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  #46   ^
Old Thu, Sep-23-04, 09:32
yodasmum's Avatar
yodasmum yodasmum is offline
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Posts: 586
Plan: Celiac Disease
Stats: 215/190/115 Female 5'3
Progress: 25%
Location: New Mexico, Albuquerque

Yeek! Some how my post ended up in the wrong place! Sorry!
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  #47   ^
Old Wed, Sep-29-04, 09:19
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TheCaveman TheCaveman is offline
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Plan: Angry Paleo
Stats: 375/205/180 Male 6'3"
Progress: 87%
Location: Sacramento, CA

Slumber's Unexplored Landscape
People in traditional societies sleep in eye-opening ways

By Bruce Bower

Ah, the sweet simplicity of sleep. You tramp into your bedroom with sagging eyelids and stifle a yawn. After disrobing, you douse the lights and climb into bed. Maybe a little reading or television massages the nerves, loosening them up for slumber's velvet fingers. In a while, you nod off. Suddenly, an alarm clock's shrill blast breaks up the dozefest as the sun pokes over the horizon. You feel a bit drowsy but shake it off and face the new day. Images of a dream dissolve like sugar in the morning's first cup of coffee.

There's a surprising twist, however, at the heart of this familiar ritual. It simply doesn't apply to people currently living outside of the modern Western world—or even to inhabitants of Western Europe as recently as 200 years ago.

In such contexts, and probably throughout human evolution, solitary shut-eye organized around a regular bedtime and a single bout of sleep proves about as common as stock car racing or teleconferencing. Surprisingly, anthropologists have rarely scrutinized the sleep patterns and practices of different cultures, much less those of different classes and ethnic groups in the United States.

An initial attempt to draw back the veils of sleep in hunter-gatherer groups and other traditional societies has uncovered a wide variety of sleep customs, reports anthropologist Carol M. Worthman of Emory University in Atlanta. None of these snooze styles, however, looks anything like what modern Western folk take for granted.

This finding raises profound questions for the burgeoning discipline of sleep research, Worthman says. Over the past 50 years, scientists have avidly delved into slumber's biology. Early research identified periods of rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep, during which intense dreams often occur. Current efforts pursue genes involved in wakefulness and sleeping (SN: 8/14/99, p. 100). Researchers have also taken strides toward treating insomnia and other sleep disturbances.

While investigators readily concede that they don't yet know why people sleep and dream, they assume that they at least know how people should sleep: alone or with a partner for a solid chunk of the night. Sleep studies therefore take place in laboratories where individuals catch winks while hooked up to a bevy of brain and body monitors.

However, the distinctive sleep styles of non-Western groups may mold sleep's biology in ways undreamed of in sleep labs, Worthman suggests. They may influence factors ranging from sleep-related genes to the brain's electrical output during various sleep phases.

"It's time for scientists to get out into natural sleep environments," Worthman remarks. "It's embarrassing that anthropologists haven't done this, and the lack of such work is impeding sleep research."

A seemingly innocent question awakened Worthman to her discipline's ignorance of how people sleep. In 1994, she had a conversation with pediatrician Ronald E. Dahl of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, who studies the effects of mood disorders on sleep. He asked the Emory scientist to tell him what anthropologists know about the history and prehistory of sleep. "[My] bald, if somewhat overstated, answer was 'zero,'" she says.

Sleep scarcely figures in the literature on either cross-cultural differences or human evolution, Worthman realized. Investigators generally relegate slumber to the sidelines, treating it as a biological given with little potential for variation from one place to another, she holds.

A few researchers have bucked this trend. For instance, anthropologist James J. McKenna of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana has reported that babies in many countries outside the United States sleep next to or in the same room as their parents. Contact with a parent's body helps regulate an infant's breathing and other physiological functions, he asserts, perhaps lowering the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SN: 12/4/93, p. 380).

McKenna's work should have roused investigators of traditional societies out of their sleep-related torpor, Worthman says. Yet, even seasoned field-workers have tended to ignore sleep—at least in their published works—while describing food production, sexual practices, and other facets of daily life.

