They say history repeats itself. I know that I repeat myself; this is the third time I have written about sleep.
Considering however, that we spend a third of our lives asleep, maybe that's allowed.
A third of our lives, did I say? Oh yes, and therein lies the rub.
How many of us get our recommended eight hours a night? (Counts raised hands...) Not very many of us, it seems.
We live in a culture where sleep is viewed as a self-indulgent luxury. The concept of early rising has long been considered virtuous: "Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." The first part of that aphorism, however, tends to be forgotten.
I read recently that a sleep specialist, after many years of research, has concluded that our lack of sleep in the Western culture is contributing to morbidity, obesity and depression. He recommends that we should sleep for at least eight hours per day and, for himself, insists on nine!
I know that everything in my life works so much better if I am in bed by 10pm with lights out by 10.30pm. If I stay up even fifteen minutes beyond that time – to complete some task or other – that is the time I give in to those self-destructive habits of drinking alcohol and eating high calorie snacks. If I stay fifteen minutes over 10pm, I'm unlikely to be in bed before the small hours and, given that my day starts before 6am that's not enough sleep for anyone.
This blog is not aimed you who suffer insomnia; who would like nothing more than to sleep, or at you who care for others and can only dream of a night's uninterrupted rest. It is aimed at those of you who, like me, find the discipline of sleep difficult.
I have an alarm set for 9.30pm to remind me to switch off the PC and start going to bed. If the Facebook app on my phone is still active after 10.30pm, then a kind friend in Australia texts me. That normally works!
Other tricks, such as not drinking caffeine after lunchtime, having a bedtime routine, a sleep-inducing herbal tea, all help. I have an app on my phone with some soothing bedtime stories (I particularly like the shipping forecast). It's a free app called Calm. It includes useful breathing and meditation exercises, and music for relaxation.
Following my blog last week, I have built sleep into my "intentions". I intend to get at least seven and a half hours' sleep every night.
Of course, there will be times when this can't happen: social events rarely finish by 9.30pm, do they? And sometimes I might be watching a film with my husband until later; but this is my plan.
I won't ask you how much sleep you need, but how much would be beneficial, and what changes you can make in order to get that sleep.
A Moodscope member.
*. And for those of you who are thinking, "Is that quotation from Keats? From Shelley?" Nope – it's from Paranomia by The Art of Noise with Max Headroom (1986)! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6epzmRZk6UU