In our fast-paced, multi-tasked, always lit world, we have forgotten the luxury of sleep. Of course there have been several studies in the past few years that tell us the costs of our lack of sleep (just see this list of TED Talks), which range from decreased attention and reaction times to losing IQ points and possibly affecting our lifespan. In the face of all the science, why do we then persist at this crazed pace?
I read this article from the New York Times and it reminded me of something a few years ago. Back in 2009, we had a terrible ice storm hit the town I lived in. My apartment was without power for over a week (if memory serves). I was working at a hospital at the time, so I went to work during the day and was able to stay warm there. Then after work I would go to a friend’s house who had power to take a shower, eat, and hang out for a little while. Afterwards, I would slowly drive home on the icy roads, light a bunch of tea candles in my living room, and cuddle up with my kitty cats under a ton of blankets on the couch (I had closed off the bedrooms to try to conserve the little bit of heat created by the candles). During this time of darkness and candle light, I got the best sleep I’d had in years! I was in bed and asleep by 8:00 – 8:30 pm and sleeping until 6:00 am. It was delicious, luxurious, and utterly comforting. After the electricity was restored to my apartment, I put the candles away and quickly went back to my old ways.
A few years later I read this article from the BBC about how historically people typically slept in two four-hour cycles. That makes sense to me! I’ve had to take medication to sleep throughout the night for years and I hate it. Without the meds I tend to stay awake till 2:00 am, sleep for four or five hours and then I’d just get up. The meds help me fall asleep faster and sleep longer, though I still tend to sleep less than most folks I know. So when I went on a week-long vacation to a CCC-built stone cabin in the Ozarks, I stopped taking my sleep meds to see what happened. Around the second or third night I actually did fall into the sleep pattern the study had found: sleeping four hours, waking up for a couple of hours, then falling asleep for four more. It was really nice. Of course, I went back to my meds and my regular schedule when I went back to work. In order to do the 4-2-4 sleep cycle, I’d need to go to bed around 8:00 pm. But this wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t have electric lights and electronic devices to light my nights and keep my mind buzzing.
Historically, people paid much more attention to their dreaming life. The Heimskringla, amongst other bits of lore, is filled with dreams and dream interpretations which foretold events or gave insight. Clearly our ancestors had a rich dream life. But how can we, as modern Heathens, reconstruct the richness of the dreaming world of our ancestors if we do not get quality sleep?
Yesterday my hubby, an old friend who surprised us with a Yule visit, and I went to look at a piece of property my hubby and I are hoping to buy. It’s 14 acres in the rolling Appalachian foothills. We plan on putting a couple of tiny houses around the property, one possibly without electricity and running water. I am really looking forward to that place! To have a small cabin, tucked away in the woods, with nothing but trees and livestock around, sounds like a sleeping and dreaming haven!