Science explains how to make the most of your slumbers
DONALD A. LAIRD
CHARLES G. MULLER
How much of tha( going toastp*
Do you wear nigh&hîft, pyjamas — or nothing at all ?
Do you read in ifed
Do you take a midni^hjf^nack?
Are yoiy bedroom walls red?
Do you know why women sleep better than men?
Science says the answers Co these questions arc all important.
HUMAN BEINGS can go for more than two months without food and recover, hut one week without sleep will kill any of us. We all know that even one night without sleep destroys muscular co-ordination, causes an almost unbearable irritability, and makes mental work nearly impossible. Two sleepless nights disorganize our entire physical lx*ing, and seventy-two consecutive waking hours are about the conscious limit of human endurance. But few people ever experience such a sleep loss as this, and, interesting though the effects may be, most of us are more concerned with the question of how to sleep soundly 365 nights a year.
I low can a wife who requires many blankets to keep warm rest comfortably in the same bed with a husband who likes almost no covering? How can one settle into peaceful slumber with a nxnn-mate who will start an argument or discuss the evening’s bridge hands just before switching off the lights? Is it [x>s$ible to sleep well in the midst of noise? How much harm dcx*s il do an early sleeper to have some one elst* come into the room later, turn on the light, open and shut closet doors, and finally creak into bed? And is the annoyance of these disturbances as harmful as the noise itself? These are the kind of common, every-night sleep problems on which most of us want help.
How much sleep is actually necessary? Is an hour in bed lx4 fore midnight worth two after? Does coffee keep one awake? Is it wise to eat before turning in? I low about a hot bath? Does evervlxxly dream? And are fresh air enthusiasts who insist on a freezing outdoor temperature in their txdrooms as right in their theories on this point as they think they are?
Por the past nine years, the Sleep laboratory at Colgate University has been seeking practical answers to such questions. By experimenting on the sleep of "human guinea
pigs," by investigating the sleep habits of hundreds of college girls, by making exhaustive canvasses among "average Americans" in typical small cities, by having physicians keep records of their patients’ rest, and by investigating and tabulating the sleep habits of hundreds of judges, government executives and other prominent men and women, we have discovered a good deal about that mysterious state of suspended bodily activity which we call sleep.
The practical information that we have gathered from the testimony of these thousands of people has been checked in the Sleep Laboratory by instruments which record the bltxxl pressure of sleepers, their muscular tension, the fatigue recovery of sleep, and the general co-ordination of the body before and after sleep.
Quality and Quantity of Sleep
HOW many hours in bed each night are the ideal standard for the average person, and what can he do to achieve perfect rest? These questions have been asked us many times since we started to blaze a trail to better sleep. Well, the perfect sleeper, scientifically speaking, is as difficult to find as the proverbial needle in a haystack, and in all our years of investigation we have recorded just one night of model rest.
This was accomplished by a young woman who. by all laboratory and normal human standards, slept 100 per cent. She had no difficulty going to sleep, did not toss or approach consciousness during the night, had no dreams, and in the morning she waked quickly without feeling tired or irritable. But she was sleeping under supervised conditions when she made her record. For the average person in ordinary home surroundings, it is even more difficult to achieve a night of perfect rest. If you wish to enjoy the best possible sleep, you must first give yourself the hest possible sleeping environment.
And what is the best possible sleeping environment? Well, first of all a nx>m that is completely free of noise and light. Next, a bed that is not too hard nor too soft, that is wide enough to let you move freely, and whose covers are so long, so wide and so light that they will not hinder the easy natural movements of your hxxly. Then you must ventilate your room, but its temperature must not be too low. And the color of your bedroom should be soothing and restful. These are some of the things that will contribute to your best repose.
Probably the oldest scientifically verified fact about slumber is that it takes more noise to wake you at the end of the first hour than it takes at any succeeding one. This fact had become known at a time when scientists believed depth to be sleep’s most important element, and this period of deep sleep during the first hour gave substance to the popular saying that an hour in bed before midnight is worth two after.
Practically our first laboratory work was to investigate this depth-of-sleep theory. The experiments soon showed that, while it was quite true that the first hour of sleep was the deepest, the conclusions drawn from this were misleading. Because, despite the fact that the ordinary individual sleeps more lightly in the second and succeeding hours, he also is more relaxed at that time. This relaxation, we discovered, was a sign of low bodily activity and low bodily activity is a vital element of good sleep.
