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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

On Sleeping

For the past few nights, I have been awakened at exactly 11:32 by my little white cat. During the daytime she is pleasant and, well, just downright adorable. Nevertheless, at this specific time each night for the past week or so, some sort of chronological demon overtakes her, belting out a low and mournful noise from the cat's small body. I would call it a meow, but it's not. Definitely not. Whatever this noise is, it is incredibly loud and prevents me from falling asleep. This usually ends when I wake up and chase her down the hallway shouting "shut-up," and I pray that I fall into a deep sleep before she begins again.

My inability to fall asleep lead me to think about sleep in general and how little we seem to value this precious aspect of our lives. I am incredibly anal about getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night, and it irritates me if I cannot do so. I am an avid runner, and my coach has long stressed getting in bed by 10PM two nights before a race. I do not know why sleeping two nights before a race affects you more than the sleep the night before (granted you do not go to bed at 2 in the morning and get up at, say, 6 in the morning the day of the race), but I know mentally you are guaranteeing good sleep somewhere in the process (instead of freaking out the night before from nerves/overstudying if its a test). Time after time my coach's wisdom have proven to be accurate; my best races have been when I went to bed before 10PM two nights before a race, and this holds true even if I went to bed around 11:30 the next night (that's late for me).

I read not too long ago that the average amount of sleep per night that an American gets is about 5 hours. What gets me is not the lack of sleep but the fact that most of us never experience life fully awake. Just imagine the potential people are missing out on! If we drift through in a sleep-deprived state there is no way that we are experiencing and appreciating life to the fullest. This is not to mention the health risks involved (a recent study linked having an average of 6 hours of sleep or less per night shortened life spans) or other dangers such as falling asleep at the wheel of a car (Never want to encounter that person on the road).

Of course, this lack of sleep is not always in our control. When I was in Hawaii a number of years ago, a man explained to us that he held down two jobs, one during the day and one during the night, and he averaged 4-5 hours of sleep per night, which he claimed was fine for him. He got off from work one day each week. As a victim of his circumstance, which includes the fact that islands like Hawaii have increased prices for everyday items that need to be imported, increasing the cost of living, this man was losing precious sleep.

So, I ask that readers look more into this topic and see how they could live happier and fuller lives with more sleep. This website I found provides great information on sleep in general and diagnosing if you have a sleeping problem.

As my coach has told me several times now, nothing good happens after midnight, as people get bored (and boring) and tired exponentially after this benchmark. Remember this next time you pop Avatar into the DVD player at 1 in the morning.


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