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[P]
Counting Sheep

By dazzle in Culture
Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 06:27:54 AM EST
Tags: Books (all tags)
Books

Within the 24/7 society biology is taking a backseat. In this fast paced world one of the most important activities is being neglected; the human race has leapt ahead of its own evolution. If you do too much of it, you could be seen as a weak individual, but lack of it can be as dangerous as drunk driving.


Counting Sheep by Paul Martin sets out to re-evaluate our atitudes towards sleep.

Using quotes from literature, both ancient and modern, and written in an entertaining, talkative style, Paul Martin takes us through the pleasures and problems of sleeping.

Sleep takes up a third of our lifetime - we can survive longer without food than we can without sleep. Although not much is known about this common activity, what is known has been put into the book. From why we sleep to what dreams really are (with Freud given a rough ride), including a history of beds and why men, and women, experience nocturnal erections, Counting Sheep is a fascinating read.

Our lives are run by a '24-hour cycle governed by an internal clock' - the circadian rhythm. Humans and other animals are all controlled by an internal clock, and it is no coincedence that our circadian rhythms coincide with the Earth's twenty-four hour cycle. This, in theory, is nature's way of trying to get us to sleep when we should and for a certain amount of time which would be beneficial. Unfortunately nature doesn't always get her way.

Many of us don't get enough sleep. Due to pressures of society - trying to fit in all that work, rest and play - people find it increasingly hard to manage their quota in bed a day. But, even by going to bed half an hour earlier at night, it is quite simple to re-coup a sleep deficit. The medical profession is also ill-equipped to deal with sleep related problems - a mere five percent of a doctor's training is spent on sleep disorders - and many problems (including ADHD and depression) may have a starting place with lack of sleep.

The bedroom should not, generally, be used for any other function other than sleep. If you must use it for another activity, then sex is the only one which should be considered - no television, computer games or work from the office.

Many people may try to catch up on their lack of sleep by trying to catch a nap on the long commute to work. Humans are designed to sleep horizontally not vertically. If you try to sleep while sitting you will only succeed in reaching NREM (Non Rapid Eye Movement) or 'slow wave' sleep. When you sleep your muscles relax and you won't reach REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep because your head will slump forward thus waking you up. This is where the phrase 'nodding off' originates and why your next door neighbour on the train will find your head on their shoulder. By not completing a full sleep cycle this way you do not reap the full benefits of sleep.

Sleep can, and should, be a pleasure and two of the most pleasing aspects are dreaming - it's free and needs no special equipment - and napping. Hints are given on how improve your dream-life, including lucid dreaming (is it real or a dream?) and how to gain the most from daytime napping.

The reasons why we sleep are not so cut and dried and many theories exist. The most obvious theory being that it is used to recuperate but 'the scientific evidence provides only luke warm support for this view'. NREM sleep evolved first and is more likely to be used in the conservation of energy, while REM sleep, a later evolutionary function, has been shown to be involved in memory and learning. When someone learns a new skill or piece of information there is a marked increase in their REM sleep. Students would be advised to get a good nights sleep before an exam rather than cramming into the early hours.

'Sleep is surely an excellent thing' and not enough of us are doing it. We seem to want to do little else except 'work, commute, shop and be entertained'. So, the next time you reach for your caffeine energy drink, don't, have a read of this book and find out what you could be doing instead.

---

Related:
Sleep Experiment: 42 hours a day
Uberman's sleep schedule

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Related Links
o Paul Martin
o Freud
o circadian rhythm
o ADHD
o lucid dreaming
o Sleep Experiment: 42 hours a day
o Uberman's sleep schedule
o Also by dazzle


Display: Sort:
Counting Sheep | 76 comments (38 topical, 38 editorial, 0 hidden)
Hmmm (4.52 / 17) (#3)
by RyoCokey on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 05:32:59 PM EST

The bedroom should only be used for two things - sleep and sex. Anything else - including televisions and computers - can hinder our idea of what a bedroom is for, thus, disrupting our sleep.

If sex doesn't distrupt your ability to sleep you are doing it wrong.



The troops returning home are worried. "We've lost the peace," men tell you. "We can't make it stick." - John Dos Passos
connection (3.00 / 1) (#45)
by adiffer on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 11:12:08 AM EST

If you are male, one tends to follow the other.  8)

-Dream Big.
--Grow Up.
[ Parent ]
If it does disrupt your sleeping abilities ... (4.00 / 2) (#50)
by Rizzen on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 02:00:42 PM EST

... then you obviously aren't having enough fun.  ;)  Generally, I've found that a really good romp in the sack will leave both parties flushed, relaxed, happy, and very cuddly, which usually leads to sleep for both.

