Extreme Sleeping

One of the many things I’ve never been very good at is sleeping. Usually when I suck at something, I just stop doing it after a while, but never sleeping again isn’t an option, apparently. It certainly would free up a lot of time, though.

Anyway, in 1959 there was a radio DJ in New York who decided to see how long he could go without sleeping. He set himself up in a glass booth in the middle of Times Square from where he broadcast his show live around the clock.

After only a few days he started hallucinating and got extremely paranoid. He finally passed out after 201 hours – just over 8 days.

The interesting thing is that his personality changed dramatically and permanently after that experiment. He became short-tempered, irritable, had difficulty with personal relationships, was prone to depression, had trouble focusing on stuff and making decisions, got into legal trouble and just became all-around weird. He eventually died of a stroke.

So, I’m thinking that if only I could learn to sleep properly I could become as sweet, lovable and charming as Mary Poppins.  Maybe I could also summon up some of Mary’s magical powers while I’m at it! That “spit-spot” instant housecleaning thing would really come in handy, for instance.

As it is, I usually wake up feeling more tired than when I went to sleep. That can’t be good, right?  I do everything they tell me promotes a good night’s sleep — including a regular schedule of going to bed at a reasonable hour, getting 7-8 hours of sleep and gettin up early. But, by mid-afternoon, I might as well go home because my brain and most of the rest of me stops functioning.

Probably most of you are the same way because, in 1999 scientists discovered that humans’ natural circadian rhythms dictate a natural sleep cycle from midnight to 6:00 am and from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Seriously! How perfect would that be? You get a nice long evening. You still get to get up nice and early. And, you have a little snooze in the middle of the day when you’re not up for much else anyway.

If I’m spending 1/3 of my life doing something and I have to keep doing it, I think it’s about time I started figuring out how to do it efficiently. Otherwise what’s the point? Otherwise all that time I spend lying around is just a waste of time, right? So I’m on a mission to maximize my sleeping hours.

My physiotherapist recently recommended I get myself a couple of Mediflow pillows.  So I did. They have little pockets on one side that you fill with water – the more water, the firmer the pillow. Except for the fact that they weigh a ton and you can only sleep on one side of them, they feel just like the most luxurious down pillows.

The other thing I’ve been reading about that may revolutionize my sleep is “inclined beds”.  It seems we’re not meant to sleep flat and that sleeping that way is a relatively new thing.

If you’ve ever seen old timey beds and wondered why they look so short, it’s not because people were only 3 feet tall back then, but because they used to sleep more or less sitting up. They reckoned lying down flat was only for dead people and they didn’t want to tempt fate. And lord knows fate was easily tempted back then.

Most mammals also sleep with their heads elevated. Do they and the old timey people know something we don’t?

Well, I guess we just forgot or didn’t remember again until recently that we’re probably better off not sleeping flat.

“New” research is showing that sleeping on an incline can resolve an almost endless list of pains and ailments — topping the list is, of course, sleep disorders. Even raising the head of your bed by 2 inches can stop sleep apnea, snoring and breathing problems. There is also some evidence that sleeping on an incline can help with: 

  • Spinal cord issues
  • Dermatological problems
  • MS, Parkinson’s Hashimoto’s and arthritis
  • Lymphatic drainage (detoxification)
  • More youthful facial looks
  • Maintaining body’s metabolic rate, to assist with maintaining healthy weight
  • Stabilizing blood pressure
  • Normalizing of blood glucose levels for type II diabetics
  • Eliminating oedema problems
  • Minimizing tachycardia on rising
  • Reducing chances of migraine headaches
  • And a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff you can read about here

Lying flat causes a build up blood in the head without the resistance of gravity pumping it around. And that’s why you feel all groggy and puffy and even headachy in the morning – and the longer you sleep the worse it is. Plus there are a lot of other things that happens to the brain when we’re lying flat for long periods of time – not good things either.

I don’t know. I’m going to give it a try. If there’s a chance I could still become a productive member of society, it would be so wrong of me not to do whatever I can to make that happen, wouldn’t it?

Meanwhile, I welcome anything else that you may do or use that guarantees a perfect night’s sleep. Because I’m tired of being tired. I’m actually half asleep at this very moment. And that’s just not right.

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33 responses to “Extreme Sleeping

  1. I’ve found that using foam mattress instead of one with springs has made a huge difference in my sleep. I sleep more deeply and I don’t wake up stiff or hurting.

  2. I used to be a real good sleeper. Went to bed and slept straight through until the next morning. Nothing short of a earthquake could wake me. Then I hit perimenopause. On a good night I wake up 3-4 times to go to the loo. On bad nights, like the past couple, I go to the loo and stay awake until the next time I have to go… I write brilliant blog posts in my head and eventually fall asleep 45 minutes before I have to get up. I wake up and they’re gone gone gone.

  3. I like the inclined sleeping position idea. That will give all those decorator pillows on the bed a little more purpose. When my allergies really act up, I find sleeping in a recliner the best thing (for breathing, not for stretching out, though).

