Friday, 19 January 2018

Sleep philosophy!

I came across this article about sleep today. In the article a 29 year old woman, working as a solicitor, describes how she goes to bed at 8.30 pm to ensure that she gets her necessary ten hours of sleep. As she doesn’t finish work until 6.30 and it then takes her 45 minutes to get home, she has to organise food to eat at her desk at around 5.00 pm. “I go to Pret a Manger or somewhere about 5pm and grab a soup and a sandwich to eat at my desk,” she says. “Otherwise there’s no way I can get to bed by 8.30pm. I’d rather eat at home, but I can’t sleep on a full stomach.” 9.30 pm is a late night for her and rather stressful.

Even the act of going to bed is stressful, as far as I can see, as she has to drink a fancy milkshake with hops, uses a magnesium infused sleep spray on her wrists and neck and then has to set her sleep tracker. Wow! 

Does she never read a book, watch tv, go to the cinema, or just hang out with friends? It’s a good job she lives with her boyfriend; otherwise they might never get to see each other. She does admit that her relationship with the aforementioned boyfriend has suffered, as have friendships but she doesn’t think she’s fetishising sleep. “I choose to prioritise my health,” she says.

There just might be something I am missing here, maybe a generational thing which I simply do not understand. I recognise that we all need enough sleep to keep us even tempered. And it is not for nothing that we talk about getting our “beauty sleep”. But surely if getting enough sleep to keep you beautiful and good tempered and all the rest means that you have time to do no more than work, eat and sleep, then isn’t it rather a waste? It’s rather like having a beautiful painting and keeping it in a vault.

The usual healthy-living gurus are in on this sleep analysis business. Gwyneth Paltrow, proponent of “clean eating” refers to this sleep stuff - getting lots of it and monitoring it and setting up the ideal conditions and all the supposedly necessary paraphernalia - as “clean sleeping”. Well, what else could it be? The other thing that strikes me is that you have to be reasonably (or do I mean unreasonably?) privileged in order to give yourself ten hours sleep a night. Anyone who has to take any aspect of their work home with them cannot do it, if you suggested to a busy teacher, with all their marking and preparation and box-ticking to complete, that they could be in bed by 8.30 pm, you just might get a rude answer.

Funnily enough the topic of sleep came up yesterday when I accompanied our middle granddaughter, 14 almost 15 years old, to a hospital appointment for one of her various health problems. The doctor was very kind and considerate, listened to everything the teenager had to say and never made a single negative comment. Totally supportive all the way. I was most impressed. And in the conversation about lifestyle, the topic of sleep came up.

Our Sophie is a notoriously poor sleeper; she has difficulty getting off to sleep at night, wakes up during the night and cannot easily get back to sleep and then is sluggish in the morning. Personally, I put some of this down to watching numerous “shows” on her iPad. It is well known that electronic gadgets emit sleep-impeding light! So when the doctor asked her if she has an iPhone, I was expecting advice along the lines of not using it for a few hours before going to bed, leaving it outside the bedroom, using an old-fashioned alarm clock to wake her up and so on. You know the kind of thing, you have probably read the same articles as I have.

But, no! The doctor did none of this. Instead she told her about an app she can download onto her phone, an app which will supposedly teach her how to relax before going to sleep. There you go! Such is modern medicine!

Another part of the sleep conversation focused on exercise, something that our Sophie tries to avoid, along with eating fruit and vegetables. Having eliminated a whole long list of possible sports, she finally discovered that Sophie does, indeed, enjoy swimming. And so she recommended that she should go swimming “at least three times a week”. While this is an excellent idea, quite how we organise that into everyone’s already busy life is rather hard to work out!

Maybe this lovely doctor is also an advocate of “clean sleeping” - that would explain her sweetness-and-light, no negativity, no grumpiness approach to everything!

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