Our findings clearly demonstrated that quality of sleep is more important than depth, that how well you sleep is more important than how heavily or how long. And it is with this quality of sleep, as well as with quantity, that we have been concerned ever since. Let us consider, then, how you can get the best quality of sleep rather than merely the largest quantity.
Observations in many walks of life, verified by our Colgate
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tests, show that physical exercise before bedtime makes it harder for you to drop off. causes you to wake more frequently during the night, and leaves you drowsier than usual in the morning. Whereas mental tiredness before bedtime does not have these effects. The less you are disturbed emotionally when you go to bed. the greater are your chances for better than average sleep. People who look forward to the next day with displeasure are apt to sleep slightly below par. These sometimes are difficult factors to control. but if you can keep them in hand you assuredly will sleep better.
About fifty per cent of adult men and women wake occasionally during the night and, as you grow older, you will wake more often. Careful investigation has shown that a chief cause of this wakefulness is either wrong food or too little food in the stomach. Pangs of hunger very definitely will cut into the quality of your rest and. if sufficiently pronounced, even will wake you. Reluctant rising in the morning, lazy afternoons, continual sleepiness—these frequently are caused by general tissue hunger. This is perfectly logical when you think about it. Four hours after a meal, your stomach is empty. Yet you probably let fourteen hours elapse between your evening meal and breakfast.
No Ham in Midnight Snacks
WE HAVE found that an easily digested late supper or a sweetened warm drink before retiring will improve your rest, midnight snacks being all right if you eat food that will not later cause distress.
The main point is: By delaying hunger contractions in your stomach, you get to sleep quicker and sleep more soundly.
The deeper we probe, the more we are convinced that, except in the cases of a few sensitive individuals, ordinary amounts of coffee and tea with the evening meal probably are not a cause of sleeplessness. Exciting evening activities are more apt to be at fault. When such stimulation continues right up to bedtime, a warm tub bath will be very soothing and will help induce slumber. But a warm or hot bath taken as a regular nightly habit will do little good or little harm.
People frequently write to ask what kind of bed will bring most and best sleep. That topic always will start an argument among men and women who are interested in their sleep. One man will be sure that “a good hard bed that doesn’t throw you” is the best; another will be enthusiastic for a medium bed, and women are likely to favor a truly soft and downy couch. All are right, within limits, because much depends on the weight of the person involved.
What is a medium hard bed for a woman of 100 pounds will be far too soft for a 250pound man. Individual experience as well as our own laboratory experiments prove this. The ideal seems to be:
A wide bed that will let you move without restriction. A spring that supports in part and gives in part, instead of merely sagging like a hammock. A mattress that is neither too hard nor too soft for your weight, and that is light enough to be easily aired, cleaned and changed end for end. Covers that are light and warm, wide and long, so that you can move freely under them without opening holes through which cold air can creep and so force your body to “get up steam” to maintain its normal temperature.
Body temperature is important to good sleep, and is a matter which has made us change our ideas on the proper ventilation of bedrooms. Our experiments have proved that you should have fresh air, but never air so cold that to keep warm you need a great weight of blankets over you. Such weight disturbs the relaxation of your body. On the other hand, if your room is very cold and you do not have sufficient covering, your body is forced to do extra work in keeping up a normal temperature, and that
again prevents you from getting fullest benefit from your hours in bed. This can be true even if you are not conscious of feeling cold, for your body may be at work keeping you warm without your realizing it. And if you actually wake feeling cold, you can be perfectly sure your body has not had the most restful kind of night.
Noise is one of the chief enemies of sleep. Keep it out of vour bedroom and you unquestionably will sleep better. Our instruments have shown that even the slight sound made by a person walking past a bed on tiptoe will send a sleeper’s muscle tension almost to waking point. So that, i even though you don’t actually wake, a roommate coming to bed after you have turned in is materially injuring the quality of your rest. Many people find this hard to believe, yet our experiments prove it. ; Beyond any shadow of doubt, if you sleep in a neighborhood where trains and street cars pass, you are sleeping badly whether or not you are conscious of the heavy traffic. : Recurrent wakefulness at approximately the same hour each night may very well be due to a truck rumbling by your house on regular schedule. Light is another great sleep destroyer. Even rays from an automobile headlight outside your bedroom will ! disturb the repose of your body.
