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Sleep is a state of mind

I have long believed that sleep is merely a state of mind.  It must be possible to survive on very little, some very clever people have done so; Churchill and Thatcher to name but two (whether you like them or not, they were pretty clever).

New mothers do it.  Elen McArthur did it on her single woman round the world yacht race. 

Why can’t I do it?

I just can’t get the sleep monkey off my back.  I know I don’t need 8 hours, I know I can survive on far less, I have done it before many times.  But every morning after a white night (borrowed from a Douglas Kennedy novel in which the heroine has frequent insomnia) I am left feeling punched in the face and useless to man and beast (and toddler and baby). 

Here’s what the National Sleep Foundation says:


Another reason there is “no magic number” for your sleep results from two different factors that researchers are learning about: a person’s basal sleep need – the amount of sleep our bodies need on a regular basis for optimal performance – and sleep debt, the accumulated sleep that is lost to poor sleep habits, sickness, awakenings due to environmental factors or other causes. Two studies suggest that healthy adults have a basal sleep need of seven to eight hours every night, but where things get complicated is the interaction between the basal need and sleep debt. For instance, you might meet your basal sleep need on any single night or a few nights in a row, but still have an unresolved sleep debt that may make you feel more sleepy and less alert at times, particularly in conjunction with circadian dips, those times in the 24-hour cycle when we are biologically programmed to be more sleepy and less alert, such as overnight hours and mid-afternoon. You may feel overwhelmingly sleepy quite suddenly at these times, shortly before bedtime or feel sleepy upon awakening. The good news is that some research suggests that the accumulated sleep debt can be worked down or “paid off.”

This morning after a broken night (Eliza wet the bed twice, then joined me in my bed), I feel semi-concious.  I’m not really here at all.   I have a persistant ache behind my left eyeball, I feel nauseous and I’m starting to see flickering lights.  My sleep debt is well and truly catching up with me.  Apparantly this means I could be a danger to myself and others if I start operating fork lift trucks. Damn, that’s the job at the warehouse gone then.

There must be a way to refocus my mind, to stop thinking that sleep is so important and just deal with what I get every night.

Oh and if I could just get over getting up so early every morning too.  That would be good.

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