Sleep early, rise early. That's wise, but are we listening?

Friend's husband, an artist, said he was perfectly able to cope with two hours, even though his norm was not so much two as four, "max five hours".

By Nivriti Butalia

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Published: Sun 13 Jan 2019, 7:00 PM

Last updated: Sun 13 Jan 2019, 9:40 PM

One morning, wide awake, I was reading up on sleep.
The previous evening, I had some friends over to demolish leftover biryani, and towards the end of the evening, we started talking about sleep. It was nearing my bed time.
Sitting at the dining table, we discussed who slept how much. Husbands and wives fact-checked each other's fibs. "I don't know how he lasts on two hours of sleep," my friend said of her husband.
Friend's husband, an artist, said he was perfectly able to cope with two hours, even though his norm was not so much two as four, "max five hours". He didn't need to sleep more, he said, and chalked it down to a childhood habit of early starts.
His wife, used to nine hours, shook her head, used phrases like chronic sleep debt and said she was worried about his brain.
From all this sleep talk, a renewed curiosity had sprung in my mind about sleep patterns, circadian rhythms, deep sleep versus REM sleep, and so on. Hence the research.
A sleep expert, Matthew Walker, said in an article in the Financial Times that people are stunned when he tells them how long it takes for caffeine to leave the system: 24 to 36 hours. Yiikes! Just as well I abandoned my habit of a shot of Italian dark roast at 5pm, I thought. But then aren't there enough annoying people who claim to be impervious to the effects of caffeine and routinely chug a black coffee post dinner?
I read with great interest the other views of Walker. He advocates waking up at the same time every day. And not lying in bed if you aren't feeling sleepy. He said something like, you don't go sit at a dinner table waiting to get hungry, do you? Same rationale. Apparently, the brain is a sharp associative device and if you toss around in bed not sleeping, it'll make the connection between bed and wakefulness. You don't want that.
Walker wrote a book called Why We Sleep. It came out in 2017. For anyone interested, read the reviews. From what I glean, he does a good job of dumbing down the science into palatable pop-sized portions for average joes like you and I to grasp.
I listened, fascinated to another expert, the author of The Circadian Code, Dr Satchidananda Panda. In his 2017 TED talk, Dr Panda said this catchy line: "The current idea of taking care of your health by counting calories and counting steps is just prehistoric." The man not only talked about the importance of adhering to your circadian rhythm (body's natural clock), but also about 'time-restricted feeding'.
I was listening to him and thinking, this is just the thing that most of us in the UAE (and plenty of other places, frankly), seem to be clueless about. Listen to the talk. It might influence you to stop grazing around the clock. Give your system a break from digesting the junk you put in it. He talks about how diseases can be curbed by some of these fairly simple guidelines. I was so inspired, I sent a bunch of these links to my friend whose husband doesn't need an alarm clock. He just wakes up on his own at 4.45 am.

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