The color of your bedroom actually can affect the quality of your sleep, though not as materially as noise or temperature. You are awake when you undress, and the restfulness of a soothing wall tint like blue or green definitely will help to induce slumber. Numerous experiments in our laboratory and elsewhere have demonstrated this. In the morning, when summer light pours into ¡ the room and you are close to consciousness, a soothing color will make your dim waking hours more restful. A room of red or other brilliant hue will insidiously disturb you at I these times.
What you wear to bed also has a bearing on how you sleep. We have tested the comparative merits of pyjamas, nightshirt, and no bed clothing at all. The last proved to be the most conducive to good slumber, j But if you prefer to wear something, the' garment you choose can be a matter of personal predilection.
Do not worry about what sleeping position to take. You change it about every fifteen minutes anyway, more often in the summer. Your body instinctively will pick out the best position. Stomach, side or back? Let your sleeping self make the choice.
Candy Induces Sleep
MOST jTeople believe that dreaming cuts into the quality and quantity of sleep. But the recent carefully-planned studies of F. Kenneth Berrien at Colgate and Ohio State Universities have proved that seventyj five per cent of sleepers do not dream at all. J Men have been waked at all hours, only to reveal that three-quarters of their number do not recall a thing. When they do find themselves dreaming, it usually is just before waking. So do not worry too much about ¡ dreams cutting into your rest. They prob! ably have no ill effects. By and large, they I seem to be a sort of safety valve for people who work at uncongenial jobs or who are dissatisfied with their daily life. If you want to dream less, perhaps you should get a job or a home you like more !
The length of time that people spend in j bed varies from about twenty-three hours a ! day with new-born babies to eight hours a ; day for men and women of fifty. Most people over fifty years of age sleep slightly j more because they take daytime or evening ' naps. But always remember that the' number of hours you sleep at night is less : important than the quality of your slumber. How well you sleep counts very much more j than how long.
Last year we made experiments to find out whether women rest better than men, j and held what might be called an interi
collegiate good sleep contest. Colgate undergraduates and Skidmore College girls competed. Every day for several weeks nearly 300 of these young men and women reported in detail on 225 different aspects of their waking and sleeping. The girls won by a large margin. And the individual experiences of these 300 young jxxiple brought out two very interesting facts.
First, women sleep about fifteen per cent better than men. That is, they are less restless during the night, recall fewer dreams, find it easier to get up in the morning, and begin the new day feeling more refreshed. Second, women generally have less trouble going to sleep and staying asleep. And the reason? Chiefly, as this and later experiments indicated, because girls have a sweet tooth.
Women consume more carbohydrates than men. Careful investigations at Colgate and Skidmore show that they eat the equivalent of approximately seven spoonfuls of \ sugar every day, either on their cereal, in their coffee and tea, at the drug store, or from candy boxes. And as a result of such eating, they go to sleep quicker, wake less often during the night, and rest better than their brothers who eat less sugar. That surprising fact set us to work this year on a series of experiments dealing with the relation of food to sleep, experiments which brought forth some very interesting conclusions.
It is a generally accepted theory that in I sleep the human body replenishes the energy ; which it has used up during the day, and j our work at the Sleep Laboratory has proved this theory to be true. In order to discover ! to just what extent sleep does replenish energy, we have tried at Colgate to substitute energy-giving fixxis for sleep.
Every single contraction of our muscles expends energy, and the essential element for such muscular activity is glycogen, or blood sugar. Claude Bernard first found out ! about this in 1877. Glycogen is so important to the lxxly that under favorable conditions the human machine can convert as much as j seventy-five per cent of the used bkxxl ! sugar back into glycogen after it has been turned into muscular energy. Which, incidentally, is more than any man-made machine can do. Now, as carbohydrate hxxls are what the body uses to make this glycogen, we are justified in believing that carbohydrates are a primary, if not the sole,
I fuel for our muscles.