So, Worthman contacted seven researchers who she knew had intimate knowledge of one or more traditional societies, including nomadic foragers, herders, and village-based farmers. Among these far-flung populations, none of the investigators, by their own admission, had systematically studied how people sleep. After plumbing what the researchers had absorbed about nighttime activities, Worthman has assembled a preliminary picture of sleep practices in 10 non-Western populations.

Worthman's findings rip the covers off any lingering suspicions that people everywhere sleep pretty much alike. Far from the wallpapered confines of middle-class bedrooms, sleep typically unfolds in shared spaces that feature constant background noise emanating from other sleepers, various domestic animals, fires maintained for warmth and protection from predators, and other people's nearby nighttime activities.

Groups in Worthman's analysis include Ache foragers in Paraguay, !Kung hunter-gatherers in Africa, Swat Pathan herders in Pakistan, and Balinese farmers in Indonesia. For all these groups and six others, communal sleep equals safe sleep, because sleepers can count on there being someone else up or easily awakened at all hours of the night to warn others of a threat or emergency.

Adult sleepers in traditional societies recline on skins, mats, wooden platforms, the ground, or just about anything except a thick, springy mattress. Pillows or head supports are rare, and people doze in whatever they happen to be wearing. Virtually no one, including children, keeps a regular bedtime. Individuals tend to slip in and out of slumber several times during the night. In these unplugged worlds, darkness greatly limits activity and determines the time allotted to sleep. Folks there frequently complain of getting too much sleep, not too little.

Many rituals occur at night and exploit the need to sleep. For instance, initiation rites often force participants to cope with sleep deprivation. In other ceremonies, individuals enter somnolent, or near-sleep, states in order to magnify an occasion's psychological impact and to induce spiritual visions.

Consider the communal sleep of the Gebusi, New Guinea, rainforest dwellers, who grow fruit in small gardens and occasionally hunt wild pigs. Women, girls, and babies crowd into a narrow section of a community longhouse to sleep on mats. Men and boys retreat to an adjacent, more spacious longhouse area, where they sleep on wooden platforms.

Gebusi females retire at dark for about 10 hours of rest and sleep. In contrast, the men stay up later and frequently conduct rituals. About once a month, everyone attends an all-night dance and feast, catching up on sleep the next day.

Each week or two, Gebusi men go to s‚ances led by a "spirit medium," at which they try to keep spirits awake throughout the night. Participants attempt to slip in and out of a near-sleep state as the medium, who's usually adept at operating in this half-conscious condition, sings about the spirit world and other matters.

As in most of the other studied societies, the Gebusi express concerns about exposure to ghosts, evil spirits, and witchcraft during sleep. They consider deep sleep risky, since a sleeper's spirit may wander off too far and fail to return. The Gebusi view group slumber as a way to lessen the danger of spirit loss, which they view as especially likely while a person dreams.

Whether or not one believes that sleeping puts a person's spirit at risk, slumber appears to have crucial effects on body and mind. A culture's sleeping style serves as a growing child's training ground for managing biologically based systems of attention and alertness, Worthman contends. Balinese farmers provide a striking example of this sleep-related tutoring.

Balinese infants are carried and held continuously by caregivers so that they learn to fall asleep even in hectic and noisy situations. This grooms them to exhibit what the Balinese call "fear sleep" later in life, Worthman says. Children and adults enter fear sleep by suddenly slumping over in a deep slumber when they or family members confront intense anxiety or an unexpected fright. They are literally scared into sleep.

Infants in middle-class American homes, who usually sleep alone, may not learn to ground their sleeping and waking cycles in a flow of sensations that include bodily contact, smells, and background noises, Worthman proposes. In fact, babies forced to bounce back and forth between the sensory overload of the waking world and the sensory barrenness of dark, quiet bedrooms may often find it difficult to relax, fall asleep, wake up, or concentrate, she theorizes.

Only cross-cultural studies of children's sleep and behavior can clarify such issues, Worthman says.

She described her findings and their implications in June at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Orlando, Fla.

Sleep researchers at the meeting expressed considerable excitement about the potential for cross-cultural studies. "Worthman is doing innovative and important work," comments neuroscientist Robert A. Stickgold of the Massachusetts Mental Health Center in Boston. "It's awakening us to the many different ways in which people organize sleep."

