Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - March 9, 2007


I'm not getting enough sleep. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's aging - needing to go to the bathroom more often, experiencing heartburn, worrying about little things or having hot flashes. Then there are the strange noises - March winds that makes our house "groan" at night, owls hooting or coyotes yipping. The strangest noise comes from husband Art - his snoring ranges in decibel level from a gentle "puffing" to a chainsaw ripping through heavy timber.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 60 percent of American women say they only get a good night's sleep a few nights per week or less, and 67 percent say they frequently experience a sleep problem.

But it's not just women. Seventy-four percent of American adults experience a sleeping problem a few nights a week, 39 percent get less than seven hours of sleep and more than one in three are so sleepy during the day that it interferes with daily activities.

This lack of sleep can lead to increased stress levels, health problems, irritability, difficulty concentrating and unsafe decisions, according to the foundation.

To make matters worse, on Sunday, March 11, we lose an hour of precious sleeping time when Daylight Saving Time starts.

So how did we get to this state? At one time, lack of electric lights meant people went to sleep with the chickens and woke up when the roosters crowed in the morning.

But the electric light and the industrial age pretty much did away with that. Now, we rush from task to task and event to event and pride ourselves on our ability to keep going with as little sleep as possible. If we don't have time to run errands from 8 to 5, no problem. Many businesses are open 24/7 or have Web sites that are accessible around the clock. We can shop any time we want.

The hours we need to sleep vary throughout our life cycle. Infants sleep half or more of the time, but slowly that need for sleep decreases. Teenagers need eight and a half to nine and a half hours a day, but their biological clocks keep them awake at night, which means they don't want to get up in the morning. This doesn't work out so well in a society where school starts early when many teens are too sleepy to learn.

Fourteen-year-old daughter Katie is a prime example. At 9:30 or 10 each night, she gets a burst of energy. She bounces around the living room, dancing and singing.

"Man, I wish I could be this wide-awake in the morning rather than at this time every night," she says.

Our attitudes about sleep change with age too. Art mentioned that he had a friend who said that when she was in her 20s, she couldn't think of anything more fun than staying up all night. Then, in her mid-30s, she couldn't think of anything that sounded nicer than being in bed by 11 p.m.!

When Katie was younger and had trouble falling asleep, Art told her a trick that he sometimes used. He said that, rather than counting sheep, she should think of a blank sheet of paper.

"That doesn't help," she exclaimed. "When I see a blank sheet of paper, I just want to draw!"

All I can say is thinking about this problem is making me sleepy!

2007 Index