7 pm was bed time. You could read anything you liked, and, again, it never seemed to be a problem to sleep and wake up, ready to go in the morning. If you weren't asleep by nine pm, parents would say, “lights off!” And you knew that was it. Dreamland followed, without any question.
We didn't have fancy beds then. Our mattresses were kapok, had no springs or anything that would be interpreted as comfortable. They would inevitably sag after a while, and then they looked normal to us. I never remember giving sleep much thought. It was just something you did.
Technology was just a vague dream in some far off remote person’s vision. It didn't touch us in the least. Sometimes we’d see traces of the future in a carefully chosen movie matinee once a week.
Now sleep has become a huge topic of conversation. Only a week ago, i listened with interest as a group of women friends discussed their sleep problems. To be fair, we’re all post-menopausal, and there's good evidence that this population group does have Pmore insomnia problems, but I discovered there’s a lot of reliance on sleeping pills. It started me thinking about slumber and its importance. But are we over-thinking this? Has sleep, or lack thereof become a commodity with a hefty price like so many other things in life that used to be much more straightforward?
There are some scare tactics in this too. I've read that if you get less than eight hours sleep per night it affects your health, your weight, and actually shortens your life. Talk about something that would scare you sleepless!
I doubt there's anyone I know who sleeps on a kapok mattress, or ever has! Now we have high-tech mattresses, in which the pedic word features prominently. ( Sounds good, but really?) There are special covers, there are sheets for various purposes. There are books about how to sleep. Lately pillows have become super important. You can get them with gel in them, or lavender infused, plus a host of other special and expensive attributes. You can get supplements. And, courtesy of our huge drug conglomerates, you can get sleeping pills.
The problem seems to happen when you continue taking them, and several unwanted side effects can happen.
My friends on the sleeping pills laughed as they said if they became dependent on those, it wouldn't really matter in an older person. But like a lot of things in life, there's a complexity to taking sleeping pills, and I'd encourage a purely factual look online for lots of info regarding side effects.
A few months back I started focusing on deliberate relaxation when I went to bed. I still love to have my lavender perfumed essential oil diffuser going all night. But in addition, I do a simple, home-grown exercise when I close my eyes.
I visualize a reverse U shape. Then I breathe in and go to the top. Across the top I hold for the count of four, then travel down the other side. You can feel the difference in your breathing and relaxation after the first breath. After four or five reps you will be asleep! The important thing seems to be visualizing it, as when you're doing that no other thoughts can creep in. I'm treating you one of my famous “primitive” drawings that you are welcome to use for this purpose.
Ironic, isn't it? We’re surrounded by technology and its products at all times, even when we decide to take a vacation and get away from it all. And even our sleep can be controlled by damping down the appropriate parts of our brains. But millions of children and adults in "advanced" societies cannot simply close their eyes and go to sleep when the lights go off.
Footnote here: I suddenly realised most folks wouldn't be familiar with kapok. Surprise! You can buy kapok pillows from Amazon. So the old becomes new again.