Of course, that really only applies to late-night, early morning, and afternoon romps in the bedroom, on the futon, or on a comfy blanket in the woods.  Other types of sex-play generally leave both parties energised and ready to face the day.  :)

----- The years of peak mental activity are undoubtedly those between the ages of 4 and 18. At age four, we know all the questions; at eighteen, we have all
[ Parent ]

dot dot dot (none / 0) (#76)
by ninja on Sat Sep 21, 2002 at 09:51:21 AM EST

You missed the humour, I think.

[ Parent ]
bedrooms, how many rooms do you have (4.16 / 6) (#17)
by mpalczew on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 07:11:11 PM EST

The bedroom should only be used for sleeping and sex if you live in a mansion.  Some of use live in studio and one bedroom apartaments.  Where there is just not enough space to dedicate a whole room for sleeping.  If you have ever heard of two people that live in a 350 square foot "one bedroom" apartament while going to college, not use their bedroom for anything but sleaping I would love to here about it.
-- Death to all Fanatics!
Don't take your work to bed with you (4.33 / 3) (#23)
by Torako on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 08:14:26 PM EST

It's probably the combination of activities that matters, not the place. When I sit at my desk (that happens to be in my bedroom) and work for some hours and then directly go to bed I often have problems sleeping.

I works much better if you stay out of your bedrooms for an hour and open the window before you go to bed. Apart from that it helps to clear our your mind before sleeping; you won't carry your daily troubles with you.

[ Parent ]

Yup - true (none / 0) (#75)
by bigbtommy on Sun Aug 25, 2002 at 12:17:55 PM EST

I have been having much better sleep since I moved my workstation and working area in to a spare bedroom rather than on the desk right next to my bed.

Plus I rarely read non-fiction in bed anymore, only fiction (esp. escapist / dreamy fiction that would never be true...).
-- bbCity.co.uk - When I see kids, I speed up
[ Parent ]

Lounging on the bed with your books (4.00 / 1) (#30)
by regeya on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 09:36:46 PM EST

== bad

I lived in a dorm room and often went somewhere else to study. If you get in the habit of studying/working while in bed you run the risk of disturbing your sleep patterns.

You'd think that living in a small space would make that impossible, but it doesn't, really.

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]
[ Parent ]

i had a different problem (none / 0) (#35)
by infinitera on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 12:44:19 AM EST

My sleep patterns were too strong, and studying on the bed I slept only served to make me sleepy. I went elsewhere to stay awake, not to preserve my 'patterns'.

[ Parent ]
Works for me (none / 0) (#57)
by m3000 on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 07:41:52 PM EST

My first year of college I did most of my homework on my bed, and I didn't have sleeping problems. I've almost always done homework on my bed, and as long as I'm tired when I lay down, I've never had trouble sleeping. Also never fell asleep while doing homework, and the only time I even just sorta drifted off a little bit was doing math at 2 in the morning or something.

The only problem is when I have to go to bed before I"m tired. I'm a night person, always have been, so in college I go to sleep at like 3 am to get up at 10 for my first class, which fits my natural sleeping schedule perfectly. During high school I had a hard time falling asleep, just because I can't stand going to bed at 11, it's just way too early for me.

[ Parent ]
Too much sleep may be bad (5.00 / 2) (#28)
by dinkum on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 09:06:24 PM EST

Many of us don't get enough sleep. Due to pressures of society - trying to fit in all that work, rest and play - people find it increasingly hard to manage their quota in bed a day. But, even by going to bed half an hour earlier at night, it is quite simple to re-coup a sleep deficit. The medical profession is also ill-equipped to deal with sleep related problems - a mere five percent of a doctor's training is spent on sleep disorders - and many problems (including ADHD and depression) may have a starting place with lack of sleep.

A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in February suggests that too much may be bad for you. According to this article, people who got only 4 hours of sleep or less are at the same risk of dying as those who sleep 9 hours a day, and 17% at higher risk than those who sleep 7 hours a day. Of course, association is not the same as causality, as stated in this statement by the National Sleep Foundation.

Does the book mention this study? Maybe it was too late to incorporate this information into it, but it seems to challenge much of the conventional wisdom regarding sleep. Their explanation makes sense now that I think about it. People tend to eat too much sugar and fat today because they were hard to get during most of humankind's evolution; similarly, I can imagine that long, peaceful sleep was difficult to come by for humans 100,000 years ago and so we evolved to like lots of sleep.

