“Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a (person) healthy, wealthy and wise.”Old English proverb, often attributed to B Franklin
That might have been Benjamin Franklin’s experience, but for the last three days and nights, waking with coughing fits due to a cold virus, I have little positive from staying in bed most of the day. Finally feeling on the mend this Sunday, I am continuing to think about sleep deprivation. This runs in my family. Stories of a parent (grandparent) who accomplished more in 24 hours, particularly in the dead of the night, are borne out by a spouse, who can fall immediately asleep but wakes an hour or a couple hours later. By morning, laundry has been washed and folded. A cat, which appears at our door at all hours, gets attention and cat food. Conversations about life lessons between our adult son and his mother occur at 1 AM. Whether a restful evening is possible two or four hours at a time, for my family it is reality. I am wakened many nights by sounds and smells that trigger old Navy training. Dripping faucets, running showers, and late night meal preparation (we have adult children living with us), 25 years after duty at sea, will easily wake me.
Veterans, medical personnel and First Responders are by training and work assignments often working at hours that inhibit the notion of proper rest. Suitability to such work, is that primarily from training our bodies, or is it due to our genes which predispose us? Or does youth make us more flexible to adjustment? The reality of modern life is complicating what were once socially-accepted norms. Family time, if at all routine, occurs later in the evening. Working from home tempts us to working late at night. The National Institute of Health has conducted sleep studies, specifically, circadian rhythms which are physiological changes in a organism that operate on a 24-hour cycle. Have you heard of a “biological clock” ticking away (and not just from the movie, My Cousin Vinny) ? The control an organism has over its circadian rhythm, has a lot to do with certain proteins that interact in the body’s cells. Similar research is studying narcolepsy, a sleep disorder related to autoimmunity, where mutated genes trigger a response not due to lifestyle nor circadian rhythms of the sufferer.
While each treatment, prescription drugs, diphenhydramine, and other sleep aids carry their own range of side effects, indigestion after bedtime has caused me to abandon that. I still take OTC melatonin and drink “sleepy” herbal teas. The latter’s only side effect is stirring me to wake before my alarm to answer Nature’s call. Other than that, I am quite fond of chamomile. And twenty minute naps.