Tuesday, February 04, 2020

And you thought sleep was about resting

One of the great challenges of sailing alone is what we do naturally every day. Sleep. You need it, your body demands it, yet a storm may be raging and for the sake of the yacht – and your life – you daren’t shut your eyes even for a moment.
Yet obviously there is a limit to the time we can stay awake. At some stage, you have to snooze.
I found it a regular challenge when I sailed alone, and particularly while circumnavigating via Cape Horn on my own.
Weather is just one of the worries when you are exhausted and need more than matchsticks to keep the eyes wide – wide enough.
What about at night when ships might be about? As a mariner soon learns, not all ships show lights at night, and even more worrying, it often seems that no-one maintains a watch.
That made for scary moments in my sailing days. Now, this week, reading a searching article about sleep by Regina Bailey on the excellent Thought Co. I learn that if I needed a rest – when I need a rest – sleep might be the last resort for the wise.
The stages of sleep outlined in her article makes it seem that sleep is not the rest promised in early childhood.

Sleep ain't peace

In fact, it seems, sleep is hard work for humans and the most demanding and disciplined labour by the brain – your brain and mine.
I thought – if I thought about it at all – sleep is the ultimate way of resting. You close your eyes and nature transports you to – well, anywhere but where you are.
However, Regina’s study of the subject suggests it’s not like that at all.
You close your eyes and that triggers the brain into action. We might feel we’re drifting off into complete rest, but for the brain, it’s a time of hard labour.
It doesn’t just turn the light off, it has to remember to put us through four stages of sleep, and each stage has to happen in exactly the right order…. Continues on the 'blogs' for my book Sailing to Purgatory


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