If carbohydrates make energy for the muscles, and if, as we believe, sleep also replenishes energy in the txxiy, is it possible to substitute one for the other? To determine this, we put dozens of subjects through all kinds of tests in the Sleep Laboratory. One of the most strenuous experiments was to keep individuals awake all night every Saturday night for two months. Half of this time they were provided with carbohydrate fixxis and drinks, while on the remaining nights we fed them -equally generously
on foods especially prepared to taste the same but to be practically free o carbohydrates.
The major findings of many months’ work in this field is that, if circumstances cause you to lose sleep or to sleep poorly, you can make up the energy your txxiy has failed to store through sleep by eating. How much can you make up? Well, you can compensate almost one-third.
Furthermore, if you cut out carbohydrates from your diet, you pare the value of your nightly rest by one or two hours. For a generous carbohydrate intake is equal to one or two hours sleep.
Which means that, by eating liberally of the foods which create muscle fuel, you reduce the length of time necessary for sleep to replenish that energy. To the extent of a couple of hours a night at least, you can substitute food for sleep.
That is well worth knowing. In an allnight bridge or poker session, you can eat freely of sweets and be more alert than your opponents when the pots grow large at the end of the game. Or, if you must leave home at daybreak to travel to an important business conference that will requite your best thought, you can at breakfast eat
enough carbohydrates to compensate for the hour of sleep you had to forego. Also, tiring week-ends can be made less fatiguing if you drink plenty of ginger ale and say “yes” to second helpings of dessert.
Your stomach will feel no ill effects from eating carbohydrates as long as you do not neglect the ordinary mineral, vitamin, protein and bulk fixxis. These help build your body, while carbohydrates make your muscles work. And carbohydrates are the easiest of fixxl stuffs to digest.
Calcium also has a beneficial effect on sleep. Scientists have discovered that when calcium is low in the lxxly, general irritability increases. Adequate calcium brings poise. The average adult needs one gram daily to avoid a more-than-is-desirable irritability, and yet most Americans get scarcely half of this. So calcium, added to the diet of the average family, will bring greater calmness and, by reducing your sensitiveness to outside stimuli, induce more restful sleep.
In adding calcium as such to your diet, you must at the same time eat an equal amount of phosphorous and adequate vitamin D or its equivalent. Dairy products, eggs and most fresh fruits provide these needed calcium partners. Which explains in part why grandfather, on the farm where he ate plenty of dairy products and fruits, slept better than do his clilf-dwelling offspring.
Effects of Too Little Sleep
VY 7TIAT practical difference does it make W to any one whether he gets much or little sleep? At Colgate we have tried time and time again in the laboratory to cut down the amount of time which people usually spend in bed to about seventy-five per cent. Invariably, the practical effect is to make the individuals under observation less able in their activities, whether work or play, during the following day. They lose muscular and mental speed, flexibility, and power to concentrate. That is exactly what executives lately have been dismayed to learn for themselves. Forced by business conditions to do the work of one-time subordinates, many a man who used to sleep only four or five hours when merely directing some one, now finds that he must get at least seven or eight hours of good, regular sleep.
Distinguished men—leaders in business, arts, science, theatre, government—notice definite ill effects from less than ordinary sleep just as do the rest of us who carry on the world’s work. And the personal experiences of hundreds of men in all fields of human endeavor bring out the rather surprising fact that these ill effects are felt most at thirty-five. After that age, the harm resulting from sleep loss decreases, although it is always present. Indeed, if loss of sleep were a benign disease, we could characterize it as a young person’s disease.
Sleep loss plays queer pranks on its victims. During one of our all-night sessions, a chess game had been in progress about an hour when, just before dawn, the game abruptly ended. One of the players lost control to such an extent that he simply scattered rooks and queens all over the floor. An act of poor sportsmanship of which he never would have been guilty had he not become abnormal through sleep loss. Another man attempted to walk through a window, thinking it to be a door. And one student, after losing an entire night’s sleep, washed his car—a strikingly abnormal act, for him.
Ordinary folks react just as queerly to lack of proper rest. In the course of everyday life, a tired married woman will sign a cheque with her maiden name or forget where she put her glasses and pocketboek. An exhausted business man will telephone home—to find he has called a number that is five years old.
