Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Counting Sheep, Stacking Z's, and Checking the Eyelids for Light Leaks

Numeric Life had an interesting and somewhat scary post the other day dealing with the lack of sleep as a health hazard. According to the studies cited, cutting the amount of sleep we get from seven to five hours per night increases the risk of mortality from all causes by 170%, and increases the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by more than 200%.

I now expect to hear people shout "Dead man walking!" every time I enter a room.

I have for years gotten by with five hours of sleep or less per night. I'm an early riser: up every workday morning at 4:10AM, and usually not in bed much before 11:00 PM. Even on weekends and holidays, I'm usually awake by 6:00 AM or so, unable to go back to sleep. I got into the early rising habit early, inheriting it from my father; he was an advertising photographer who needed to get to work in his studio very early so that he could have uninterrupted working time before all the advertising agencies opened up and his phone started ringing. He was seldom up later than 4 AM, and I guess it just rubbed off. And I go to bed late mainly because that's how our lives work: Agnes often isn't home from the dance studio before 9:30 PM, and by the time we have dinner and catch up on the day, it's nearly 11:00. This schedule hasn't bothered me much until recently, but as I close in on 60, I'm finding that I need more sleep. Agnes is the exact opposite - she has always needed much more sleep than I do. Each evening before bed we go through an intricate kabuki dance as she estimates the latest possible time she can get up and still be at work (or wherever) on time...she starts with the time she has to be at the office, then works backward in careful calculation of the amount of time needed to shower, do her hair, eat breakfast, walk the dog, etc, etc...all culminating in the declaration of the time I need to set her alarm to go off. Needless to say, she doesn't do mornings well, while I'm a morning person.

A 1998 article in the Daily Telegraph titled "How Much Sleep Do We Need?" said that the Victorians regarded sleep as an indulgence to be frowned upon, noting that sleeping more than eight hours a night was thought to indicate laziness or a questionable excess of private income. It also quoted Napoleon Bonaparte's famous opinion that six hours sleep was enough for a man, seven for a woman and eight for a fool. I wonder what that makes me with my five hours per night.

When you're young, time spent sleeping is viewed as time wasted that could have been better spent on enjoying life. But I find more and more that I find myself experiencing the dread disease myasis draggin earlier and earlier each day. I guess that burning the candle at both ends is a lot easier when the candle is new and full-sized.

Well, I guess I'll prop the old eyelids open, take the dog for a walk, and head to work. After all, there's a quaint German expression that says Bueroschlaf ist das Beste - the sleep you enjoy at the office is the best. I'll have to try it out.

Have a good day. Get more sleep. More thoughts tomorrow.



Amanda said...

Yes, I saw that post on Numeric Life too. Interesting.....even though my sleep is cut short now by the baby, I've always been a person that rises early. I just like it.

Btw, sleeping on the job really is the best. Especially if you go out on a hot day for lunch....when you come back to the cool air-conditioned comfort of your desk....zzzzzzzzz

The Mistress of the Dark said...

On that note I think I'll go back to bed!

John said...

Something tells me that sleeping at the radar scope could prove hazardous to somebody else's health!

Actually, several years ago, the FAA came out with some ridiculous statement forbidding sleeping at work. On my break I can do a sudoku puzzle, play darts, watch Jerry Springer on TV or sit and do nothing...but I hadn't better try to catch a quick power nap! NO sleeping on the job...and that includes your breaks!