At least they die in their sleep (n/t) (4.66 / 3) (#29)
by epepke on Tue Aug 13, 2002 at 09:19:49 PM EST


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
*_* (3.50 / 2) (#39)
by Lai Lai Boy on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 06:17:55 AM EST

Jeez, considering i can sleep for 12 hours during the summer...

[Posted from Mozilla Firebird]
[ Parent ]

Circadian Rythm (4.00 / 1) (#40)
by geekmug on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 08:29:50 AM EST

Somewhere in my psych class I had remembered the human circadian rythm to be a period closer to 25 hours. So, I went in search of information.

Science June 25 (sorry no link) has a study included that states an average of 24.18 hours.

It is notable that the period of time is greatly affected by light. Expirements have shown that humans cycles can vary from 13 hours to 65 hours.

-- Why reinvent the square wheel?
Of course (4.00 / 1) (#56)
by epepke on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 03:45:34 PM EST

If you want an oscillator that is kept in sync by an outside stimulus, the best way to do it is to have the period of the oscillator be just a little longer than the period of the stimulus. The sinus and A/V nodes of the heart work like this, too.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Why is that? (3.00 / 1) (#58)
by th0m on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 05:54:04 AM EST

I'm genuinely curious.

[ Parent ]
OK, I'll try (5.00 / 2) (#63)
by epepke on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 08:13:57 PM EST

Let's say there's some signal, maybe it's the sun coming up to wake you up or the sun going down to make you go to sleep. There's a cycle that automatically makes you want to get ready for sleep or waking up or whatever.

So, let's say your internal cycle has a slightly longer period. You're close to wanting sleep or wakefulness or whatever. In other words, you're getting close to a state transition. Then you get the external signal, and bang, you get synchronized.

Now, let's say your internal cycle has a slightly shorter period. Chances are, then, that you've already made the state transition when the external signal arrives. It is therefore useless to synchronize the state transition, because in order to make that work, the signal would have to go back in time. You'd just want to get up earlier and earlier every day, because you'd miss the synchronizing signal. And then you'd get all messed up, and it wouldn't be worth it, because a hyena would probably eat you when you were groggy.

Think of an alarm clock. An alarm clock that only goes off when you're already awake and out the door isn't really as effective as one that wakes you up. Of course, an alarm clock is artificial, so one could imagine just throwing it away. But assuming that some sort of "alarm clock" signal of some kind is built into the human rhythm, then it only works well if the alarm clock's period is shorter than the human oscillator.

I suppose some sort of secondary mechanism, such as remembering the signal and timing it for the next 24 hours could salvage some synchronization usefulness. But that would be a far more complex mechanism and would require a far more accurate oscillator in the first place.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Interesting, thanks. [n/t] (3.00 / 1) (#66)
by th0m on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 07:08:49 AM EST



[ Parent ]
No kidding (3.00 / 1) (#65)
by xriso on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:21:56 AM EST

My cycle is probably 26-30hr. My bedroom is windowless, so I don't get synchronised by sunlight. Right now, my body has no idea what time it is. *checks watch* 2330. My alarm goes off every day at 1100, and only on the days where I need to go somewhere soon after that am I jolted back onto schedule. (The alarm also reduces the drift to 1 hour on those days where I just go back to sleep after hitting the off button)
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
[ Parent ]
Siestas (4.00 / 1) (#41)
by asreal on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 08:34:33 AM EST

Sounds like a great book. I might have to pick it up. The section on napping especially interested me, since I enjoy having a little shut-eye after lunch. The Spanish have the right idea apparently. Taking a nap right after lunch makes you more productive, happier, and healthier. I wish I could convince my boss.

i trust i can rely on your vote
-asreal

Enroll him in a Japanese management class (4.00 / 1) (#51)
by Rizzen on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 02:05:12 PM EST

The Japanese have the right idea:  the build beds right into the walls of a lot of their office buildings.  Afternoon rolls around, roll the bed out of the wall, have a short nap, get back to work all nicely energised.  :)

Of course, the Germans are even better:  they give you paid "vacations" every 6 weeks or so, where they'd put you up at a spa for the weekend to get re-energised.  One of my co-workers is still kicking herself that she didn't move back to Germany when she had the chance ... the vacation schedules here are horrible compared to that.

----- The years of peak mental activity are undoubtedly those between the ages of 4 and 18. At age four, we know all the questions; at eighteen, we have all
[ Parent ]

Sleep? (5.00 / 3) (#42)
by codemonkey_uk on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 08:49:05 AM EST

Yes please.

