best solution is to go to bed earlier. The first four hours are when you get that highly beneficial “deep sleep,” so if you often wake in the middle of the night at around the same time, back up the clock four or five hours from then and that should be your bed time. Also, when you do wake, only spend about 15 or 20 minutes laying in bed trying to get back to sleep. If you’re still awake, get out of bed, go to another location and do something relaxing, like listening to music or reading. Definitely avoid screens (TV, computers, games on your phone, etc.) and do what you can to make the room temperature comfortable. Don’t let yourself think about stressful things, and don’t look at the clock. Remind yourself that you are simply doing what humans naturally did for millennia, and there’s nothing tragic about a bad night’s sleep. However, if you find that you get fewer than six hours of total sleep per 24-hour period on a regular basis, it may be time for a talk with your doctor, because it’s this type of chronic sleep deprivation that can begin to create health problems.
I hope you’ve gotten something out of this post, and I hope you aren’t reading it at 3 a.m. Zeb is sleeping soundly in his dog bed now, so I think I’ll try to catch a few winks myself.