Much has been made of the importance of getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night by talking heads the world around, cautioning us that it's important that we do not get too much or too little sleep. To that end, there's a whole host of products designed to stimulate just that, all of which are awesome in that they're addictive. That was sarcasm, in case you hadn't noticed. The fact that people so many people need sleep aids to get to sleep is a testament to how fucking unnatural our lives have become.
So, who's to blame for this clusterfuck? It's an impressive combination of Thomas Edison, the government, shitty diet, insufficient exercise, television, the stunning panoply of prescription meds most people down all fucking day long, and a giant cloud of general suck.
Prior to the invention of the electric light bulb, people slept an average of 10-12 hours a day. Thomas Edison, the inventor of the electric light bulb, was a workaholic who believed that sleep, and rest in general, were unnecessary, primitive, and to be championed only by the lazy. I suppose he needed all of that extra time awake to steal as much as he possibly could from other inventors of the day, like Nikola Tesla. In any event, he was a dick, essentially directly responsible for the modern idea that getting "too much" sleep is unhealthy, and the fact that Americans average 20% less sleep than they did in 1900. In contrast to our modern sleep habits, Paleolithic man (who was demonstrably stronger, healthier, and essentially better in every possible way than modern man) slept from dusk until dawn, which means a little over 10 hours a night in the summer, and considerably longer in the winter. Were this unhealthy, it's unlikely that they'd have done it.
According to Paul Chek, another factor is diet. A teaspoon of sugar has been shown to suppress the immune system for up to 4 hours, and the resulting blood sugar crash from sugar consumption causes your body to release cortisol, which triggers glucose release from your liver stores. (How To Eat, Move, and Be Healthy, p. 204) Given that the typical American diet contains massive amounts of sugar, it's no fucking wonder people can't sleep- how many people do you know who have some sort of dessert every night? I'm willing to bet they suck at sleeping, between their sugar consumption and likely sedentarism.
Having established that everyone should sleep more, which you already knew, I'll address some things most people don't seem to know.
- napping is tremendously good for you. Mental acuity and manual dexterity are both measurably improved in people who nap, moreso for nappers than people who use pharmacological methods to achieve complete wakefulness. (Annals of Internal Medicine, June 6, 2006 vol. 144 no. 11 856-857)
- having any electrical device near to your bed while sleeping can seriously fuck up your circadian rhythms. According to Paul Chek, moving all electrical devices as far as you can from your bed should improve your quality of sleep. (How To Eat, Move, and Be Healthy, p. 205)
- getting to sleep at or before 10:30 PM should help you sleep better, due to your body's natural release of cortisol at certain times of the day.
- the position in which you sleep also has a direct affect on the quality of your sleep and your body's ability to align itself at rest. Though not the best position for respiratory reasons, I sleep on my back for the sake of my back and shoulders. When I sleep on my stomach, it throws my neck out of alignment, and fucks up my rotator cuffs horribly, because I sleep with my hands under my pillow. Sleepin on my back prevents that, and relieves pressure on the lower back. However you sleep, don't do it on your stomach- you will bring yourself more pain and shitty training sessions than any other position.
- sleep in a dark, cool room. When the broad laying next to you complains of being cold, which she invariably will, tell her 1) to shut the fuck up and deal with it, 2) go elsewhere to whine, or 3) go get a fucking blanket and keep it the hell away from you. Misogyny is often justified. You should, however, refrain from giving her a pair of irish sunglasses until at least her second outburst, at which point you can honestly say "I told her twice."
Finally, for those of you out there who are alleged insomniacs- jerk off more. There's no amount of insomnia that 10 orgasms won't cure. Though that might seem like it's my cure for everything (I'm betting it cures cancer, by the way), here's a bit of science for the skeptics out there: "While thinking about sex might keep you up at night having it, including masturbation, is a great way to deal with insomnia. In a 2000 study of U.S. women, 32% said that in the past three months they masturbated as a way to fall asleep. Whether it’s because of the hormones and endorphins released following orgasm, the benefits of clearing your head, or the mini cardio workout, masturbation that ends in orgasm is a great way to get to sleep without pills, television, or counting sheep." (http://sexuality.about.com/od/masturbation/p/masturbation_fx.htm)
On that note, it's time to rub one out and hit the hay.