Over the years, I’ve read and heard that as we grow older we need less sleep. That was good back-pocket news. Knowing we could get away with less sleep as we age meant more time for productivity, even if productivity meant having fun. For years, it seemed that functioning on six hours of sleep was sufficient. So the news that I’d need even less later (now?) was a positive consequence of aging.
So I’m not sure why eight hours seems more necessary these days. What the sleep? What’s going on? I was supposed to have more wake time, not less.
During my 20’s & 30’s, I’d wake up and go straight to work like multitudes of others. Personal time like working-out, studies, entertainment, or relaxing was reserved for the evenings. And the evenings always seemed full. Full enough, that more than six hours of sleep was a serious cramp in (life) style.
In my 40’s, I made the big switch of moving exercise to the morning, which had a not so small impact on sleep. So that exercise did not slide off the priority list it was important to get to bed at a certain time. Up by 5am meant in bed (and asleep) by 11pm. It was a gradual acclimation of moving sleep time earlier (and making sure mobile devices were switched off).
I don’t know what happened lately that two additional hours of sleep crept in and have comfortably secured themselves as part of my routine. Up by 6am and in bed by 10pm. What the sleep? And they say that two of the indicators of sleep depravation are falling to sleep within five minutes of going to bed and needing an alarm to get up. Guilty and guilty.
Everyone’s sleep needs are different. That’s logical. But because we are biological creatures, there is a range of normalcy, which is 7-9 hours per adult per night. Outside those ranges lay outliers and those at risk (to things not normal).
They also say there is a thing called sleep debt. We are given our biological machines on the condition that we sleep an average of 35 years for every 100 (counting early years needs). So if I’ve had two decades of six hours daily when I should have had eight, means I’m 14,600 hours in debt. Maybe I’m paying back that debt now. If so, I’ve been operating for a long time at a slightly less than favorable efficiency. Does that mean I’m more efficient now? Not if my debt isn’t repaid yet. I’m only 1.67 years behind in sleep. I can get out of the debt column and back to balanced if I spend the next eight years sleeping 13 hours daily. Or maybe self induced coma is a consideration, although missing 20 months in a row would be a stiff payment.
I’m signing up for that tutorial course Quick Books for Sleep. That will help me answer questions like: ‘Have I just had too much fun for too long?’
I’m paying lots of debts recently, and sleep seems to be one of them. What the sleep, debt?
August 17, 2013 update
…..don’t take my word for sleep, how about a circadian neuroscientist.