I have a 7 month old baby, who was born premature, and low birth weight. He still doesn't have enough fat on him to get through the night, without waking for feeds, as is still in a cot next to our bed. Sometimes he gets upset, and cries if he isn't held. Sometimes he only sleeps if we bring him into our bed with us. If he wakes up before us, he will slap & kick us until we wake up (of course, we forgive him, because he has the most beautiful smile for us when we wake). I've had maybe five undisturbed nights in the last 7 months.

So, yeah, I value my sleep.

You don't even begin to understand "tired" until you've had kids.

Tired? All those other times I said I was tired; I was a big wimp.
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell

Too true. (5.00 / 1) (#67)
by pwhysall on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 08:03:45 AM EST

When my son was six weeks old, he had colic.

I honestly thought I'd never ever sleep again.

As you say, until you've had kids, "tired" is a concept with which you're only vaguely familiar.
--
Peter
K5 Editors
I'm going to wager that the story keeps getting dumped because it is a steaming pile of badly formatted fool-meme.
CheeseBurgerBrown
[ Parent ]

Just sleep with him (5.00 / 1) (#70)
by jac on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 03:23:00 PM EST

Especially at this young age. Yeah, people are very, very sure of why this is either very bad or very good, but if you do night feedings a lot and both of you can sleep with him there, it'll make for more sleep and every one will be happier.

It worked well for our first kid, but the second was much more mobile in bed so she was evicted earlier than her older sister.

And for undisturbed nights ? We're working on 4+ years now and the only time I get full sleep in when I'm away for my monthly or so visit to Employer's offices; my wife seldom does though we tend to trade off getting up early. The weird thing is that for our anniversary this year we spent our first night alone together in 4 years and we actually missed them. A little.

--
You are not what you eat. You're what you don't poop.
[ Parent ]

tes's Uberman experiment (5.00 / 2) (#43)
by MicroBerto on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 09:20:11 AM EST

Has anybody heard from Tes about how the Uberman cycle is working, now that a lot of time has passed? I haven't really dug around much, but I'd like to know!

Berto
- GAIM: MicroBerto
Bertoline - My comic strip
Middle school (4.80 / 5) (#44)
by Fon2d2 on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 11:01:49 AM EST

That infernal incessant buzz. Ungodly early. It feels like the middle of the night. As I roll over to silence my clock I can think of only one thing: please God please shut the f**k up. There is no light. My brain is awash in a cloud of warmth, but consciously I am aware. Aware of my obligation to get up. Aware of where I need to be all too soon. Aware of my hatred for being forced up at such an ungodly hour. My brain is already caught. It won't fall back asleep now. My mind begins to play games. One snooze won't hurt. That's 9 minutes. You can shower in 5, if you're fast. But I'm never fast. Not at this hour. Slowly. Eventually. I ooze ought of bed. Cold. Dark. Forlorn. Why on God's green earth am I having to get up at this desolate hour? Why the f**k? The house is cold but the shower provides warmth. Blessed warmth. I let it flow over me. The mental games stop. See. We're up now. We did the hard part. We got out of bed. Now just relax. I do relax. I take far too long. I always take too long. It inconveniences the others. Tough s**t. I hate the mornings. Eventually, I step out of the shower. Cold again. Why is it so cold? Can't we afford any godd**n heat in this house? Finally dry. Clothes on. Feels good again. Food in the belly. Teeth brushed. Hair combed. Glasses cleansed. Got my wallet. Got my keys. Time to check the backpack. Why the f**k can I never get my s**t in order the night before? I hate this mad dashing around s**t. Tension rises a bit. I get my s**t together. Everything is accounted for, I think. I sit around. I wait for the last possible second until I absolutely must go out and catch the bus. Cold again. Coldest of all. It doesn't matter. I am resigned now. I accept it and ignore it, as I will do with the rest of the school day, until the blessed release. Finally the bus comes. Warmth, warmest of all. Ears ache and glasses fog. One final moment of rest. Watching the scenery go by, pale winter shimmering in dawn. It feels like a dream. I don't want it to end. Like the snoozer. Like the shower. My last bit of warmth and relaxation. I do not want to go to class. I hate class. But here we are. Students filing out, going to there homerooms, sun beginning to peer over the eastern horizon. I follow. I am resigned.

College (4.00 / 2) (#49)
by hypno on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 01:59:11 PM EST

You've just very eloquently described my two years of college (not university) :)

[ Parent ]
Book suggestion (4.00 / 1) (#62)
by Josh A on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 06:33:15 PM EST

Sounds a lot like my morning experience... My ayurvedan body type is vata, which is inherently cold.

Anyway, please allow me to recommend The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education, by Grace Llewellyn.

