I can probably pinpoint my earliest memories of lying awake staring at the ceiling to when I was about 9 years old. I just always seemed to go to bed and then eventually fall asleep at least four hours later.
Somewhere along the lines I figured out that if I wore myself out, with things like exercise or constant energy during the day, I would be more likely to fall asleep when I lay down.
Apparently there was once a sleep deprivation study done on this man who stayed awake for a whole week – they fed him coffee and gave him video games and just everything he needed to help with the experiment.
Somewhere within the 3rd and 4th days he started to hallucinate … just hazy round the edges and irritable. By the 5th day or so he was fully hearing voices and seeing thing coming at him out of the walls.
After the week was over they put him into a dark, cool room with a really comfortable bed. And the amazing thing was the amount of sleep he needed to fully reverse the effects of the week’s deprivation was only 8 hours. Supposedly after that he was completely fine.
Another study I read said that due to modern lifestyles, work hours etc, we no longer listen to our cicadian rhythms (sp?). They claim that when you get that feeling – you know, the heavy eyelid feeling like if you lay down right that minute you could fall asleep, then you should do exactly that, for no longer than 20 minutes.
That way your body gets the kind of energizing rest it needs. If you did that periodically when you got the signals during the day, the idea was that you would maximise the benefits, energy, and could use the rest of the day and night as you wished.
They also attribute lack of proper rest (as well as inadequate consumption of water) to a rise in depression in the world’s population, as well as the increase in obesity or at least weight gain.
Once upon a time we walked the earth with no clocks, deadlines (except for shelter and hunger) or social frameworks. We relied on our instincts more and only used what we needed to be happy and survive.
While I’m not at all a person who looks down on modernity (I do love my Ipod and the internet, deeply) but it’s an amazing thought. I think the whole world should have one week off to experiment with the idea of just eating when you felt hungry, sleeping when you feel tired, and seeing what else comes up.
It would be like ‘Earth Hour’ but on a slightly larger, more primitive scale. Right now I’d settle though for a hot shower and a fluffy pillow that will transport me away to a billowy place where dreams happen.