DEBORAH CROMBIE: Imagine my surprise when I opened up the Parade magazine in my Sunday paper a week ago and there on the cover was Ariana Huffington (founder of the enormously successful Huffington Post website) propped up in bed in mauve silk pajamas. And she is reading (or at least holding) a real book! So what's with that? I wondered.
She's touting SLEEP, that's what. And I am 100% in her camp. After a collapse from exhaustion in 2007, Huffington has become a sleep advocate. And, boy, do we need one. We Americans are a sleep-deprived nation. 35% of the respondents polled by Parade reported getting less than five hours of sleep! We pride ourselves on working long hours, on being able to function fueled by caffeine, and even when we do get to bed, we don't turn off. (How many of you sleep with your cell phones, with the computer on in the same room, or with the TV on? According to research, the electronic glow disrupts the body's production of melantonin, which promotes sleep.)
But the truth is that no one functions well when they are sleep deprived, and most of us need a
good bit more than we get. I know I can't write when I'm tired--my brain feels like glue. I've learned from experience that, like Ariana Huffington, I do best on a solid eight hours of sleep. I can manage on seven (hopefully with a nap,) but on six hours or less, I am useless.
What does Ariana recommend? Her routine sounds like my idea of heaven: she turns off all her devices, takes a hot, scented, candle-lit bath, puts on her (lovely) silk pajamas, and reads from a real, non-digital book. Sigh. I sometimes do some of these things. (No silk p.j.s, alas.) But I do try to take baths, because a) it's nice, and b) I know I always sleep better when I do. (I even make my own bath salts.) I turn off my computer, and although I do sometimes read on
my tablet, I've installed a blue light filter to cut down the electronic glow.
So, fellow REDS, do you know your sleep I.Q.? And what are your tricks for getting enough shut-eye?
LUCY BURDETTE: I wish I could function on 5 hours, but it's so not true. Part of my problem comes from the fact my office nook is part of the bedroom. In fact, I've been known to spend the day writing in bed. Which is terrible sleep hygiene, not to mention murder on my tendinitis. Still searching for the magic sleep bullet...
I wondered what effect electronic reading would have on sleep. Have you noticed a difference with the blue light filter Debs?
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: No problem getting to sleep--I am so lucky about it, I can sleep anywhere. Plane, chair, anywhere. Of course, that probably means I am tired all the time, but we'll just skip that. I stay up too late, go to sleep about midnight usually and get up at 7. I read a book-book in bed, usually manage about three pages. I mean--that's fine, right? But no computer in the room, not even my phone, no TV on. I'd adore to be able to manage on five hours--think of all I could get done! (And that's why I love to fly west-I get three whole extra hours of time, which is so fabulous!) But if I have fewer than 6 hours of sleep I can really feel it. And I can see it in my face, too, when I am too tired. Can't you tell the difference, just by looking at yourself?
DEBS: Lucy, I haven't read anything on my tablet with the blue light filter, so I will keep you posted on that. Rick swears by it. He has it on his iPad, his computer, and even his phone. It's cool because you can see it change right at sunset.
Hank, I think that is one of the worst things about getting older--it shows (eee gad) when you're tired. I stayed up too late reading last night (the downfall of all good sleep intentions...) and I just looked at myself in the mirror a few minutes ago and thought, "Are those caves under my eyes? And why is my face sagging???)
RHYS BOWEN: I need my sleep and I often battle sleep problems when I'm writing. I can fall asleep easily enough but when I wake at two in the morning I cant stop thinking. Wait, she would never have said that when the police questioned her.... and then my brain is racing and I am doomed to stare at the ceiling for hours. I do sometimes read a real book, but if there is something I really want to see on TV, I stay up past my sleep window and then I can't sleep. I bought a fitness tracker that monitors sleep and was interested to see that on good nights I sleep for four hours without stirring, wake then sleep four more. On bad nights doze wake doze wake.
I don't work in the bedroom. I keep my iPad beside the bed but I don't look at it before going to sleep. Any tips on what to do if you wake in the middle of the night?
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Rhys, my doctor said if I couldn't get back to sleep within twenty to thirty minutes, to get out of bed, leave the room, and do some quiet, distracting work - read, work a jigsaw puzzle, knit. Something that absorbs your attention, but doesn't make you think too much.
When I hit menopause, I started to have a terrible time staying asleep. I improved my sleep hygine: no electronic devices in the my bedroom, no reading books in bed (that's a killer for me because I WILL NOT put a book down when I'm into it) same routine every night. I'm still bad about hitting a regular bedtime, which I really need to do, because, like Debs, I'm useless for writing without eight good hours of sleep.
I have to tell you, though the magic bullet for me was Trazadone. I wasn't big on the idea of taking a pill to sleep, but my MD asked me to try it and it changed my life. It doesn't knock you out, but it enables you to stay asleep throughout the night and slip back into sleep if you rouse because you're too hot or too cold or the G.D. cat takes a stroll over your chest. I swear by it. Oh, and my beloved black velvet sleep mask, of course!
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I love sleep — and it's not illegal, immoral, or fattening! Naps — bliss! I think there's something about novel writing that really uses a ton of brain energy. I had dinner with Karin Slaughter this past May, and it turns out she's an unrepentant sleeper — ten full hours at night and a good two-hour nap in the afternoon. Hearing her say that made me feel so much better about needing so much sleep myself.
DEBS: Wow! Ten hours AND a two-hour nap in the afternoon? That's amazing, Susan. (But when does she read???) And Julia, I applaud your self discipline with the "no books in bed" rule. I've read last thing at night since I was a child, and it's the one thing I always do, even if it's only a few pages. It's my fixed point of comfort, and the anticipation of it has seen me through many less than
(I just added the guy here because he was cute. My excuse is that Ariana recommends real alarm clocks...)
Readers, what about you? Do you know how much sleep you need? And what do you do to get it?