---
Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney


[ Parent ]
Sounds like the book I was planning to write (none / 0) (#69)
by Fon2d2 on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 02:24:24 PM EST

Not that I would ever write such an inciteful, unpatriotic, vitriolic piece of self-aggrandizing propaganda.

[ Parent ]
Not that you would ever... (none / 0) (#74)
by Josh A on Sun Aug 18, 2002 at 05:17:00 AM EST

...post bombastic assertions with absolutely no explanations or supporting argument or even a clue as to where you're coming from.

---
Thank God for Canada, if only because they annoy the Republicans so much. – Blarney


[ Parent ]
this is silly (4.50 / 2) (#46)
by han on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 11:14:53 AM EST

If you try to sleep while sitting you will only succeed in reaching NREM (Non Rapid Eye Movement) or 'slow wave' sleep. When you sleep your muscles relax and you won't reach REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep because your head will slump forward thus waking you up.

This works a lot better if you have the sense to relax your muscles and slump your head before falling asleep. It is also a good idea to choose a chair that gives you sufficient support so that you can relax your muscles without falling down.

All joking aside, did the author have any actual arguments? In my experience, the only problem with sleeping in a chair is that you don't have much space to change position, and you'll be stiff in the morning.

Sleeping on the bus or train is easy (4.50 / 2) (#52)
by Rizzen on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 02:09:40 PM EST

You just need a window seat, or one with a nice high back.  Rest your head against the window and it won't slump down.  All you need to do is teach yourself to wake at the right stop.

What's even better, though, is sleeping while walking.  I've developed (thanks to the army for this one) the ability to sleep with one eye slit open enough to see about a 18 inches in front of my feet (where the feet of the person marching in front of me would be).  Then it's just a matter of finding the right walking rhythm, and .. zonk .. off to the land of nod for a few miles.  Works wonders, and you can really scare people too.  :)
----- The years of peak mental activity are undoubtedly those between the ages of 4 and 18. At age four, we know all the questions; at eighteen, we have all
[ Parent ]

cool (3.00 / 1) (#61)
by calimehtar on Thu Aug 15, 2002 at 06:25:07 PM EST

That's the kind of talent I wish I had, but certainly don't have the tenacity to pick up. I suppose boot camp is a prerequisite.

I believe you, though. At my most sleep-deprived I remember entering REM at a street car stop



[ Parent ]
I have another method for that (4.00 / 1) (#68)
by borderline on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 08:34:26 AM EST

I've never been in the army, so to sleep while walking, I take the bus downtown in the afternoon. Then I find a pub and drink until I've missed the last bus back home. When the pub closes, I start walking home. Along the way, I sometimes wake up standing in the middle of the ditch next to the road.

[ Parent ]
I Can't Count Sheep Anymore (3.00 / 1) (#47)
by jsather on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 11:19:53 AM EST

Just for some humor... I used to be able to count sheep, but then I got Warcraft III. There is a little easter egg in the game where if you keep clicking on any of the animals wandering around they explode (you need lots of clicks). Now I just start counting sheep to click on to make them blow up.

It's been like that since Warcraft II. (mt) (none / 0) (#53)
by Rizzen on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 02:10:40 PM EST


----- The years of peak mental activity are undoubtedly those between the ages of 4 and 18. At age four, we know all the questions; at eighteen, we have all
[ Parent ]
Ever try clicking on a ship like that? (none / 0) (#55)
by anon868 on Wed Aug 14, 2002 at 03:28:14 PM EST

You get some funny comments and eventually you hear the sound of the passengers throwing up. There's lots of funny stuff like that in Warcraft
Open a window. No, not that one! One made from actual glass, set in an acual wall, you dork.
[ Parent ]
Cramming before exams (none / 0) (#72)
by poyoyo on Fri Aug 16, 2002 at 08:08:30 PM EST

Students would be advised to get a good nights sleep before an exam rather than cramming into the early hours.

I don't know why I constantly hear this myth. As a straight-A student, I call this bunk. I've never regretted a decision to lose sleep in order to cram. It's nonsense to claim that spending an hour lying in bed will help you remember material better than spending that same hour drilling your notes. Especially since most of the time, you don't even know some of the material before the all-night cram, so there's nothing to remember.

Similarly, I'm always hearing people say you should relax and avoid stressing yourself out before exams. Rubbish! Stress is a powerful motivator; it's impossible to cram long hours without it. Those people who enter the exam room with a relaxed attitude are the same who come out with a B or C.

Have there ever been any actual research on the study habits of top students? I get the feeling that those dispensing study "advice" are making it up out of thin air.

Counting Sheep | 76 comments (38 topical, 38 editorial, 0 hidden)
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