Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Putting Myself to Bed

Painting by Anuraag Fulay
After several decades of giving it short shrift--and what is shrift, anyway?--I am finally learning to appreciate sleep.  

To digress, it seems the second definition of "short shrift" is the one we are used to.  The first is a bit more interesting, and more clearly relies on the meaning of the archaic word "shrift," which refers to penance and confession:
short shrift

a brief time for confession or absolution given to acondemned prisoner before his or her execution.
little attention or consideration in dealing with a person or matter: to give short shrift to an opponent's arguments.
1585–95  []

But back to sleep.  (Where I wish I could go!)

After a nearly two-week-long bout of three hours or less of sleep a night, I am creeping back in the direction of my "normal" sleep cycle.  And I have started to sleep without a light on, for the first time in my memory.  I am not afraid of the dark, but have been reading myself to sleep since I could read.  I generally fall asleep with the light on.  When I awaken during the night, as I often do, I resume reading.  For the past few nights, I have been using a countdown timer which shuts the light off after a predetermined interval.  I've been setting it for one hour.  Now when I awaken at 1 or 2 or 3 a.m., the room is dark, and I am finding it easier to go back to sleep.  I have also been using an mp3 of the sound of ocean waves, which loops throughout the night, and blocks out some of the noises of adolescent males roaming through the house in their own struggles with sleep.

In celebration of sleep, I present these quotes, followed by gleanings from Australia's  National Sleep Research Project's "40 Amazing Facts About Sleep."

10 Sleep Quotes

  1. Many things--such as loving, going to sleep, or behaving unaffectedly--are done worst when we try hardest to do them. ~ C.S. Lewis 
  2. Sleep is the best meditation. ~ the Dalai Lama 
  3. How do people go to sleep? I'm afraid I've lost the knack. I might try busting myself smartly over the temple with the nightlight. I might repeat to myself, slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound; if I can remember. ~ Dorothy Parker 
  4. Sleeping is no mean art: for its sake one must stay awake all day. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
  5. If you can't sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying. It's the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep. ~ Dale Carnegie
  6. No day is so bad it can't be fixed with a nap. ~ Carrie Snow
  7. Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care/ The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath/ Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,/ Chief nourisher in life's feast. ~ William Shakespeare, Macbeth
  8. A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book. ~ Irish Proverb
  9. Sleep is a symptom of caffeine deprivation. ~ Author Unknown
  10. A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow. ~ Charlotte Brontë
10 Interesting Facts About Sleep
  1. One of the best predictors of insomnia later in life is the development of bad habits from having sleep disturbed by young children.
  2. REM dreams are characterised by bizarre plots, but non-REM dreams are repetitive and thought-like, with little imagery - obsessively returning to a suspicion you left your mobile phone somewhere, for example.
  3. Elephants sleep standing up during non-REM sleep, but lie down for REM sleep.
  4. Scientists have not been able to explain a 1998 study showing a bright light shone on the backs of human knees can reset the brain's sleep-wake clock.
  5. Seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol-level of 0.05%.
  6. Exposure to noise at night can suppress immune function even if the sleeper doesn’t wake. Unfamiliar noise, and noise during the first and last two hours of sleep, has the greatest disruptive effect on the sleep cycle.
  7. Tiny luminous rays from a digital alarm clock can be enough to disrupt the sleep cycle even if you do not fully wake. The light turns off a "neural switch" in the brain, causing levels of a key sleep chemical to decline within minutes.
  8. Some studies suggest women need up to an hour's extra sleep a night compared to men, and not getting it may be one reason women are much more susceptible to depression than men.
  9. Feeling tired can feel normal after a short time. Those deliberately deprived of sleep for research initially noticed greatly the effects on their alertness, mood and physical performance, but the awareness dropped off after the first few days.
  10. The extra-hour of sleep received when clocks are put back at the start of daylight in Canada has been found to coincide with a fall in the number of road accidents.
I also refer the reader to Gretchen Rubin's "Tips to Get Good Sleep," and her reminder that sleep is important for good health, for productivity, and, of course, for happiness.  Wow, after all this contemplation of sleep, I can't wait for bedtime.

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