Saturday, December 28, 2013


The nights have been getting pretty cold - almost to freezing, which is unusual for Phoenix. My summer weight coverlet wasn't enough, so I got up out of bed to dig out the quilt my sister made for me. Then that wasn't enough, so I added a bed-sized blanket that I crocheted last year. The result was a hodgepodge of color, but very warm!

My sound machine plays the sound of ocean waves, which is incongruous for sleeping in the middle of the desert, but I've tried every other sound available and I can't fall asleep to anything but ocean sounds. I've never lived by the ocean, so I can only guess that my brain is connecting it to the deep, wonderful sleep of my balcony stateroom on cruises I have enjoyed over the years.

So, let's talk about sleep. Do you know about the Japanese practise of inemuri? Inemuri means "sleeping while present". Japanese people (mostly men) sleep while at work. Bosses are impressed that the men are working so hard that they must take sleep breaks. Some even fake the sleep for the boss to see, thereby convincing him that they are sleep-deprived because they are working so hard. It is a sign of total commitment to the employer. They have to sleep sitting up in their work chair and only certain people can do it.

The Tiv people of Nigeria have no set sleep hours. Their villages are always active because the people simply lie down to sleep when they are tired. There is always someone awake.

How did some countries (or communities) get the custom of siesta? Most people will answer that it is the hotter countries or those who consume a heavy midday meal who end up with the siesta custom. I know I am jealous! I would love to take a nap after lunch every day. There may even be a human propensity for midday sleep.

Did you know that there used to be a custom for first and second sleep during the night? Before electric lights, people went to bed with the sun. They often had a first sleep, then woke up and did other things for an hour or so, then went back to sleep for a second sleep. There were even books published with suggestions for couples to make use of the break time. I wonder what the suggestions were?

I'm grateful I've never had to worry about sleepwalking. There are actually people who have been acquitted of murder by presenting a defense that they were sleepwalking when they committed the murder. Of course there are also people who have tried that defense and been convicted! But I imagine this would be a good reason to avoid trying to wake someone up when they are sleepwalking!

I once had a friend who suffered from a very mild case of narcolepsy. He would have trouble sleeping at night and he would fall asleep suddenly during the day. People with this disorder typically drop into REM sleep within 5 minutes. It takes the rest of us an hour. My friend worked in construction. His co-workers were always finding him in odd places, with his head drooping onto his chest. If they tapped his arm very gently, he would come out of the sleep state. He never called in sick and did good work, so his boss was very kind to him.

Sleep paralysis is another topic all together. It's thought that disrupted REM sleep, with the associated muscle paralysis might be responsible. This has actually happened to me more than once. It was terrifying. I woke up, but was completely unable to move. On one occasion, I felt the presence of something very evil in the room and felt myself being assaulted. It was horrible. Inexplicably, I watched a segment about sleep paralysis on the Today show within days of that most terrifying event. There are even some who suggest that people who are convinced they have been taken to an alien ship were actually experiencing sleep paralysis.

Lately, I've been trying meditation. I often fall asleep, but was recently reassured that continuing the practise of meditation was more important than any particular outcome. Keep doing it and your spirit will eventually sort itself out. Okay. I'll try.

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