24 April 2007

Sleep and Dreaming

I've found some great podcasts of CBC radio's Ideas program on sleep and dreaming. There are 2 parts about an hour each. For some reason I can not download part 1, but part 2 comes into iTunes no problem. Regardless, they are well worth a listen.

Anyway, it turns out that there's some scientific and even genetic background to whether people are early birds or night owls. I am definitely a night owl, and I live with an early bird. It's really funny in the mornings how I'm nearly dead and she's talking already, and then at night it's the reverse: I'm just waking up finally and she's passing out.

I really like the bit on different culture's sleep practices. I've always been a very skilled napper. One of my favourite parts of the day at summer camp was the after-lunch rest-period until 2:30. I know a good nap when I just barely lose consciousness but not quite, but my body goes completely relaxed. These are the naps where I wake up feeling fully reset and ready to go. 10 or 15 minutes is perfect, but 45 minutes is a real kick-ass nap, sometimes even better than a regular night's sleep. If I nap more than 45 minutes it'll take hours to wake up again.

In highschool I would nap during my spare period in the library using a very think history encyclopedia as a pillow. Highschool classes were 50 minutes long: perfect nap time with 5 minutes of leeway. If you get the right book, you can sleep without cramping your neck. No one ever used the history encyclopedias, so there was always ample floor space in that aisle. In my undergrad university I had awesome naps after lunch before my afternoon classes. I thought I was an insomniac by senior year though because my sleep schedule had stretched out to the point to where I couldn't fall asleep until 6am. Definitely a night owl! I'd say my circadian rhythm is like 28 or 30 hours. On the weekends I easily stay up until 3 or 4, and monday is always a case of jet lag.

I've also noticed that every once in a while, maybe once a month or so, I absolutely can not fall asleep until 3 or 4 am, but then I get up at 7:30 or 8 and go to work and feel like I had a regular night's sleep. That happened last night, and now I'm writing this blog at 2am again. Wish I could figure out the cause and even harness this power.

I would love to explore the siesta more, too. Seriously! There has also been some research published lately relating sleep to stress, health, and length of life. I can't find the link right now, but it's a pretty popular topic so it's all over the web. Maybe you've found a link you can comment on below. I did find a really cool article by a guy who went on a polyphasic sleep cycle, sleeping 20-30 minutes 6 times a day. He kept a log for 90 days!

I would love to try something like this, or maybe more like the Mediterranean siesta routine. I can't see a sleep schedule working out if you don't share most of your schedule with those you live and work with. Maybe one day (hopefully soon) I'll be the leader of a very progressive Creative Economy company that will have napping facilities and encourage people to recharge, relax, live longer and be healthier and more productive. Imagine being able to read into the wee hours of the morning (or blogging at 2am) and then going to work for a few hours and nabbing a kip before lunch. Brilliant! Then you could work from 1 to 5, run home for a nap, have a huge dinner and stay up for another 6 or 10 hours. Well, I still work for a bunch of early birds who expect me to put in a full Industrial Age 8 hours, so I'd better put my head down. Now where's that history textbook?

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