    And I was always ready for a nap in the late afternoon…

  4. I am one of those annoying people who can fall asleep anywhere, anytime and I never lie awake for longer than about…ooh………..thirty seconds before conking out. So I don’t need to know how to get to sleep, but my dear husband does tell me that I am prone to the odd bout of gentle snorting in my sleep, so the incline thing might be interesting. Let me know how you get on!

  5. Yeah, a doctor recommended I sleep on an inclined bed to mitigate acid reflux. I folded a couple blankets and put them near the head of my bed. Inclining it too much did something else, though (can’t recall what), so I had to balance it out.

    – RG>

  6. Buckwheat pillows have really helped me. Fascinating data about the incline – I will follow up on that. It would be nice to wake up without having to persuade each separate joint to move, although this problem is probably a result of old age and stupidity.
    A two hour nap in the afternoon? Nirvana.

  7. The only time I feel tired upon waking is when I have slept too long. Maybe you are one of those people that need only 5 to 6 hours of sleep. Try staying up an hour later.

  8. The inclined sleep position information is interesting. I have always wanted a Craftmatic Adjustable Bed. My husband thinks I’m kidding…but I’m not. Two years ago, I went to a naturopath and removed caffeine, refined sugar, dairy, wheat and processed foods from my diet I have the best sleep ever for a whole year – no afternoon crash and exhaustion. I also lost some weight and looked pretty good too. Unfortunately, I lost the willpower to eat that way and I am back to feeling like crap. I know what I have to do…it is just a question of getting back into the groove.

  9. I almost never wake up feeling rested and I definitely could nap between 2-4pm everyday! I think I’m one of those people who needs 9 hours of sleep every night, but who can get that much sleep? I would love to try putting the bed on an incline, I wonder if it would help my husband’s snoring (another reason I wake up feeling tired I’m sure). When my children were babies and got sick I would put their cribs on inclines and it worked well for their congestion, I never thought about the benefits to adults for other reason. I’ve never heard of your pillow before, I am interested.

  10. I haven’t slept well since hitting menopause. I’m used to waking up at least three times a night now. I tried inclining my bed once and didn’t see any difference at all.

  11. Take that nap. Many progressive work places now allow a break for naps. Mine did. As long as you get the hours in. And having the nap definitely ups your productivity. Or move to a country that still practices the custom of an afternoon nap. 😉

  12. My best sleeps are in the library auditorium at the Widget Factory…at those division meetings we’re forced to attend…

  13. The inclined sleeping position does seem to make sense. Good luck to you. I have had sleep problems at both end of the spectrum. Sometimes I have insomnia but at the other extreme, I have been known to fall a sleep while standing in a crowded bus for the entire 2 hour journey.

  14. My eyes are red and tired looking this week. I stay up too late just so I can have some time to myself. It is totally a problem I bring on myself.
    I do also find that as I’m getting older I have more time awake in the middle of the night. It seems I am turning into my Mom!

  15. Dr. Monkey – I don’t like springy mattresses either. I like my futon mattress.

    Jazz – I’ve never, ever slept like the proverbial log – even as a child, I’d wake up at the slightest noise. My mum sleeps like the dead and always has. I’m not sure I would like that actually. I’ve had maybe one or two nights in my life where I slept right through the night and I felt ripped off, like I hadn’t slept because I remembered nothing of the night.

    Violetsky –Maybe you should get one of those wedges to put under your mattress!

    Loth – Wow. You’re weird. Do you feel all perky and refreshed when you wake up in the morning?

    Grouchy – The things I’m finding out about you…

    Mary – Hey, give it a try. Just shove something wedgy under your mattress and see if it makes a difference. I’ve heard other people say they really like the buckwheat pillows, too.

    Geewits – I never sleep too late. I’m up at 5:15 during the week and maybe 6:00 on weekends and usually get to sleep by 10:00. I think I would be better off not going to bed until midnight though – if I could have a nap in the early afternoon. That’s what I do when I’m on holidays and I always feel great.

    MM – I eat pretty well and get plenty of exercise and the only caffeine I have is some green tea in the morning. I’ve just never been a good sleeper, even as a kid.

    Betsy Mae – Give it a try. I put some pillows under the top of my mattress last night. It’s not ideal – something wedge shaped would be better. But I did feel less stiff this morning. I’m going to look around for a better thing to stick under there. Let me know if you try it!

    Linda – Oh well. That’s disappointing. How long did you try it for? Menopause is definitely not conducive for sleeping or most other things.

    Christine – Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha …”progressive workplaces”… you DO know I work for the federal government right? They are the very opposite of whatever progressive is. I can’t even imagine suggesting something like that. But it sure would be nice.

    Friar – Our meetings are never quite big enough for that.

    LGS – Wow – sleeping while standing up. That’s freaky.

