Thursday, 26 October 2017

More about sleep

Woke up this morning, it was 03:38. This was just seven minutes before my alarms were due to go off (train to catch to town at 04:46 to connect at W-wa Zachodnia for the 05:20 to Kraków).

How did I manage to wake up naturally at this ungodly hour? Well, I went to sleep before 9pm yesterday evening. So I managed a full six and half hours (not quite enough, but reasonable).

I woke up towards the end of a dream in which my father, my brother and I were attending a degree ceremony at an Oxford college - except it wasn't in Oxford - this medieval building with brick staircases and corridors was on Pope's Lane in South Ealing, by Gunnersbury Park. All the students about to get degrees were older than me, and their parents were all older than my father. A lady came up to us and my brother made a clever literary joke about Jane Austen that made her laugh so loud, it woke me...

Here in Warsaw, 21 degrees east, the sun rises and sets earlier than in London, despite the hour's time zone difference. The sun sweeps over our planet at 360 degrees per day, or 15 degrees per hour, so midday in Warsaw (when the sun is overhead) occurs 24 minutes earlier than at the Meridian in Greenwich. So us Varsovians should rise and go to sleep an hour and 24 minutes earlier than Londoners. But whereas the world takes into account the one-hour's time difference between Greenwich Mean Time and Central European Time (which comes into effect when summer time ends this Sunday morning), that 24 minutes is not accounted for. So working nine-to-five in London is equivalent in body-clock terms to working from 08:36 to 16:36 in Warsaw.

One could say, 'suck it up snowflake, get used to it'. But the body clock is not something to be messed with. If you're an owl, with a propensity for late rising and an ability to stay focused well into the evening, it's hard to drag yourself out of bed, especially in the dark months.

Our body clocks are very individual things and we should get to know them, to see what our natural sleep patterns are really like, outside of the rigours of the working week. Weekends and holidays are good times to apply consciousness to sleep and check how we sleep.

It's important to understand the sleep cycle, from shallow to deep (REM) sleep and back again. Average length for adults is 80-120 minutes; a night's sleep is usually made up of four separate sleep cycles, of which the two middle ones are longer than the first and last.  Should you wake in the night to go to the toilet, it's usually at the end of a sleep cycle. My sleep last night was only three cycles long, so on the way back from Kraków I ended up having a 90-minute snooze. Resulted - rested.

Circadian rhythms and body clocks vary with age; teenagers and young adults are generally more owl-like; as one matures, the ability to stay up till 1am every night ceases, but then returns with old age. The important thing is to be aware of your own natural need for sleep, and to adjust your waking life - and entertainment - around that need.

As I wrote a few days ago, ignore the need for good sleep at your peril. And try to arrange your working day so it fits around your natural sleep requirements - and not the other way around.

This time five years ago:
On behalf of the workshy community

This time six years ago:
Classic truck cavalcade

This time seven years ago
Narrow back-roads clogged with commuters

This time eight years ago:
Autumn gold, Łazienkowski Park

This time ten years ago:
Of bishops and bands

1 comment:

Bozena Masters said...

I work far better in the morning - that's morning six o'clock, not eight o'clock. In summer this is easy and pleasant. In winter, it's hopeless. I need light. To this end I've bought myself a daylight alarm. The alarm starts lighting up about 4.20, reaches maximum light at 4.50 when the birds tweeting sound comes on. Unfortunately, I slept right through it today and woke properly at 5.17. Still made it to the gym though - only just. On the plus side, I think this alarm clock might have a positive effect on mood.