Are we really sleeping too little?

I am remiss to admit that I fall prey to Booztin’s second stimulus control instruction, also termed the “Six Steps Towards A Good Night’s Sleep.” Although the second step recommends that people not use their bed — or even their bedroom — for anything but sleep (e.g., watching tv, eating, reading, or working), I do just the opposite. Except for during mealtimes, virtually all of the time I spend in my apartment is in my bed — whether it be while answering emails, reading for school or pleasure, catching up on Yankees off-season updates, or watching television. In fact, I nay-sayed my mother’s suggestion that I buy a desk and assured her that I could mainrain a good posture while working in bed. That’s what supportive pillows are for, after all. While not an avid television watcher, I watch a mindless tv show almost every night, with the lights off and my retainer in, to help me fall asleep. This is a habit I have had for years, as I assumed that taking my mind off of work and adjusting to the idea of sleep would promote my being well-rested. But, according to Boozdin & Epstein (2011), my assumptions are not only misinformed but also detrimental to a good night’s sleep.

While their article alone is compelling, I stumbled upon an October 15, 2015 New York Times article (written by Anahad O’Connor) that complements our assigned reading and raised potentials recommendations to facilitate helping insomniacs. Finding that the average American sleeps as much as people in three hunter-gatherer societies do, the researchers debunked the notion that Americans today sleep less than they used to; in fact, if anything, these societies sleep less than most Americans do. This suggests that poor sleep is not as rampant in America as has been suggested and that little sleep, alone, is not sufficient to cause poor health outcomes , such as obesity and chronic diseases; after all, most members of these societies are fit and relatively healthy.

The article also noted that naps rarely occur in the three studied societies, only two percent of which are affected by Insomnia. For lack of ability to articulate a suggestion in the article well, here is an especially interesting excerpt (sorry it’s so long):

“Dr. Siegel said that ambient temperature may be a major factor. The groups did not go sleep at sunset and they did not wake up at sunrise, suggesting that light exposure did not have much influence on their sleep patterns. But they almost always fell asleep as temperatures began to fall at night, and they would wake up right as the temperatures were rising again.

This suggests that humans may have evolved to sleep during the coldest hours of the day, perhaps as a way to conserve energy, Dr. Siegel said. If falling temperatures at night are a signal to our bodies that it is an ideal time to go to sleep, then that could be one reason chronic insomnia is so prevalent in industrialized societies.

‘Today we sleep in environments with fixed temperatures, but none of our ancestors did,’ Dr. Siegel said. ‘We evolved to sleep in a natural environment where the temperature falls at night. Whether we can treat insomnia by putting people in an environment where the temperature is modulated in this way is something to be studied in the future’” (O’Connor).

This solution seems much too simple to solve what seems like a complex, detrimental condition. Yet it would seem to fit into the Stimulus Control Therapy well.