    Finola – I think most people are walking around in half doze allthe time. Teenagers aren’t getting enough sleep either because they love to stay up late, but then they have to drag themselves out of bed the next morning all bleary eyed to go to school

  16. My mother claims I’ve had insomnia since birth. Not quite true, but I’m fine with a lot less sleep than most people. However, I need those hours to be unbroken and that hasn’t happened in a very long time. Night terrors have been (mostly) taken care of with thyroid medication but even after a couple of years I find myself reluctant to go to sleep . . . nothing like waking with your heart threatening to remove itself from your chest. I find I sleep better after yoga class, gardening or a 5K run earlier in the day. I’m envious of those who can fall asleep easily or wake refreshed from a nap.

    Violetsky: try leaving your covers pulled back during the day with sun on them if possible. I’ve heard this helps with the dust mites and resulting allergies.

  17. Count me in with Loth. I *excel* at sleeping. I can sleep anywhere, any time. I’ve fallen asleep in the dentist chair, during ultrasounds, occasionally at my desk, and once in the very front row of a movie theatre during the premiere of the first Michael Keaton ‘Batman’ movie. I rarely stay awake more than a minute or two after I lie down. And I usually wake up feeling good. I am the proverbial morning person. One of those people that other people hate.

    I don’t think I’d do well with a daily 2 hour nap though. I don’t nap often, because sleeping in the day makes me logy and irritable if it’s more than a 15 minute catnap.

  18. Grace – Night terrors? Yikes. I’ve never had those. Good to know there’s at least one sleep issue I’ve missed.

    Alison – I’m a morning person, too. And I’m usually fine for the first few hours in the morning – that’s when I get most of my work done. Then I fade as the day goes on. When we go visit Loth in her castle I’ll volunteer to stand guard while you two drop off.

  19. I’ve tried inclining my bed but I just wake up in a heap on the floor.

    And I tried sleeping sitting up on the couch but my head must be to big because I kept tipping over.

    Oh, and thanks for destroying my belief that the old time beds were for hobbit guests..
    Next, you’re probably going to say there isn’t an Easter bunny..

  20. Glen – You do know that when you sleep on the incline bed, your head goes by the high part, right? Also, maybe you’re inclining it a little too much if you’re sliding off. Or maybe you have satin sheets? I always slide out of bed when I put those on, too.

  21. thanks for all the awesome tips on sleeping, i’m a big fan of sleeping too, you see.

    i can’t wait to try out the incline bed thing too, i’m prolly going start using cement blocks before i order the actual frame to at least see how it works.

  22. i’m pretty sure most of my post partum woes were caused by sleep deprivation….i was capital C crazy.
    i’m going to try the incline thing, that sounds pretty cool.
    i pack a whole lot of zzz’s in between 4:00 and 4:20 every weekday afternoon, before i pick up the girls. i pass right out and the timer wakes me up and i feel really refreshed.
    there is also a yoga move that if you do it for 8 minutes, properly, it is supposed to be equivalent to 8 hours sleep. i still need to test that theory.

  23. Leah – Cement block? Aren’t they a bit high? If you have a couple of firm pillows you can tuck them between your mattress and boxspring. Or instead of the big metal frame, I believe you can buy foam wedges to tuck between the mattress and box spring — they’re cheaper.

    Meanie – Well? What’s the yoga move? Do you have a link describing it? I’ve been trying the incline thing for a few days now and while I haven’t noticed anything dramatic, I have slept better

  24. http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/475

    google child’s pose…i’m seeing lots of different things on it, some claim it equals 1 hour of sleep….whenever we get to this pose, my instructor always says if it is done properly for 20 minutes, it is equivalent to 8 hrs sleep (sorry to exagerate in my initial comment!) let me know what you think! sometimes i’ll go to our quiet room at work and do it for a few minutes….it does feel good.

  25. I may have to try the Mediflow pillow or a buckwheat pillow. I’m a pillow whore. I change pillows a lot. I have never found one that was just right. I would love to fall in love with a pillow and leave my nights of pillow whoredome behind me.

  26. Meanie – Thanks. At least it’s an easy pose. I was afraid it was going to be a real pretzly one.

    Heather – The beauty of the Mediflow pillow is that you can make it as soft or as firm as you want it and keep adjusting it until it’s just right.

    Violetsky – You have a Mediflow? How long have you had it? Mine’s new so I’m still playing around with it.

  27. I’ve had it for almost a year.
    I’m also a pillow whore and this one has been the most consistently comfortable. I also use a flatter one underneath it sometimes to raise it up a bit. It is heavy, but I like that – it doesn’t move around when you toss and turn.
    It take a bit of getting used to the gurgling sound though!

  28. While visiting us my father in-law, a life long insomniac, discovered he slept well in the basement. It has worked well for his son too. If yours is not unpleasant you may want to try it. I assume it has something to do with the stillness.

  29. Violetsky – If it’s gurgling then you haven’t gotten all the air out of it. it’s not good to leave air in it. Mine doesn’t gurgle. And why don’t you just fill it up more if you need it higher?

    Jay – Probably because it’s dark and quiet down there. Light and sounds seriously interfere with good sleep

  30. I’ll try the Mediflow pillow. I’ll try not to let it gurgle. But even then, I wear earplugs because SOMEONE is a little snorey at night. Not me. Okay, me. But him too.

    I’ll let you know how it works out.