MOST of us remember the World War song that began with these words, and most of us frankly or reluctantly admit that the words quite aptly fit ourselves. We secretly envy and at times resent those rare individuals who hop gaily out of bed at the first tinkle of the alarm clock if they use one at all and blithely go about the business of setting up exercises, bathing and dressing, bubbling over with bright remarks and song. We doubly resent and envy them if they boast of the fact that they require only five or six hours of sleep a night.
It really is a waste of thought and emotion, for if you but observe the five hours through the day, you’d be almost sure to find out that they are unwittingly misrepresenting themselves. They usually fall into one of two groups. The first group comprises those who, while it is true that they sleep little at night, have a remarkable facility for dozing at odd intervals during the day, stealing little cat-naps in church, after meals, at the movies, even in subways, trains or automobiles. If you could keep accurate account of these naps, you’d find that, all in all, the five hour sleepers actually sleep more than the eight hours. Most of the members of the second group have an abundant amount of what is popularly called “nervous energy.” They work and play with intensity and never seem to relax. At regular intervals they find it necessary to take a prolonged vacation or a rest cure. And. they are only too ready to assure you that the reason why they need the rest is not because they need sleep, but because they have worked harder than any one at the office, or in the home.
The truth of the matter is that nature has endowed all animal life with the faculty of sleeping, and for very definite reasons. It is during sleep that poisonous, toxic substances are given off; it is during sleep that most of the building and repairing of tissues takes place; and it is during sleep that we are afforded a surcease from mental cares.
Hence to try to avoid sleep is sheer folly, if we have any regard for health. Moreover, we must get the same amount of sleep every night. We may slip up on our daily ration of vitamins or calories, we may slip up on our daily bath now and then, and make up for it later without any ill effects. But we cannot slip up on our quota of sleep without permanent effect, for science has proved that it is almost impossible to make up for a loss of sleep. While it has not been accurately determined, scientists say that it takes about two weeks to make up for a single hour of loss of sleep.
The first question usually asked when the problem of sleep is a topic of discussion is, How many hours of sleep should I get? There is no hard and fast rule to follow. It is up to you, as an individual, to discover the number of hours of sleep which help you to maintain your best health, and then stick to them. If you don’t know how much sleep you require in order to feel your best, do a little experimenting. Try sleeping an hour more for a week, or an hour less, and watch the results. If you get up feeling refreshed and are able to keep alert and cheerful during the day, you are in all probability getting enough sleep. On the other hand, if you get up feeling tired and groggy, and are “all in” towards the end of the day, you may be sure that you are not getting enough.
While no rule can be given that suits all, the proverbial eight hours seems to be adequate for most adults. Children, of course, require more, and very often elderly people feel better with a smaller number of hours of sleep, at night, at least. One’s general health, the mental and physical activity during the day, and one’s sex must all be taken into consideration. Robust persons usually require less sleep; hard workers need more than those who take life easily; and women usually require more sleep than men.
The second question that is often debated is, When is the best time to sleep? Night, of course, is the best time. In another chapter we have learned how vitally necessary sunshine is for good health so there is no need to expand on the subject here. But there are other reasons. The cool fresh night air is more conducive to sleep than the air of the day. Besides, it is usually quieter at night. There are many individuals, of course, who claim that they cannot sleep before the small hours of the morning, and many particularly writers and others who do creative mental work claim that they are actually more “inspired” at night than during the day. This is largely due to habit and the habit can be broken more easily than they imagine. If they would but get up at seven o’clock for a few mornings, they would soon find that no inspiration came to them after ten o’clock and would be only too willing to retire shortly after.
The third question is, How can I get the most restful sleep? There is no mystery about a restful sleep it is within the reach of all normally healthful persons and of most persons who are not so fortunate.
First of all, never try to sleep immediately after a heavy meal you’ll be sure to toss through many precious hours, or to dream. On the other hand, don’t go to bed hungry. In another chapter we shall learn why. Suffice to say here, that a glass of warm milk or beef tea, or dish of a light prepared cereal is conducive to sleep because it stops the hunger contractions of the stomach and draws the excess blood away from the brain.
Secondly, be as relaxed mentally and physically as possible. This is easier than you might imagine. Frequently it only requires a little will power. As soon as you start undressing, drop all unpleasant and exciting thoughts. Make your body as limp as possible just as your favorite athlete does when he isn’t performing and undress slowly and rhythmically. Those who own radios frequently find that soft, low music helps to put them in the right frame of mind. Some find that a warm bath is relaxing, and others that a long, skin temperature bath, especially in summer, is even more relaxing. If none of these measures bring sleep and in most cases they surely should after you get in bed, for a very few minutes, try working on a crossword puzzle’ or reading a very short story. This should be used only as a last resort, however, for it brings the blood up to your head again and, moreover, is apt to strain your eyes.
Third, sleep in a comfortable bed. Some prefer hard beds, others soft, but generally speaking a moderately soft bed is more restful. And sleep alone. It is seldom that two persons can sleep together in the same bed without one at least suffering for it, although he or she may not be aware of it. This does not necessarily imply separate rooms.
In the fourth place, don’t sleep in a cold room unless you have plenty of blankets. Cold produces a disturbed sleep. Similarly an over-heated room or too many blankets produces a restless sleep as well as heavy head in the morning.
This naturally leads to the all important question of ventilation. It is particularly during the hours of sleep that fresh, pure air is needed, for it is then, as you will recall, that Nature is busiest repairing, building up and ridding the body of poisonous wastes. For this work she calls for larger supplies of oxygen to keep up the internal fires, but her efforts at repairing waste are rendered futile if you diminish the supply of the vitalizing element fresh air and compel her to use over and over again the refuse material she has already cast off.
In spite of the amount of literature devoted to sanitary matters, it is astonishing how little is understood of the principles of ventilation and its supreme importance to the general welfare. We do not refer, of course, to ventilation in its broadest scientific sense, such as the securing of an adequate air supply in large auditoriums, but to the simple, fundamental principles of the science, with which every intelligent adult should be familiar. How many heads of families, for instance, can intelligently ventilate a sleeping room?
We would be quite safe in replying, very few. Most persons think that all that is necessary is a wide-open window. This is far from the truth. This method only permits the entrance of a certain amount of fresh air, but it does not allow the stale air, laden with carbon dioxide expelled from the lungs, to pass out of the room, except, perhaps, on a very windy night. This is because there is no circulation of the air. On the other hand, if a window is open two inches on the bottom, and about the same amount on the top, a circular current of air is set up. The fresh air enters the lower opening and the stale air, which is lighter, leaves through the upper opening. Cross ventilation, that is, windows open on opposite sides of a room, may achieve the same effect, but care must be taken that you are not sleeping in the draught often produced by this method.
And now we come to the last rule to be observed for a restful sleep, and oddly enough, it is usually the last one most persons think of, although it is of supreme importance. Do not try to get a good night’s rest unless you have rid your body of the poisonous wastes clogging your intestines, which should have been eliminated during the day. When you think of the number of hours that you lie in bed, hours during which the toxic substances are being absorbed into the blood stream, the necessity for a clean intestinal tract is obvious. If you haven’t had your regular daily evacuations, may we suggest that you take a J. B. L. Internal Bath before retiring? Not only will you have a restful, soothing sleep, but you will awake in the morning feeling fresh and sparkling, for the poisonous wastes clogging your intestines have not been absorbed, but have been eliminated.