Stickgold has developed snug-fitting, electrode-studded caps that people can wear in their own beds to measure brain activity linked to REM and other sleep stages. Worthman plans to take these "nightcaps," which hook up to mobile recorders, into the field to study sleep biology in traditional societies.

"I've been hoping anthropologists would examine sleep cross-culturally for the past 20 years," remarks psychologist Mary A. Carskadon of the Brown University School of Medicine in Providence, R.I.

Carskadon has directed studies that indicate that the body's so-called biological clock gets pushed back during adolescence. Teenagers may require more sleep than adults and may have a natural tendency to go to sleep later and wake up later than at other ages, she says.

A related study, directed by neuroscientist Louis J. Ptáček of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, finds that a specific gene yanks the biological clock forward in some adults. People who have this gene tend to fall asleep by 8:30 p.m. and to awaken before 5:30 a.m., the researchers report in the September Nature Medicine.

In modern Western cultures, teens' backward shift in sleep timing is considered a nuisance or a sign of rebellion, while extreme early birds get diagnosed as sleep disordered. In traditional settings, however, highly variable sleep schedules among individuals and age groups prove invaluable, since they allow for someone to be awake or easily roused at all times should danger arise, Worthman holds.

If sleeping patterns in traditional societies remain little known, those of prehistoric humans are a total mystery. Still, in settings that roughly mimic ancient nighttime conditions, sleep undergoes an intriguing shift, says psychiatrist Thomas A. Wehr of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, Md.

When prohibited from using artificial light from dusk until dawn, people who formerly slumbered in solid blocks of time begin to sleep in two periods separated by an hour or two of quiet rest and reflection.

Wehr and his coworkers asked 15 healthy adults to rest and sleep in darkness for 14 hours (6 p.m. to 8 a.m.) each night for several weeks. Volunteers slept for 11 hours each of the first few nights, apparently to catch up on their sleep. They then settled into a pattern of lying awake for a couple of hours before falling asleep for 3 to 5 hours in the evening. An hour or so of quiet wakefulness ensued, followed by about 4 more hours of sleep in the early morning.

Many mammals sleep in two major bouts during the night or day, Wehr says. Animals from rodents to giraffes and the experimental human sleepers secrete elevated amounts of the hormone prolactin when they rest quietly, even if they are not asleep. Prolactin may promote a state of calmness that accompanies sleep, the NIMH scientist suggests.

Participants in Wehr's study usually awoke out of REM sleep to end their first slumber session. During REM sleep, the brain becomes about as active as it is when wide awake. One function of this sleep phase may be to set the stage for waking up, Wehr holds.

If prehistoric people slept in two nightly periods, then regularly awakening out of REM sleep may have allowed them to reflect on and remember their dreams in a semiconscious state that's generally unavailable to modern sleepers. Sleep compressed into a single stint may thus encourage modern humans to lose touch with dreams, myths, and fantasies, Wehr argues.

These results, first reported in 1993, also raise the possibility that people who wake up once or twice each night don't necessarily suffer from insomnia. "A natural human sleep pattern may reassert itself in an unwelcome world and get labeled as a disorder," Wehr says.

The two-phase sleep pattern observed by Wehr corresponds remarkably closely to the way in which most Western Europeans slept between 500 and 200 years ago, according to historian A. Roger Ekirch of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg. While doing research for a book on nighttime behaviors during that era, Ekirch came across several hundred references to what he identifies as "segmented sleep."

From country farms and villages to city apartments, early modern Europeans usually sank each evening into what they called a "first sleep," which lasted for several hours. Shortly after midnight, they awoke and spent 1 or 2 hours in a "watching period." A "second," or "morning," sleep followed.

The watching period presented many opportunities, Ekirch notes. People coming out of their first sleep often stayed in bed to pray, converse with a bedfellow, contemplate the day's events or the meaning of a dream, or simply let their minds wander in a semiconscious state of contentment that was prized at the time.

A 16th-century physician wrote that many laborers dozed off exhausted at the start of each night. Sexual intercourse with their wives typically occurred in the watching period, after a recuperative first sleep.

These days, Western societies treat sleep more as an unavoidable stretch of downtime than as a prelude to sex or a time for inner reflection. Only intensive investigations across cultures and classes will illuminate the lushness of sleep's landscape, Worthman predicts.

