a bonobo humanity?

‘Rise above yourself and grasp the world’ Archimedes – attribution

more thoughts on sleeping

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Jacinta: So, as I said last time, there’s tons of shite – I mean good shite – on sleep disorders and benefits and how to improve your sleep etc, on YouTube and elsewhere on the net. Why bother with social media, folks – rise above yourself and grasp the world. So I’ll start with Matthew Walker – he doubtless imparts his ideas on improving our sleep in his book Why we sleep, leaving the good dope till the end, but I’m not there yet, so I’m looking at his video ‘How to Improve Your Sleep’…

Canto: Which I’ve already watched, and I’m a man, so I’ll take over. First, alcohol as a ‘nightcap’ doesn’t work. It’s a sedative, and a sedation state isn’t the same as everyday sleep. It doesn’t have a restorative effect – it actually has a disruptive affect – you’ll tend to wake up more often in the night, and not just for wee-wee. You often don’t even remember this happening. It also blocks much of your dream or REM sleep, which is important for your mental health. Depriving rats of REM sleep apparently has quite catastrophic effects. Marijuana, that supposedly wonderful medicinal herb, doesn’t fare much better. It also blocks the dream sleep, though by a different pathway. Walker doesn’t provide too much detail in this 8-minute video, but he’s a professor of neurophysiology at a big Californian uni, and science is our god, right? So marijuana can send you to sleep quickly enough, but with little of that all-important REM sleep….

Jacinta: I can explain why REM sleep is so important…

Canto: Please, I’m not finished. Not getting the REM sleep can make you more anxious and more likely to self-medicate with Mary Jane, leading to a cycle of dependency. But there are questions around the drug – there are unverified claims that CBD oil, or cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive component (as opposed to THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol) may have benefits, but effective studies haven’t been conducted.

Jacinta: Because of a history of stupidity around marijuana. I blame Harry Anslinger and his crowd.

Canto: So can you recover sleep that you’ve lost, either over a previous night or two or a previous lifetime? Well, Walker says no, but that strikes me as disastrously pessimistic – he seems to be saying that some even small period of short-sleeping will have long-term or permanent effects, and you’ll just have to live with those effects for the rest of your life. I mean, really?

Jacinta: Yes, and short-sleeping is often related to our work patterns or the schedules set for us by our culture. Our dog sleeps whenever she wants, and so do bonobos. But kids have to be up for school at seven every morning, and it often goes on throughout our working life…

Canto: To say nothing of shift-work, which I experienced for years, and it was a living nightmare, sleep-wise. It’s ok for these smart-aleck professorial types. We dumb fucks have to earn a living with the sweat of our brows.

Jacinta: Professors sweat too. Anyway, I think this particular video doesn’t quite deliver on how we can improve our sleep. Sure we should avoid alcohol and drugs and not rely too much on alarms, but how do we deal with such problems as – well, just never falling asleep before midnight, and waking up in the night, and so on. I suppose that’s called insomnia?

Canto: Well, as many health sites put it, insomnia is a symptom, not a disease. You might need a bit of discipline. Put down your book, or switch off your phone or tablet well before midnight. Dr Seheult of Medcram fame, who’s also a sleep specialist, suggests you should organise your room, your sleeping place, so that it’s dedicated only to sleeping, not anything else, such as a workspace. Try that, for your psychology. But I’ve also found reputable health websites that disagree with Dr Walker’s claims about short sleeping. They claim that a good night’s sleep is an individual thing in terms of hours spent in shut-eye. Maybe you don’t need as much sleep as the average person. It could be that your anxiety about sleep is doing more damage.

Jacinta: There was some mention of pee earlier. Coffee’s a diuretic – so no coffee for maybe two or three hours before bedtime, whenever that is.

Canto: Difficult.

Jacinta: Self-discipline. I’m sure that bladder retention reduces as we age. I think establishing a routine would help. If you make a decision to get out of bed, say, at eight every morning, and keep to it, the front end will sort itself out, so to speak.

Canto: Well, try that and report back. I’m beginning to feel that you’re making a problem out of nothing. I mean, you worry too much.

Jacinta:: Probably. Anyway, the Better Health Channel has some suggestions for dealing with short term insomnia, and here are some that I find relevant. Avoid caffeinated drinks before bedtime. Also avoid strenuous exercises. Try not to nap during the day. Don’t go to bed if you don’t feel sleepy. And don’t spend too much time worreting over the issue.

Canto: So, should you keep on reading Why we sleep? Won’t that keep you worrying?

Jacinta: Well I don’t mind worreting. And there’s a lot to learn from the book, about how sleep actually works. That’s what we’ll get into in a future post.


Why we sleep, by Matthew Walker, 2017

How To Improve Your Sleep | Matthew Walker (video)


Written by stewart henderson

November 8, 2021 at 11:09 pm

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