Friday, January 18, 2008


I think I spend more time thinking about sleep than I spend actually sleeping.

I was on my way to work yesterday morning, and NPR had an interesting story about sleep. Basically, it said that we don't sleep enough, we don't sleep as much as we used to, and we're suffering because of it.

Some data (By the way, "data" is plural. Anyone who tells you otherwise should be forced to spend eternity fellating Donald Trump.) about sleep habits:

Although it is hard to get real statistics about how much people slept in different periods of history, there are some pretty good indications that even five decades ago, people slept much longer on average.

Van Cauter notes that the National Cancer Society surveyed more than a million Americans in 1960 and found that people said they got an average of eight-and-a-half hours of sleep.

This was, of course, in a time period when television stations went off the air by midnight, and there were few late-night diversions, like online shopping.

Van Cauter says most surveys today put the average sleep time of Americans at six or seven hours.

"The data is limited, but they strongly suggest that over the past four or five decades, sleep duration has decreased by one and a half to two hours," she says.

None of this information is news to me, of course. I know I don't sleep enough, and unlike the people who claim to thrive on too little sleep, I can tell that I'm not at my best when I'm running on five hours or less. (Seriously, though: 8.5 hours? I would be in heaven if I could consistently get seven hours.) I'm not sure that "late-night diversions" are the main culprit, though. Over the same number of years, the amount of time people spend at work has increased, as has the average commute. I feel entitled to a certain amount of awake time, and it's gotta come from somewhere. If I'm at work until 6:30 and home at 7:30 (traffic is horrid around here, even at 7), and then I have a shower and horizontal quality time until 9 or so and then we have dinner, I'm not really on me time until 10. The schedule is different when the kids are over, but I'm still doing dishes or helping with homework or getting the shit kicked out of me on Mario Kart (words cannot express how inferior I am to my children on this game) until pretty late.

I have friends who lament the amount of time they spend alone. Maybe I'm not as sympathetic as I should be because I'm so rarely alone, but don't people enjoy their own company any more? I like the people I work with, and I love the people I spend time with when I'm not at work, but I would dearly love to have enough time to myself to justify, say, a Netflix subscription.

Sleep ought to be the ultimate me time. Even if there's another body in the bed with you, you're always alone with your dreams. (By the way, how great would it be if you could program your dreams in advance? Can someone at Comcast get on that?) Unfortunately, b&c and I are not so much compatible when it comes to the sleeping environment. He wants to sleep on a rock. I want to sleep on a cloud. He's impervious to light. I want complete darkness. And, frankly, he's not all that sympathetic to the notion that different people inherently have different needs. The bedroom windows have fairly thin curtains, and then there are half-circle windows over the main windows, and they have no curtains or blinds at all. He thinks that's terrific because "it lets in so much light!" Our ancestors slept in caves for a reason, dude. With the possible exception of photographing restrained submissives, there isn't a lot that I do in the bedroom that requires much light. I can turn on a lamp at night to read or in the morning to make sure that my clothes match. And I can find all of the interesting parts of a man without any visual input whatsoever.

The firmness issue is thornier still. Right now, we've compromised by having me double up a memory foam topper on my half of the bed. B&c thinks it's silly, but I appreciate getting through the day without back pain. It's still kind of awkward to sleep a few inches above the main surface.

The point is, while I often want to go to bed, I rarely want to go to sleep. In part because of not enough time and in part because I don't have the greatest of sleeping environments. EFU will be heading back to college this weekend, though, and I suspect that I'll start sleeping in her room. (This would also allow us to fuck on a bed that's all at the same level.) My old bed's in there, and I have two memory foam toppers to go on top of it. And there's only one relatively small window with thick curtains. I may never get up again.

By the way, NPR also reported that there's some evidence that humans used to sleep in shifts. That is, there was an early first sleep of four hours or so and a later second sleep of similar duration. In between, there'd be a period of quiet wakefulness. Now that sounds like heaven, especially if you can have a quiet shag during your period of quiet wakefulness. I may spend more time fantasizing about sleeping boys than I spend dreaming. One of my most enduring erotic daydreams involves walking into the bedroom where a man likes sleeping on his stomach, his ass an open invitation. I'd go into more detail, but, you know, I'm pretty tired.


Will said...

When it comes to mattress firmness, Fritz is you and B&c is me. But I'm adjusting. Fritz says one of the advantages of a soft mattress is that it throws two men together in the middle of the bed. I know this is true because I've gotten molested at 3:30am with some frequency at close range.

By the way, you CAN program your dreams in advance, sort of.

When I was designing at MIT, the head of the theater section was involved with an experiment called dreamworks with a man named Robert Bosnak, a Jungian psychoanalyst (you can Google him). The idea was to solve problems or stimulate creative approaches to porteaying characters on stage by "seeding" themes or suggestions in the brain before sleep.

I did a session with them (her name is Janet Sonenberg--they both have dream books out now) and warned them beforehand that for several years I had been unable to remember any part of any dreams I presumably had. After three nights of "seeding", I had a vivid and splendid dream that led to the set design for the production Janet was directing at the time. And ever since the exercise, I have remembered my dreams in detail.

Offered for what it's worth.

D-Man said...

You know, I haven't been able to work since New Year's Day because of my thumb mangling. Now I have been getting too much sleep everyday (because I can), and it actually makes me feel pretty crappy.

And holy fuck - the 4th picture down (thin guy, hairy legs, big low-hangers...) makes me salivate.