Previous post: Chronotypes and B-people
Dreams can be a great inspiration. The Catalan painter Salvador Dali got some of the ideas for his surreal paintings from his practice of balancing a spoon on the edge of a glass, so that when he drifted off to sleep, the spoon would fall inside, whereupon he would awaken and furiously sketch the images of his subconscious. Dali, it can be fairly said, was a painter of the rich, unusual dream world of sleep.
Standardization vs. the Siesta
After the EU was founded, bureaucrats in Brussels worked on drafting laws and policies that could be implemented across the member nations. This proved to be more difficult that expected because in some cases what they were trying to legislate and change were cultural traditions. In Spain, the EU’s effort at political and economic standardization impacted sleep as they tried to do away with the siesta, a cultural tradition based largely on the demands of climate. There has long been a misconception (coming principally from the colder countries in Europe) that because the Spanish take a siesta, they are lazy. In addition to being untrue, this is to misunderstand the Spanish siesta entirely. The Spanish work as much (and in some cases more) than most other Europeans, they simply keep a different schedule, one that is timed to avoid the heat. The Spanish go to work in the morning just like everyone else, but take a nap, or siesta after lunch, which also happens to be the hottest part of the day. A few hours later they head back to to their jobs and work later than their EU counterparts, before taking a late dinner and going out at night. As a result, the Spanish sleep less at night than citizens of other countries in the EU: time that is made up in the siesta.
How Did You Sleep?
Sleeping well is about developing good sleep habits, creating a comfortable space, and eliminating distractions. Determine your chronotype and try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Exercise regularly. Don’t use the computer, work, or watch television just before going to bed, the light will delay your circadian rhythm. Sleep in a cool room, the temperature change will activate your melatonin production, which tells you when it is time to sleep. A snack an hour or so before bed can help you sleep. Some good foods for sleep are turkey, oatmeal, milk, apples, bananas, cheese, and granola. Combining dairy with fruit and cereal gives you carbohydrates, some protein, and calcium to improve your body’s absorption of tryptophan and stimulate melatonin production. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and fatty, salty, sugary, acidic or spicy foods, as these can all keep you awake . Sleep in a quiet, dark room. Use blackout curtains to block outdoor, ambient light, and wear earplugs if necessary. If possible, keep the bedroom a bedroom: don’t use it as an office, or read or watch television in bed. Try to keep the room free of electronic devices and other distractions . Also, sleep on a good mattress. Finally, listen to your body and sleep when you are tired. Otherwise, sleep experts recommend that if you’re having trouble falling asleep, repeat an emotionally neutral word at irregular intervals; this will quiet your mind and keep it occupied until zzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Sleep and Modern Life
While the trend these days is to measure and record our every output and action with a device or app, to optimize our performance and become ever more efficient, we need to remember that we are human beings, not machines, with the biological need to sleep and the ability to dream. In a digitally-connected world, it seems easy to forget that we are in charge of technology, not the reverse, and that only when we turn off the power, can we enter the world of our dreams and enjoy the sleep we need.