Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Sleep Studies

So, tonight I'm going in to get a sleep study done. It's actually something I've gone through before, so when I was reading the book Dreamland a few months ago and he describes it like this strange and other-worldly thing, it was kind of amusing.

It does seem weird when it's written out. You sleep in a random room in a lab, with a bunch of wires sticking out of your head, and monitors all over the place. But it wasn't all that strange the first time around for me, it felt like sleeping in a hotel. The part that was really weird, for me anyway, was that there was somebody watching on a monitor. Though they explained to me they only start watching when you're actually asleep, since they can tell the difference on all the other equipment.

What interests me though is that this has become such an industry. I think it means something greater that there are so many sleep clinics and doctors specializing in it, because so many people have problems. Technically, what most people are being tested for is sleep apnea (which is, incidentally, what I was being tested for and despite a negative result what I have to go in to prove again tonight). On the one hand, there's an increased awareness that leads to increased testing and diagnosis. It's not so much that the rates are rising but that we're figuring it out. This is true of a lot of diseases that are getting a lot of attention these days.

But at the same time, I think there's a large degree of this being a result of our cult of tiredness and caffeine that we've nurtured in the modern world. It's a point of pride how little sleep we've gotten, and how much coffee it takes to make us human. We have little competitions every day with co-workers about who is more exhausted, like it means something.

In our world, being more tired and needing more coffee is a sign of strength instead of weakness, when it should be the opposite. But we value work over sleep because it shows self-sacrifice and putting other things over our own comfort. People are addicted to caffeine in a way that would land them in rehab if it were any other substance, but instead we praise them and brag about how we need even more coffee than that. And what's worse is that our bosses expect this of us, and exhausting yourself is praised and rewarded on that level too.

It's a topic that I get angry about pretty often, but I think in general we'd all be healthier and happier if we just got eight hours of sleep a night. I get why people don't, because they're busy and there are only so many hours in the day. I have insomnia, I understand that part. But what I'm struggling with now is convincing myself to value eight hours asleep more than I do other things, to make it a priority over working, or writing, or reading, or watching something I want to see. I don't know how to do that, to make going to bed and sleeping more important than almost anything else.

But the way our society treats rest and sleep certainly isn't helping me, because I feel like everybody else would start judging me harshly if I started saying "I'm sorry, but I go to bed at 11 p.m. every night, even weekends, because it's important."

I know it's wishing for too much in wanting the world to change. But I can't help thinking we'd be healthier and happier if we did.