Sleep And Rejuvenation
( Originally Published 1927 )
Sleep is partly habit, partly necessity. We need rest to restore body and mind, and with rest comes a certain amount of sleep. As we work poisonous wastes—fatigue poisons—form within the body. While we rest and sleep the body has full opportunity to remove waste and to restore equilibrium. In this way rest and sleep restore the body and rejuvenate the individual. Tension wears out body and mind. Rest and relaxation restore body and mind, and lengthen life.
How much sleep is necessary? It varies with the individual.
A young baby should sleep almost all the time, and it will do so if intelligently cared for. The first few months the baby should be awake enough to take its food, and then go to sleep again. As it grows older it sleeps less and less.
There are no fixed hours for an adult to sleep. The amount needed varies with different individuals. The belief is common that eight hours nightly are necessary. This may be true for some. Many do very well on seven hours' sleep, and even less. It is not true that
Thomas Edison sleeps so little. He has the faculty of falling asleep at odd times. But many prominent people have been light sleepers.
As people grow older they generally require less sleep than they did in youth. It is not uncommon for septuagenarians to sleep but five hours nightly.
Although we can not say how much sleep any individual may require, each person can find out for himself, and this is much better than to try to live by fixed rules.
Those who live as they should otherwise and select a definite hour for retiring and adhere to it, except on special occasions, get all the sleep hat is necessary.
Du ing sound sleep all conscious endeavors cease The vital organs do only enough work to keep the body alive. The breathing is lighter, the circulation is slower and in sound sleep there is no conscious thinking. This letting up in the great activity of body and mind gives an opportunity for the millions of cells, of which the body is composed, to take from the blood what is needed to restore them to normal. During the day many of these cells become worn and weary. At night they recuperate. Hence undisturbed sleep is very important
Many believe that "early to bed and early to rise" is the proper way, that the hours of sleep before midnight are more refreshing and invigorating than those after. Early retiring leads to regularity, which is very desirable. Late retiring often means loose moral habits. Those who are regular about their time of re-tiring and live well otherwise are refreshed, whether they go to bed early or late. Children should always retire early, otherwise they do not get enough sleep. The night is the natural sleeping time for most creatures, as well as for man. This is a heritage of ages. There was no artificial illumination during the youth of our race. Man could do nothing during the darkness, so he rested. However, those who work at night find no trouble in sleeping during the day. The tendency among men is the same as among animals, to sleep more in winter than in summer, not that more sleep is required, but because the winter nights are longer.
It is not well to eat immediately before re-tiring. The sleep following a late meal is generally interrupted, and there is not that feeling of brightness and clearness of mind next morning.
Lunching before going to bed is a bad habit. The body should not be burdened with extra food to digest during the sleeping hours. This time should be dedicated to the restoring of the body, and the blood contains ample material.
Dreaming is largely a habit. Dreams begin in childhood and are then due principally to excessive food intake. As a producer of night-mares overfeeding has no equal. During adult life d earning is generally caused by physical and mental mistakes, plus the habit which was formed in childhood. Fear, anger, worry, stimulants, too much food, constipation, impure air an. too warm clothes are some of the causes that produce dreams. Like other habits, dreaming is difficult to overcome, once it is firmly established. The cure consists in correcting other bad habits and in not thinking about the dreams. A sleep that is much disturbed by dreams s is not as sound as it should be and consequently not as refreshing as normal sleep. The conscious mind is not completely at rest and the subconscious mind is running riot. Normal sleep is complete unconsciousness. This is the sleep of the just and must be earned.
Before retiring all the clothes worn during the day should be removed. The night apparel should be light, cotton, linen or silk. The bed should be comfortable, but not too soft. There should be enough covering to keep the sleeper comfortably warm, but not hot. Those who cover themselves with so many quilts or blankets that they perspire during the night are not properly refreshed. The feet should be kept warm, even if it is necessary to put artificial heat in the foot of the bed. During cold weather the feet and the legs should have more covering than the rest of the body. From the waist up the covering should be rather light.
Sound sleep is dependent on relaxation of mind and body. Those who live the day over after going to bed do not go to sleep quickly or easily. This habit should be overcome. Do business at the business place, during business hours. There are days so full of cares that the night does not bring mental relaxation, but those who have begun early in life to practice self-control find these days growing fewer as the years roll by. When they learn their true relationship to the rest of humanity, to the universe nd to eternity, they are generally willing an . able to let the earth rotate and revolve for a few hours without their personal attention, hey realize that worry and anxiety waste time and energy.
