Friday, September 13, 2013

Do you get enough sleep? I don't think I do...

I love reading those magazine articles with headlines like, "The Five Things You Should Be Doing to Live a Healthy Lifestyle," or, "Are You Taking Care of Your Body? This Quiz Will Tell You!"

In most cases, these articles make me feel good because they almost universally advocate exactly what you would think they advocate: maintain a healthy weight, eat nutritious food, exercise, etc. And I do all of it.

All of it, that is, except the one thing that seems to be on every one of these lists: Get enough sleep.

I'm not alone in this, I know. Americans in general just don't sleep enough. We talk a lot about sleeping and how great it is. We just don't do enough of it.

In my case, it's a schedule thing. I have a lot to do, and admittedly a lot of it is stuff I choose to do. So I get up most days at 5 a.m.

If I'm going to get the recommended eight hours of sleep a night, that means I have to be in bed by 9 p.m. And that, I'm here to tell you, just ain't going to happen.

For one thing, I've been working a lot of long hours lately, and some nights I'm not home from work until 7:30 or 8 o'clock. By the time I eat dinner, spend some time with the kids, make my lunch for the next day, shower, etc., it's well past 9 p.m.

I'd say I average 6 to 6 1/2 hours most nights, and generally I feel pretty good. Tired in the afternoon sometimes, but generally fine.

They say people's sleep needs vary, and I can see that. Terry would never get by on 6 hours of sleep a night. She just wouldn't. That doesn't mean she isn't tough (she is). Her body just requires more sleep than mine does. It has always been this way.

I am almost invariably the first one up in our house in the morning. Seven-year-old Jack is often second. In this, I think, he takes after me.

When I was in elementary school, I needed hardly any sleep at all. I regularly woke up at 4:30 and spent the first couple of hours of every day in my room just passing the time reading and listening to the radio.

More than once, I called the overnight DJ on the old WWWE radio station in Cleveland to request a song because I was wide awake. One time she asked me my name and how old I was, and she laughed when I told her (I think I was 8 or 9 at the time).

She played our little conversation on the air and then dedicated a song me. I think it was the theme from "The Goodbye Girl," which I found strange. But hey, I was on the radio!

Even when I don't have to get up at any certain time in the morning, I rarely (rarely) can sleep a full 8 hours. At some point my body just says, "You know what? We're getting up. Let's do this." And so I get up and do this.

But what that kind of scheduling does for you in terms of productivity may be offset, I'm afraid, by an eventual deterioration in health. Like I said, I generally don't feel tired or run down, but when someone puts a numerical goal in front of me (like 8 hours of sleep) and I don't meet it, I feel like I must be failing somehow.

What's worse, they say you need less sleep as you age. By the time I'm 80, I'll be sleeping 2-3 hours a night, max. If you happen to be listening to the radio at 3 in the morning, I'll be the guy calling in to request a song...

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