Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hibernate, Hibernate, Sleep to the Music

Sharon Wildwind

With apologies to Three Dog Night for co-opting one of their song titles, today’s blog is a paean to sleep.

This morning I didn’t get out of bed. When my husband rolled out at his usual time, I turned over and went back to sleep. At 11:30 he asked me if I was getting up. I mumbled something, which he took correctly to be a negative answer, and went away. I woke up at 3:05 this afternoon.

I’m not sick, and I’m not especially tired, though the past week has been full of pleasant and tiring activities: long, productive writing periods; movies; seeing a play; making quilts; and attending a sewing bee.

Basically, I’m a squirrel at heart. All fall, I run around gathering. I love September sales of back-to-school supplies. I love not only autumn colors outside, but that quilting stores have an impressive stock of fabrics in those same colors inside. Halloween and both Thanksgivings—Canadian and American—are my favorite holidays. Fall is also the time for reconnecting socially. Organizations have Annual General Meetings. Groups and clubs start their fall meeting schedule. Schools have home-comings and tail-gate parties.

Eventually, like a squirrel, I get tired and want to hibernate. No matter how many artificial environments we create for ourselves, human beings are still mammals.

Perhaps I am a bear, or some hibernating animal underneath, for the instinct to be half asleep all winter is so strong in me.

~Anne Morrow Lindbergh (American writer and aviation pioneer, 1906-2001)

I think she was absolutely right; in the winter we need more sleep. In truth, we need more sleep all year around. Sleep deprivation—now epidemic in developed countries—has been linked to everything from the obesity epidemic, to increased accident rates, and poor vision in children.

My husband and I are sleep-information magpies. Our latest bright, shiny bauble of sleep information had to do with a new alarm clock.

The digital clock that had served us since we married suddenly began displaying random numbers at odd times. Like other disposable electronics we were told that it wasn’t worth repairing, so I set off to find a new clock. I found one with large, bright blue numerals. Let me emphasize two words: LARGE and BRIGHT.

When we plugged it in, we could have read a newspaper by the light it emitted. We had to close our bedroom blinds least low-flying aircraft mistook our apartment for the end of the airport runway. We tried draping it with layers of cloth, then towels, and finally settled for propping a 1/4”-thick piece of smoke-colored acrylic Plexiglas in front of it. That dimmed the output to where it was barely possible to sleep.

Then we read research which said that any light that can be sensed through closed eyelids disrupts the sleep cycle. Good-bye blue alarm clock. In fact, good-bye all illuminated clocks. Good-bye night light in the hall, because if that light seeps into your bedroom, that’s enough to disturb the sleep cycle.

If you need a night light to go to the bathroom safely at night, attach one of those small, round, push-on lights near the bottom of your bed. Put it in a position where you can reach it from bed, but where the light shines mostly on the floor. Wake up, reach down and push the light on, make your trip to the bathroom, get back in bed, reach down and turn the light off.

Also, good-bye running the air purifier at night. There is some evidence to suggest, contrary to the years of suggestions to create white noise for better sleep, it’s quiet that really promotes sleep.

When I did come out of hibernation at three this afternoon, I discovered that the “light snow sprinkles” forecast for the afternoon, had in fact, turned into a mini-blizzard.

I can’t think of a better reason for hibernating. Night, night.


If people were meant to pop out of bed, we'd all sleep in toasters.

~Author unknown, attributed to Jim Davis


Lonnie Cruse said...

I am soooo with you on this one. I didn't realize that nightlights could keep you awake. We have some in another room but the light leaks through into our bedroom. Hmmm, time to make changes. Yawn, right after my nap.

Julia Buckley said...

Great post, Sharon--and what a lovely picture!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I'm usually a really poor sleeper, so your hibernation sounds like heaven to me! :)

Mystery Writing is Murder

Sandra Parshall said...

I *love* to sleep -- and I'm very bad at it. I'm a chronic insomniac, tortured by sleep deprivation night after night, until I finally reach the point of collapsing in a virtual coma. Then the cycle starts over. I get to see the wildlife in our yard in the middle of the night, but that hardly seems enough compensation for feeling dead tired most of the time.

I have nightlights out of necessity and sheer terror. Years ago I got up in the middle of the night, barely conscious (for a change), and fell down a full flight of stairs. Aside from the bruises and cuts, I landed with a broken nose -- but I am well aware that I could have broken my neck or my spine. I'm lucky to be alive and walking. If light interferes with sleep, so be it. I am too terrified of falling again to risk total darkness!

Barb Goffman said...

Sharon, where do you live? Such a lovely picture (says the woman who likes snow as long as she doesn't have to shovel it or drive in it).

ShelbyLeigh said...

I am glad someone is sleeping. Lately, I find sleep eluding me ... to find 7 restful hours would be heavenly.

Marlyn said...

I have the same problem with my husband's clock radio, which is usually very dim, but with no rhyme, reason, or warning, brightens enough that it wakes me up.

kathy d. said...

This was a very pleasant message. And your week sounded so nice that I wondered where you live where there are still sewing bees. Quilting, yes.

Although I live in NYC, there is a quilting store near my house.

I do sleep with a light on, due to fear of tripping and falling when I get up. It may interfere with sleeping, but I also prefer that to an accident.

Enjoy winter hibernation; it does seem perfectly natural to do that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all of the comments.

Barb and Cathy: I live in Canada. We've actually been snow-deprived for the past couple of years. Too much of it is going south of us into the U. S. midwest.

Cathy, the sewing bee is sponsored by the owners of a local fabric and---and everything really. She has marvelous stock. Any way, every fall, she opens the class area in the back of the store on Wednesdays during the day and the last Friday of the month, until 10:00 PM, for people to come and work on whatever projects they can't seem to finish.

Marilyn, can you negotiate with your husband to either turn the clock around so that it faces the wall or cover it with a towel?

I hope all of you who are having trouble sleeping find relief. I know how cranky I get if I don't sleep well.