Man complain that they can not sleep. This they repeat to themselves and to others many times a day. At night they ask themselves why they cannot sleep. They do it so often that it becomes a powerful negative suggestion frequently strong enough to prevent their going to sleep. It is an obsession. Real insomnia exists only in the mind of the sufferer. Every physician, sooner or later, has experience with people who say that they can not sleep. The doctor who give such patients sleeping powders o potions make a grave mistake. These drugs are taken at the expense of some of the physical structures, and the day of settlement always comes.
Those who insist that they "do not sleep at all," that they sleep "but a few minutes" each night, sleep a few hours, but they make themselves believe that they do not sleep. We are compelled to sleep, and even those who "do not sleep at all" can not remain awake indefinitely.
Those who are troubled with the no-sleep obsession will soon realize that they sleep as well as others if they cease thinking and talking so much about the subject. I have seen people suffering from this bad habit recover in one week, when they were ordered to stop talking about it. Those who have been taking drugs to induce sleep generally have a few bad nights when they give them up, after which the nervous storm subsides and sleep becomes normal. All drugs should be discarded. Soothing sleep always comes to people possessed of a controlled mind in a healthy body.
If the day has been exhausting and the nerves are so alive and wrought up that sleep will not come, do not allow the mind to worry about it. Do not say to yourself : "I wish I could sleep. Why can't I sleep?" Such fretful thinking produces mental tension, which drives sleep away. Instead, say to yourself : "I am very comfortable. I am having a refreshing rest. It does not matter whether I sleep or not." By all means relax the body. Choose a comfortable position and remain quiet. It is remarkable ho ' soon a relaxed body brings tranquility to a disturbed mind. Let a man in pugnacious mood r ' lax his face and his fists and in a short time s anger vanishes. It makes no difference w ' ether a person sleeps eight hours on a certain night. If he is fairly regular about retiring he will get enough sleep. Those who realize this truth do not complain of insomnia.
People seldom sleep well when lying on the back. A good position is to lie on the right side, the right leg being anterior to the left, both being flexed. Another position that is restful to many is to lie on the abdomen, the arms extended away from the body, babyfashion
The breathing should be entirely nasal. A health ' person who breathes through his mouth at night should use suggestion to overcome the habit. He should suggest to himself, "I will breathe through the nose ; I will keep my lips together. " If he persists in this and closes the mouth when he goes to sleep, in time the mouth-breathing will cease, and with it the disagreeable h bit of snoring. A chin strap is a great help.
At all times the bedroom should be well ventilated. Some are in the habit of sleeping in unventilated bedrooms, but in the morning they throw the windows open and give the room a good airing. The ventilation does not do much good except when there is someone in the room. During the day the bedroom could be closed with very little harm ensuing, though it is best to have it sunned and aired as much as possible.
The sleeping porch is excellent. Outdoor sleeping is all right and it is not a modern fad.
Under ordinary circumstances those who sleep indoors should have one sash of window fully open for each person in the chamber. It is well to have plenty of fresh air, but it is not best to sleep in a draught. When the wind is blowing hard it is not necessary to have the windows wide open, for an aperture of four inches will then give as much fresh air as a full sash opening in calmer weather.
It is best to arise promptly on awaking in the morning. Remaining in bed half asleep is productive of slothfulness. Too much sleep and dozing make one dull.
Those who overeat require more sleep than moderate eaters. The sluggishness and sleepiness following a too heavy meal are familiar to all
Adults can with profit take a short nap or rest, not to exceed thirty minutes, after lunch. Those who are nervous owe it to themselves to relax. Those who use the brain much will find the midday nap a great restorer. If sleep will no come, close the eyes and remain relaxed for a short time. A long nap often makes one feel stupid.
Coffee drinking is a destroyer of sound sleep. At fir: the coffee seems to soothe the nerves, but in a few hours it has the opposite effect. The habitual use of coffee helps to bring on premature nervous instability and physical degeneration.
Sleep is self-regulating. If we are normal otherwise we need give the subject no thought except to select a regular time to go to bed and get up promptly in the morning on awaking.
A parting reminder: Do not worry about sleep. Make yourself comfortable, have plenty of fresh air, keep the feet warm, and make up your u nd to have a good rest. If you do this you have all the sleep you need.