It is highly improbable, however, that you will lose an entire night’s rest when you are really making an effort to sleep, and the ordinary sleep loss which every one experiences from time to time is not especially serious, provided you remain physically
inactive and in bed in a darkened room. Under such conditions, blood pressure and respiration and metabolism closely approach the low levels of normal sleep. They will drop, that is, unless you worry about your sleep loss, for when you are emotionally upset you destroy the delicate balance that brings repose to your body.
In some few instances, complete sleep loss is genuine and associated with physical disease, but usually it is more apparent than real. Many people who think they do not sleep have such vivid dreams that they are not aware of having dropped off. Or their fear of not sleeping makes them so cognizant of their waking moments that each minute seems like an hour. They will believe they have been sleepless because they have heard each stroke of the clock, when actually their ''onscious—or subconscious, if you will— mind has heard the striking while they slept. For we sleep in parts, and not all of our body slumbers at the same time.
Habit is all-important in sleep. We humans, like all other animal and plant life, have a natural sleep rhythm. That is, we recuperate best from the day’s activities if we go to bed at regular hours every night. Of course we can get into the habit, too, of sleeping under unusual conditions, like the woman who became so accustomed to rest in a chair while caring for her husband during a nine-year illness that she went right on with the habit after he got well. But most of us can use habit to induce good sleep in bed, and regularity in retiring is the best of all customs because regularity is part of Nature’s plan for healthful sleep.
Don’t Share A Room
IT IS important these days to overlook no slightest aid to good sleep, whether it be found in diet or in going to bed at the same hour each night, for the world’s present pace makes sleep a problem in one way or another for almost all of us. Mental excitement, emotional stimulation from press and movies, sedentary working habits, strain of noise and high-pressure routine, all conspire to make rest more difficult for this generation to achieve than it was for grandfather and grandmother, even in their era of unscientific feather beds, rope springs, and unventilated bedrooms. So we should be wise indeed to travel any available road to better sleep, because we have no assurance whatever that good sleep in early life will continue as a matter of course.
It is, for instance, utterly impossible for a poor sleej>er to seek for better rest in a room which he shares with any one else. He should go to bed alone, in an environment so soothingly arranged for him that nothing,
not even the ticking of a clock, irritates him. ! If you sleep badly, you have no alternative —sleep alone !
Not a week passes without our receiving ¡ letters that ask, “What is the best way for j me to get to sleep when I do not feel like it?’’ And. as with tire topic of proper beds, this question stirs the most lively interest.
How to start good sleep? Invariably the man or woman who finds it hard to drop off after getting into bed will be sceptical when told, “Read yourself to sleep.” But in the vast majority of cases there is no more! practical advice. Reading in bed has proved time and time again to be the solution for wakefulness of many kinds.
Consider for a moment why reading your: self to sleep should be effective. We have : recorded by instruments the fact that relaxa-1 tion is akin to sleep—and when reading in ! bed. you become relaxed. We also have j found that mental excitement postpones sleep—judicious reading quiets your mental turmoil. Too, we have learned that worry | about not getting to sleep is one of slumber’s greatest thieves—reading in bed turns your mind to other things.
Try it. Go to bed with a book and, relaxed in comfortable sleep surroundings, read. If you have chosen your book well, your mind will wander from the day’s troubles, you will forget your anxiety about getting to sleep—and of a sudden you will become so drowsy it will be hard even to reach out and turn off the bed light. Until that very instant, you will have had relaxation that, in its benefits, is very close to sleep. After you have snapped off the light. ' you will drop into the soundest, finest kind j of slumber.
Your trouble may be that you always wake in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep. What about that? Again the answer is to read in bed.
There are dozens of strange and effective ways to get to sleep. Some of our outstanding citizens have such queer methods as burying their face in the pillow, figuring up their furnace’s coal consumption, sticking: their toes out from under the covers, and reciting childhood poems backward. But reading in bed solves the wakefulness problem in more cases than does any other sleepinducing plan. And no matter how unusual | or stubborn you believe your own wakefulness to be, the chances are all in favor of your being able to cure it by resting and relaxing during those hours when otherwise you would be worrying and fretting. Once you get into the habit of reading in bed, you will drop off even with an exciting action story or an engrossing mystery in your relaxed lingers.
Good night ! Sleep tight !