Adds Wehr, "We're going to have to reconceptualize what it means to sleep normally."

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  #48   ^
Old Thu, Sep-30-04, 08:53
daylily's Avatar
daylily daylily is offline
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Posts: 20
Plan: Protein Power
Stats: 300/226/150 Female 5'6"
Progress: 49%
Location: Oak Park, Illinois

Thanks, Caveman! What a great article!

This really helps with understanding my mixed reaction to Wiley's book. So much of it seems so right, but a lot of missing pieces too.

I am familiar with some of these ideas. I practiced "attachment parenting" with my babies, including co-family sleeping, also known as the family bed. We all slept together in one room, with most of us in the same bed for several years. People who do this are aware of the practice of sleeping with babies in "primitive" cultures and wish to replicate this. We also carried our babies around with us much of the day.

I love the idea of segmented sleep and not seeing night wakings as a "disorder." This really answers the questions about how people without artificial lighting can sleep through long winter nights. The answer: they don't First they sleep, then they think about their dreams, talk, and have sex. Then they sleep some more.

Those fires people were tending surely made as much light as our electric devices and light seeping through the edges of the shades.

As for the monthly all-night sessions, I bet those tended to co-incide with full moons. Women with fertility problems are often advised to coordinate the light in their bedrooms with the moon's cycles. i.e. complete darkness for most of the month, then the shades open or a dim night light for the three nights around the full moon. Wiley doesn't get into moonlight at all, as far as I can remember.

And even with all the above, it still seems these folks get more sleep than we do.

I'll sign up for everything except the part about no mattress or pillow!
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  #49   ^
Old Thu, Sep-30-04, 08:57
Quinadal's Avatar
Quinadal Quinadal is offline
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Posts: 596
Plan: HFH
Stats: 297/291/200 Female 65 inches
Progress: 6%
Location: Florida, USA

I sleep when I'm tired. I work 12 hr night shift 3 nights a week. Sometimes I sleep days, sometimes I sleep during the night.
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  #50   ^
Old Thu, Sep-30-04, 10:30
Hellistile's Avatar
Hellistile Hellistile is offline
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Posts: 2,540
Plan: Animal-based/IF
Stats: 252/215.6/130 Female 5'4
Progress: 30%
Location: Vancouver Island

I like the idea of communal sleeping and it is done all over the world because it's a custom or because people are too poor to have separate bedrooms. I come from an eastern european background where most people are too poor to have more than one bedroom or they all sleep in the main living area. All family members sleep together, children, parents, grandparents. Children who sleep with their families have a lower tendency to develop fears of monsters, bedwetting, etc. because they feel loved and more secure. Just my honest opinion.
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  #51   ^
Old Thu, Sep-30-04, 18:30
batgirl's Avatar
batgirl batgirl is offline
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Posts: 145
Plan: Neanderthin/Protein Power
Stats: 160/155/138 Female 65 inches
Progress: 23%
Location: North Florida

I got a serendipitous chance to test the lights out theory, and I didn't even realize it. Our electricity was our for a total of 10 days (7 days with hurricane frances, 3 with jeanne). No power, no lights. What I liked best was *no noise* from the a/c and other noisy appliances.

I also had no alarm clock. It was funny, most days my hubbie has to wake me up, repeatedly. When the power was out, I was getting out of bed first, on time to get to work, and waking him up. Plus, I wasn't nearly as groggy.

The only problem was the heat for some of that time. I don't sleep very well on muggy nights with no a/c. Still, I think I'll go to bed now and see how I feel in the morning.

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  #52   ^
Old Fri, Oct-01-04, 06:53
daylily's Avatar
daylily daylily is offline
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Posts: 20
Plan: Protein Power
Stats: 300/226/150 Female 5'6"
Progress: 49%
Location: Oak Park, Illinois

Wow, batgirl, I'm sorry you had to go through all that hurricane stuff, but how neat to live without electricity for a while to see what it's like.

The fact that you report better sleep and feeling more rested really reinforces my belief that there's something to this stuff.

I will discuss "segmented sleep" with my dh and see if he wants to try it as a way to deal with his chronic insomnia.

