How much do you sleep each night?
I have always considered one of the blessings bestowed on me by the good-Lord-above to be an ability to exist on very little sleep.
For most of my life, it hasn’t only been exist, but to thrive and feel little or no repercussions from sleeping five to six hours a night. It certainly served me well in college and during most of my working career. All-nighters weren’t so hard, as long as I didn’t have several in a row. Of course there is always a difference in “productive” all-nighters and those at the end of a long night of partying, but that’s a different discussion.
As a young mother, my husband – a strict eight-to-nine hour man with a nice nap thrown in if possible – and I were able to split the baby feeding/rocking/why-the-heck-won’t-you-sleep days between us. I had no problems with the late night ones. He took the mornings with a happy outlook.
Today, with my own business and a schedule that is more my own than ever before, I still find myself scheduling early morning appointments while knowing I will be unable to fall asleep until well-past midnight.
Yesterday, at physical therapy for my still-healing leg, the lady on the table next to me was telling her therapist that she was just too tired to do much on her own. She had not been able to sleep the night before, she said, but then had fallen into a deep sleep at 6 a.m., missed an appointment and upset the whole day. And, she was still tired.
Now I know that we PT patients will say about anything to get out of doing our exercises. We certainly prefer getting the therapist to stretch us out and put those wonderful hot compresses on us to doing bridges, treadmills and leg-lifts. But this benchmate did look tired, and she yawned a few times.
I had a feeling she was longing for that stolen sleep she had experienced that morning after the alarm. I firmly believe the BEST sleep – especially if you don’t sleep the suggested seven to nine hours per night – is stolen sleep.
Stolen sleep is that wonderful sleep you fall headlong into right after the alarm goes off. It is that sleep you get under the hairdryer, during a boring webinar or sitting in the passenger’s seat while someone else drives. I have fallen asleep at my computer, and those 10 to 15 minutes were better than most of the hours leading up to morning.
“Recommended” sleep varies by age, with newborns and babies requiring the most. Older adults, defined by the National Sleep Foundation as anyone 65 years old and older, require the least. Babies to age three months need 14 to 17 hours, NSF says. Older adults can do just fine on seven to eight.
Matter of fact, NSF also says that while less than five hours isn’t a good idea for older adults, neither is sleeping more than nine hours.
Since I’m convinced that stolen sleep counts double, I think I may be in the right sleep range for the first time in my life.
I think that when I finally completely retire, I will still set my alarm each morning. The stolen sleep I can get after it goes off will be sweet sleep indeed.
Sherri Gardner Howell, a former features writer and manager at the News Sentinel and publisher at Blount Today, has been writing about family life for newspapers and magazines since 1987. She lives in West Knoxville, is married to Neville Howell and has two sons and three grandsons.