Sleep Long and Prosper
Just about everybody wants more sleep.
Well, turns out it helps to know if you're a Lion, a Bear, a Wolf, or a Dolphin.
No, we're not talking cub scouts or totem animals. We're talking chronotypes. (What?) You've heard of early birds and night owls? This is similar but more scientific.
* "Chrono" means "time." A chronometer is a watch or clock.
** Scientists love big words.
I listened to a good wellness podcast this week featuring a sleep doctor. I always hesitate to use the word expert, but in this case I think it's safe. Lots of qualifications and studies. He says that your chronotype - that is, the time your own personal brain and body prefer to do just about anything, including sleep - is almost entirely genetic. So if you know your type, you can be more effective during the day, save yourself a lot of bother, and get better sleep.
It's a fun, helpful podcast and I recommend listening to it.
But if you want to skip it and go right to his ChronoQuiz, you can take it in minutes and find out your chronotype right away. Then you can watch a short video with useful info about your results.
* I always thought I was a night owl (Wolf) but now I've learned I'm a Dolphin.
** Dolphins are like Wolves with insomnia.
So I'm changing the times I do a few things during the day and evening, and it's interesting.
As much as I've always wanted to be a Lion (early bird) because most of the world is set up that way, I have now accepted my fate and am quite content to be sleeping with the Dolphins.
* This is not like "sleeping with the fishes" in "The Godfather."
** I can summarize my new wellness program in one word: Siesta.
*** A judge once excused me from jury duty when I told him I would be napping in his jury box after lunch.
My Tips For Getting Back to Sleep
Like most people over 30, I wake up once or twice during the night. And like some people, I have an overactive brain that likes to be busy, and doesn't like to shut down. So I use a couple of tricks to get to sleep, and the same ones to get back to sleep.
The first trick is audiobooks about science or history. I like those subjects, and they're not suspenseful like good novels. I also choose narrators with soothing voices who keep their vocal volume on an even keel.
My favorite of all time is A Short History Of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. Both the abridged version, read by Bryson himself, and the unabridged version, read by the very good and very British Richard Matthews, are fantastic. I've been listening to both versions for 18 years and I never get tired of them.
* This book is a masterpiece, and should replace every 7th grade science class.
** 75% more kids would get interested in science.
Secondly, if I'm not totally sleepy I play solitaire or spelling bee on my phone while listening to a book. Right before bed I put my phone in airplane mode (no cell or wifi signal) then dim the screen about 90% so it's not bright. The game distracts my brain and is repetitive enough that my overactive gray matter gets bored, then sleepy. Usually the combination knocks me out within minutes.
Audiobook tip: You can keep a simple CD player (a remote is a big plus) in your room, or you can listen on an audiobook app or a library app connected to a bluetooth speaker by your bed. As far as I know, all of these apps have sleep timers. My two favorites are Overdrive and Hoopla.
* ITunes does not have a built-in sleep timer. (Why not!)
** But iPhone does.
One More Tip
Taking Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium an hour before bed truly helps me conk out. Having taken them before bed also helps me get back to sleep later on. They have eliminated my occasional restless leg syndrome too. You'll have to experiment with your own dosages, but mine are:
- 800 mg Magnesium (citrate or oxide usually)
- 1000 mg Ester C (contains 110 mg Calcium)
- 100 mg Potassium
Also, no alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime, only with dinner. And if I do imbibe, I take B vitamins and Zinc to help the liver process alcohol, and an extra glass of water. (Alcohol is dehydrating.)
I've noticed that on the days I get about an hour of good exercise, I not only sleep better, consequently I feel stronger, sharper, and happier the next day. It's the opposite of a vicious cycle. A virtuous cycle?
* And the better / happier we feel, the more we like ourselves.
** And the more we like ourselves, the better we treat other people.
*** Ergo, sleep and exercise are very good for relationships.
Sleep Long and Prosper!
Feel free to leave your own ideas and experience in the Comments box. I'm always happy to hear your thoughts, and you don't have to log in or register to comment.
* Photos of my dog Houdini and her cousin Bea are used with their permission.
** Plus extra treats.
© 2021 Greg Tamblyn