Digression: Another benefit of the power being out over a large area is the ability to see the true appearance of the night sky. Or was it too cloudy to see stars?
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  #53   ^
Old Fri, Oct-22-04, 19:41
toopoles's Avatar
toopoles toopoles is offline
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Posts: 1,219
Plan: Paleo
Stats: 322/240/140 Female 5'6''
BF:I have no idea
Progress: 45%
Location: Winter Texan/Summer Mich

I wanted to bump this thread back up as I am starting to need large amounts of sleep. It didn't happen in September or early October, but about two weeks ago, I started noticing that I was tired all the time and started to need about nine hours of sleep a night. Now the sleep that I need to feel well is up to about ten hours a night, before I can wake up without and alarm clock.

Is anyone else experiencing the same thing?

Also last night I got the chance to sleep in a totally dark room at a friends house (Basement, no windows or digital lights) and my sleep seemed more restful. I still needed more than I had the chance to get, but I did wake up on my own earlier than I would have at home. My house is tough to darken unless I put up special shades. I already have mini blinds and curtains, but they don't block enough light. (It still bothers me.)

I am glad that I have become aware of these changes.

And does anyone know or ar there any studies about vitamin d production and our sleep cycles? I know I must be short of this vitamin in the winter so I was wondering if that also affected the sleep cycles.

Have a great week-end everyone, Marty
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  #54   ^
Old Fri, Oct-22-04, 21:06
cbcb's Avatar
cbcb cbcb is offline
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Plan: South Beach-esque
Stats: 194/159/140 Female 5'3"
BF:34% / 28% / 20%
Progress: 65%

Originally Posted by toopoles
does anyone know or ar there any studies about vitamin d production and our sleep cycles? I know I must be short of this vitamin in the winter so I was wondering if that also affected the sleep cycles.

Vitamin D is well known for its effects on helping to maintain normal calcium levels, but it also exerts influence on the brain, spinal cord, and hormone-producing tissues of the body that may be important in the regulation of mood.19 A double-blind controlled study found that mood improved in healthy people without SAD who received 400 or 800 IU per day of vitamin D for five days in late winter.20 However, no difference in vitamin D levels has been observed between people with seasonal depression and those without,21 22 and the antidepressant activity of light therapy has been shown to be independent of changes in levels of vitamin D.23 A large study of women found that supplementation with 400 IU per day of vitamin D had no impact on the incidence of winter depression.24 Any benefits of vitamin D on SAD remain unproven.

J Nutr Health Aging. 1999;3(1):5-7. Related Articles, Links

Vitamin D vs broad spectrum phototherapy in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder.

Gloth FM 3rd, Alam W, Hollis B.

The Department of Medicine, The Union Memorial Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland 21218-2895, USA.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is prevalent when vitamin D stores are typically low. Broad-spectrum light therapy includes wavelengths between 280-320 nm which allow the skin to produce vitamin D. This study was designed to test the hypothesis that vitamin D deficiency might play a role in SAD. A prospective, randomized controlled trial was conducted in a group of 15 subjects with SAD. Eight subjects received 100,000 I.U. of vitamin D and seven subjects received phototherapy. At the onset of treatment and after 1 month of therapy subjects were administered the Hamilton Depression scale, the SIGH-SAD, and the SAD-8 depression scale. All subjects also had serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OH D) measured before and 1 week after intervention therapy. All subjects receiving vitamin D improved in all outcome measures. The phototherapy group showed no significant change in depression scale measures. Vitamin D status improved in both groups (74% vitamin D group, p < 0.005 and 36% phototherapy group, p < 0.01). Improvement in 25-OH D was significantly associated with improvement in depression scale scores (r2=0.26; p=0.05). Vitamin D may be an important treatment for SAD. Further studies will be necessary to confirm these findings.

