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Oh, for a good night’s sleep

All I want is to sleep.

I have grown fussy about the hours I get, and, although they are not many, I need them in a completely different way than before. A ruined night throws a dark shadow for many days ahead and makes me irritable and feel out of place. I have no time for that.

So, in search of good advice and good sleep, I’ve taken to reading up on sleep when I can’t sleep. Sleep still remains a mysterious phenomenon, but I’ve uncovered a great deal about what takes place during sleep, what disturbs sleep and how to improve sleeping habits.

While the average person sleeps seven or eight hours, a good night’s sleep is whatever leaves you feeling refreshed and alert the next day. This varies from person to person and with age. Some need 10 hours, others six. Interestingly, most of us overestimate our need for sleep, and underestimate the amount of sleep we actually get during restless nights.

But how solidly we sleep is as important as how long we sleep. Most of us feel more rested when we consolidate sleep than when we parcel it out over three or four periods in a day.

Sleep should be simple, but it is not. It is a highly organized series of events alternating between two phases: REM (rapid eye movement) and non-REM, both of which are necessary.

Non-REM sleep, called quiet sleep, is the first phase. There’s little or no body movement, brain activity is slow and regular and the five senses shut down. The non-REM phase passes through four stages as sleep gets progressively deeper, generally lasting a total of 70-90 minutes. The fourth and deepest stage, called “delta sleep,” is the most restorative.

REM sleep is when dreams occur and it appears to be vital for psychological health. The eyes dart behind closed lids, heartbeat and metabolism speed up, and breathing gets faster and more irregular, as do brain waves. An average episode of REM lasts 10 to 20 minutes, but by the final cycle it can be 30 to 40 minutes long. During a typical eight-hour sleep, 1.5 to 2 hours are REM sleep.

A complete cycle of non-REM followed by REM sleep averages 90 to 100 minutes, and recurs four or five times during the night.

“To a large extent, changes in sleep pattern are a natural part of the aging process and are nothing to worry about” … and if I hear this one more time I think I will throw myself on the floor, kick my heels, pull my hair and scream. See what sleep shortage does to me?

Theatrics aside, age is one of the most important factors affecting sleep. Infants can sleep 18 or more hours a day; but there are exceptions which many new moms will attest to. By age 12, sleep patterns approximate those of adults.

The next dramatic shift appears after age 60. Sleep becomes increasingly fragmented. We tend to wake up more often (and for longer periods) during the night and earlier in the morning, and we sleep less deeply. Though the amount of time I spend in bed has remained fairly constant, my sleep time is definitely way less than it has been — averaging about 6.5 hours a night. Damn sleep fragmentation!

My difficulty in staying asleep at night has a number of causes. Some nights my achy-breaky knee keeps me from falling into restful slumber. Other times I may have rolled onto my creaky-cranky right shoulder. More often than not, though, it’s the urge. Drinking two gallons of water a day has its drawbacks. All last week it was the neighbor’s dog. Who leaves their dog outside at night in the dead of winter? Bad karma — this dude may come back as man’s best friend; if so he’d better hope for a better friend than he is currently being to his dog.

I’ve been told how very remarkable the body is at making up for lost sleep. Studies have shown that even after being awake for days, most people need one night’s sleep to recover. People deprived of sleep make up for it in part by spending more time in the deep-sleep stage of the non-REM phase during subsequent nights. However, my body is not so remarkable. Playing sleep catch-up is not pretty for me (or for my husband).

Ice fishing tourney

The Pagosa Lakes Winter Ice Fishing Tournament at Village Lake has been re-scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 13.

The tournament had originally been scheduled for last Saturday, but because of the extreme weather and poor conditions, it was decided that it would be best for all concerned to re-schedule.

Tickets are available at Eagle Mountain Mercantile, the Pagosa Lakes Recreation Center and the Pagosa Lakes Administration Office. Ticket price is $10 pre-purchase, and will be $15 on tournament day at the lake.

If you already purchased a ticket, hang on to it and it will be honored at the contest on Feb. 13. If you are unable to attend on Feb. 13, we will refund your ticket purchase. We will coordinate with the Chamber of Commerce as part of the WinterFest activities that are also scheduled for that weekend. Hopefully the weather will be nicer and we are looking forward to a fun ice fishing contest.

If you have any questions, call the Pagosa Lakes Administration Offices at 731-5635.