Thursday, January 08, 2009

Hit the Snooze Alarm

    Hit the snooze alarm.  Go ahead.  You know you want to.  And now research says that you should.  As I surfed the Internet the other day, my surfboard snagged on the proverbial rocks of journalism and threw me into the shark-infested waters of science.  I was actually wounded not only in the crash on the rocks of journalism but when one of the science sharks, physiology, gnawed me open like I was a drunken Spring Breaker, and left me with more stitches of knowledge than I can count.  Read on.  You can go to bed later.     You're going to hit the snooze alarm in the morning anyway.  Remember, we talked about this?  Scientists, real scientists who wear white lab coats and carry clipboards around, have released a battery of studies recently that give us many reasons to stay up late and set the alarm for a time that ends with PM.
     First up comes a study from the Henry Ford Hospital Sleep Disorders Center that people who slept the customary eight hours and considered themselves well rested actually performed better with two more hours of sleep.  For those of you who acquired those extra two hours during math class, that's ten hours.  And that turns out to be the amount that the average person slept before Alexander Graham Bell invented the light bulb.  Okay, so I got my extra sleep during history class.  My guess is that it was probably more like 12 hours in the winter and six hours in the daylight-rich summer months.  Because everyone knows that Bell invented the curtain on the same day as the light bulb.  And he flew the first airplane home too.
     The problem is though, while most people think they are well rested after their already short of the mark eight hours, the National Sleep Foundation has found that 75% of us don't even get that.  So what can we do to help ourselves?  The ten strategies that are offered for getting better sleep are mostly common sense, but each is based on a specific problem that rises for the way we are or the way we do things.  Let's look at them:
1.) Free your mind.  For the first time all day you have a chance to stop and think about the anxieties of the day, and those anxieties cause your body to emit adrenaline-like chemicals.  And those go all throughout your body and mess you up like a guy from the wrong side of the tracks.
2.) Get physically tired.  You don't do enough during the day you lazy sack of shit.  Do like I do and instead of sitting at your desk doing online quizzes all day long walk around the office carrying a file folder filled with papers to make it look like you are working on something important, even if you are just really getting ready for bed.
3.)  Increase darkness.  You are 38, you don't need the night light anymore.
4.)  Cut back on caffeine.  The $4.79 cup of coffee you slugged down this morning while putting on your makeup, texting, and piloting your SUV from your condo in the 'burbs to your job in the other part of the 'burbs may still be with you by the time you are getting in the car to go home.  So imagine that Starbucks you picked up right after lunch.  Or the one you are drinking right now.
5.)  Limit alcohol.  People use booze to fall asleep.  We call those people dirty vagrants.  But while it puts you to sleep it will cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.  That's why you are always awake and at Denny's at 9 am the morning after your big bender.
6.)  Reset your body clock.  Once you wake up at 2 am and can't go back to sleep, your body clock gets messed up.  So reset it.  They say you should get 15 or 20 minutes of intense, bright light right after you wake up.  Big Dave and Company recommends staring at the sunrise with binoculars to accomplish this.
7.)  Take a supplement.  More specifically a melatonin supplement.  I don't think an energy protein shake would to the trick.
8.)  Investigate sleeping pills.  Get Sherlock Holmes or his buddy Mr. Watson to help you with this one.
9.)  Adjust your attitude.  Or I will be happy to come over there and adjust it for you, dick.
10.)  Restrict your sleep.  What?  Here's the deal.  If you can't sleep as long as you need to, start allowing yourself to sleep a little less that you normally would.  Eventually you will get so tired that you will sleep the whole time you are in bed.  Like, if you lie in bed for eight hours but only sleep five, only let yourself be in bed for four and a half hours.  Eventually you will get so tired you will get back on your eight hour pattern.
     There you go.  Ten tips to get better sleep.  But there is a little problem with these tips.  They are all based on science that tells us that the body releases chemicals tuned towards sleeping at night.  Kind of like deodorant releases chemicals tuned towards making your rank pits survivable.  But other types of science, non-physiology, tells us differently.
     New research seems to say that people who stay up late are more creative.  And the best part is, they don't know why.  Obviously these scientists are wearing their white lab coats but have misplaced their clipboards, because they've only figured out have the mystery.  But they have some guesses they can offer us.  "Being in a situation which diverges from the conventional habit, [such as staying awake all night,] may encourage the development of a non-conventional spirit and the ability to find alternative and original solutions." guessed Professor Marina Giampietro, who aside from being named after the place I keep my boat, authored the study that found this night time time thing out.  They figured out that the body clock in sick freak morning people generally runs two hours ahead.  And guess what?  The body clock in super awesome creative night owls like myself runs two hours behind, like every flight that comes out of LaGuardia.  Most people though fall in between.  For instance, the unpaid intern's body clock is only 1 hr 45 minutes ahead, but he is still forced to wake up and go to sleep when I decide he should.
     Last of all, the scientists who stole the clipboards that belonged to Dr. Giampietro and her cohorts did their own study that found out that waking up early is stressful.  It was really just more of a huge, bitchy fight over breakfast but they were wearing white lab coats and had those ill-begotten clipboards, so that made it an official study.  Yeah, waking up early is stressful on the body.  So we've come full circle.  Getting up early is stressful.  Stress keeps you from sleeping.  Not sleeping makes you wake up early, which is stressful.  So the solution seems pretty easy to me.  Let me put on my white lab coat and grab a clipboard so it sounds more scientific.  Are you ready?  Hit the snooze alarm.  Don't worry about the social, legal, or economic consequences.  You have sick time, use it.  Hit the snooze alarm.  You and your life will be better off for it.  And that's science.  I am wearing a lab coat you know.

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