Some other studies showed administration of the active form of vitamin D inhibited slow wave sleep (but increased waking/REM sleep alternation), or delayed sleep when given at night. I don't know that either of these I'm just paraphrasing here have direct application to the normal administration of vitamin D. (But on the other hand, if you consider that sunlight enhances vitamin D, I suppose it's not such a jump to say that it's logical that some kind of anti-sleep effect of vitamin D would be seen. But to make an even further albeit tenuous jump... just because you are outside in the day when it's light out, doesn't mean you can't sleep that night. I think if I'd get any takeaway from this it might be that 'twere I to take a vitamin D supplement, I'd be doing it during the day rather than right before bed.)
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  #55   ^
Old Sat, Oct-23-04, 07:30
daylily's Avatar
daylily daylily is offline
New Member
Posts: 20
Plan: Protein Power
Stats: 300/226/150 Female 5'6"
Progress: 49%
Location: Oak Park, Illinois

How interesting, toopoles!

I have found it easier to sleep and have been able to increase the amount of sleep I am getting. I've got my bedroom darker, but not yet completely dark.

I'm still digesting the Vitamin D connection. I'll try taking my cod liver oil in the morning from now on.
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  #56   ^
Old Sun, Oct-24-04, 19:33
MichaelG MichaelG is offline
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Posts: 266
Plan: paleo
Stats: 209/189/176 Male 186cm
Progress: 61%
Location: Bribie Island, Australia

Great article from the Caveman. I lived in Greece for a very short while, an in common with many Mediterranean countries they have "common rest hours" in the afternoon - i.e. the Siesta, then party on till midnight. I believe that in places like Uruguay they have dinner at 11 o'clock at night. I reckon the bed at 11, up at 8 thing is a typically north American / European thing.

Was watching a DVD "the day after tomorrow" the other day, where an official was awakened by a phone call, and the camera shot focussed on the bedside clock which showed 7.30 , obviously being a metaphor for "real early, poor bugger being woken up in the middle of the night". The Queensland audience in our lounge room cracked up at that one, by 8.30 most of us have done our supermarket shopping and looking for a McDonalds! (or in my case a medium rare steak).

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  #57   ^
Old Sun, Oct-31-04, 11:17
kaeleen's Avatar
kaeleen kaeleen is offline
Senior Member
Posts: 110
Plan: A4L
Stats: 147/138/135 Female 5'4"
Progress: 75%

Fascinating topic.

I especially enjoyed reading the article posted by Caveman.
The bit about segmented sleep makes a lot of sense to me. I've noticed that sometimes I will nod off during the 10 o'clock news, sleep for several hours and then awaken shortly after midnight feeling quite awake. I read for about an hour and then feel quite sleepy again.

We just turned the clocks back last night. Lately I have been feeling the urge to go to bed earlier but have ignored it so far. After reading this thread, I think I will begin going to bed at 9 pm. I usually have to be up by 5 am so this still leaves me in a bit of a sleep deficit according to the recommended 9.5 hrs. Most days I can probably fit in a short siesta after lunch so this might help a bit.

BTW, I have a thin friend who has always said getting lots of sleep is key to maintaining her weight.
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  #58   ^
Old Sun, Oct-31-04, 11:25
cbcb's Avatar
cbcb cbcb is offline
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Posts: 791
Plan: South Beach-esque
Stats: 194/159/140 Female 5'3"
BF:34% / 28% / 20%
Progress: 65%

Originally Posted by kaeleen
BTW, I have a thin friend who has always said getting lots of sleep is key to maintaining her weight.

That's just the last straw.... see you guys next spring... I'm off for a long winter's nap!
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  #59   ^
Old Wed, Nov-10-04, 08:40
kAd's Avatar
kAd kAd is offline
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Posts: 34
Plan: NeanderThin
Stats: 199/???/149 Female 5'6"
Progress: 9%

I've never even heard of this book before. I'll be sure to add it to my list.
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  #60   ^
Old Sun, Nov-14-04, 19:20
dionysius's Avatar
dionysius dionysius is offline
New Member
Posts: 12
Plan: Paleo, Dr.Lutz
Stats: 67/66/69 Male 177
Progress: -50%
Location: Sydney, Australia

I work shiftwork about 6 times a month, meaning im up all night and sleeping in the day. I have to admit its always easier if i make the room pitch black, which i can do with a screen on the window etc.

As regards to going to bed by 9pm, i have difficulty doing that.. and i tend to find sleep works in cycles, so if i do to bed when im not tired, i will lie there for several hours until the next "tired cycle".

I guess over time you could get into the trained habit of going to bed when the sun goes down.. might require a bit of work in this day and age :-)
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