This past spring I happened on this Wall Street Journal article that started me thinking about sleep and sleep cycles among other things. According to the article, of every 100 people who think they are short sleepers (people who naturally need only 5 or 6 hours of sleep per night), five actually are, and the rest are chronically sleep deprived.
The article states that short sleepers start in childhood and that there may be a gene that relates. They are optimistic, upbeat and have a high tolerance for psychological setbacks and physical pain. The experts say those that nap during the day may be disqualified as true short sleepers.
My story starts early. I cried through forced nap time in kindergarten (scary nuns) but I luckily escaped halfway through, rescued by tonsillitis. Once I could read for myself I waited until my parents were asleep (or put a towel at the door to hide the light) and read in bed until 3 or 4 in the morning and went to school with no ill affects.
Then, when I was 18, I decided to gradually cut back on my sleep ( it seemed like a big waste of time to me) and I reduced my nighttime sleep to 6 hours. When I worked on the scallop boat I never got more than 4 hours sleep ( between midnight and 4AM) with naps scattered through the rest of the day when time was available. I could put in a roast and go to my berth telling myself to wake in an hour and I would. I did require the guys on the mate’s watch to wake me at 4AM because who wants to get up in the dark?
As a Tour Director my days were often 16 hours long and I would encounter several days in a row when I would get only 4 or 5 hours of sleep with no functional problems. I would catch up after five days of that but only to sleep 6 hours again.
I never go to bed before midnight because I wake up naturally after 6 hours and if I sleep more I’m overtired and not optimally functional. I’m in my late fifties and I still enjoy an all-nighter. I’m a natural owl. I hate to go to bed and I hate to get up.
So why am I writing about this? Because last night I discovered a new app for my IPod, Audiobooks, that is primarily sourced from Librivox, a Creative Commons licensed, volunteer-read library of audiobooks. I found a good version of Elizabeth Gaskell‘s North and South and started listening to it until my battery needed charging. I was in The Chair. I’m thinking now that maybe I will put together a charge station that I can access from The Chair ( because it is so difficult to extract oneself from the recesses) but right now my easiest charging options are sitting on a hard chair at my computer or plugging in to the one by my bed (the dangerous one that allows me to check Feedler and access the library via Overdrive before I get out of bed in the morning).
I opted for the soft one, plugged in and fell asleep to the sounds of a lovely Australian voice reading to me. I woke at 2AM, sat at my computer to work on a web site and I’m still up at 8AM, dog’s been walked and breakfast imbibed. Normally I’m just walking the dog at this time with breakfast to come.
I feel pretty good but I don’t recommend erratic and short sleeping to others. I know from my hypnotherapy training that sleep is essential for the subconscious to sift through the daily stuff and process. Our cells do a lot of regenerating and healing when we sleep. That’s why sleep is so essential when a person is sick. It’s thought that chronically depressed people are sleep deprived and a good start to recovery is to assist with sessions of guided imagery and deep relaxation hypnosis which helps the conscious to dump the extraneous stuff.
I do nap at times and I will likely find time for a session of self hypnosis and guided imagery today, so that is why I think I am likely NOT a true short sleeper, just short-ish. Now if I could just figure out a way to eliminate all that time wasted eating……..