The Bed Chamber:
One-third of your life is passed in sleep. This period of unconsciousness and rest is necessary for the renewal of vital strength, and much of the health depends upon its proper management. Thus, you must look into the sleeping area as a whole.
Throughout the ages, there was considerable doubt as to which was a healthier sleeping arrangement: separate rooms, same room but separate beds, or a single room with one bed. It has been deemed that when both parties are in good health, and of nearly the same age, one chamber, if sufficiently roomy, may be used without any disadvantage to either. Such an arrangement is also to be commended, because it secures closer companionship, and thus develops and sustains mutual affection.
There are conditions under which sleeping together is prejudicial to the health. A certain amount of fresh air during the night is required by everyone. Re-breathed air is poisonous. During sleep constant exhalations take place from the lungs and from the skin, which are injurious if absorbed. A room twelve feet square is too small for two adults, unless it is so thoroughly ventilated that there is a constant change of air. In fact, a couple’s bedroom should contain an air-space of at least twenty-four hundred cubic feet, and the facilities for ventilation should be such that the whole amount will be changed in an hour; that is, at the rate of forty cubic feet per minute for it has been ascertained that twenty cubic feet of fresh air a minute are required for every healthy adult.
The very young and very old people should never occupy the same sleeping area. This also applies with couples who are 40+ years apart in age. The reason behind this is the different breathing rates. The normal respiratory rate for healthy adults is between 12 and 20 breaths per minute. At this breathing rate, the carbon dioxide exits the lungs at the same rate that the body produces it. Breathing rates of below 12 or above 20 can mean a disruption in normal breathing processes. Normal respiratory rates for children in breaths per minute are as follows: birth to 1 year: 30-60; 1 to 3 years: 24-40; 3 to 6 years: 22-34; 6 to 12 years: 18-30; 12 to 18 years: 12-16.
To determine whether a person’s respiratory rate is normal, it is essential to measure it at rest. (Remember, exercise or even walking across a room can affect a person’s respiratory rate.) To take an accurate measurement, watch the person’s chest rise and fall. One complete breath comprises one inhalation, when the chest rises, followed by one exhalation, when the chest falls. To measure the respiratory rate, count the number of breaths for an entire minute or count for 30 seconds and multiply that number by two. However, if one suffers from obstructive sleep apnea a blockage of the airway often due to relaxation of the soft tissues in the throat causes brief pauses in breathing and may decrease overall respiratory rate.
Certain diseases can be spread by sleeping together. The bed of a consumptive patient is a powerful source of contagion. Tubercular disease has been known to be transferred from men to animals by inoculation. Cases were recorded in the 19th century of young robust girls of healthy parentage, marrying men affected with consumption, acquiring the disease in a short time, and dying, in some instances, before their husbands. In these significant cases, the sickly emanations have apparently been communicated during sleep. When, therefore, either husband or wife is known to have consumption, it would be highly imprudent for them to pass the long hours of the night either in the same bed or in the same room. But, this can include many other ailments-from the common cold to the plague.
Excessive clothing at night can be highly injurious; so are fires in the bedroom, except in case of sickness. If the body becomes over-heated during sleep, perspiration occurs, or the action of the heart is increased, and the whole system becomes agitated. Either condition prevents sound sleep and reinvigoration of the body.
Another topic of debate throughout the ages involved the proper position for sleeping. Ancient Egyptians slept on beds that slanted downwards to a foot board. At the head of the beds was a headrest consisting of a semicircular upper piece supported by columns affixed to a woven mat base. The base of one’s skull rested on these headrests.
In a work from 1642 the Swedish royal physician, Andreas Sparman, recommends that people should sleep in a sitting position because otherwise fluids from the stomach could somehow leak out and lead to a scenario where “hufvudet fyls medh Öfverflöd” (“the head is filled with overflow”). A common myth is: a common use of a shorter bed “forced” people to sleep half-sitting up. In fact, most antique beds are larger than most of our modern ones.
Mattresses made of animal hides and furs were the choice of Native Americans. Another common bed-filling was straw. Leaves were considered a good mattress-filler, while reeds, bracken or seaweed were suitable choices in some regions. The Roman writer Pliny reported that spartum or esparto grass was used in Spain 2000 years ago, and this continued into the
19th century. Chaff (husks separated from edible grains, and sometimes mixed with chopped straw since the invention of mechanical “chaff-cutters”) is softer but not available in such quantities. Rice chaff has filled mattresses in Asia; oat chaff was traditional for Scottish chaff-beds or cauf-secks (sacks). Using a straw mattress under a softer woolen or feather one was quite common by the 19th century, but it was a luxury in the 15th. However, feather beds are not conducive to good health. Mattresses made of wool, or of wool and horsehair, are much better.
Bed fillings can be placed on the bare ground/floor in a loose heap or it can be put into a wooden bed with sides. One can also tie it into a mattress shape and cover it with a simple sack, called a tick. Travelers often carried empty ticks to be filled with whatever was available when they bedded down for the night.
Beds long saturated with the night exhalations of their occupants are not wholesome. Replacing the bed filling was a seasonal chore, usually undertaken around harvest time. No matter what the filling choice is the bed should be opened, and its contents-including the pillows and blankets-exposed to the air and sunlight, once every year. This aided in the sanitation of the items. Native Americans often placed the bedding material over ant hills for the removal of other unpleasant, disease carrying insects.
The Sleep Pattern:
Today modern humans are chronically sleep-deprived, which may be why we usually take only 15 minutes to fall asleep, and why we try our best not to wake up in the night. People seem to regard 7 to 8 hours of unbroken sleep as the norm. Anything less means that something is awry-insomnia.
More than one-third of American adults these days wake up in the middle of the night on a regular basis. Of those who experience “nocturnal awakenings,” nearly half are unable to fall back asleep right away. Doctors frequently diagnose this condition as a sleep disorder called “middle-of-the-night insomnia,” and prescribe medication to treat it.
Historical evidence suggests that nocturnal awakenings aren’t abnormal at all; they are the natural rhythm one’s body gravitates toward. It is the compressed, continuous eight-hour sleep routine to which everyone aspires today that is unprecedented in human history. We’ve been sleeping all wrong lately — so if one has “insomnia,” one may actually be doing things right.
The dominant pattern of sleep since time immemorial was segmented or biphasic. Biphasic sleep patterns evolved to fill the long stretch of nighttime, and as observed by anthropologists, segmented sleep continues to be the norm for many people in undeveloped parts of the world, such as the Tiv group in Central Nigeria. Everyone sleeps biphasically when subjected to natural patterns of light and dark. In biphasic sleep, humans sleep in two four-hour blocks, which were separated by a period of wakefulness in the middle of the night lasting an hour or more. Most stay in their beds and bedrooms, sometimes reading, and often they would use the time to pray. (Religious manuals used to include special prayers to be said in the mid-sleep hours.) During these waking times people also would get up and do household tasks, such as preparing the morning meal or they even visit with the neighbors before returning to their beds. There were night jobs to aid in the safety of those who travel away from their homes during these hours-night watchman and the town crier are two main ones. Candles were used most during these hours of the night.
From pre-Industrial European times to the 19th century sleep referred to as “first sleep” or “deep sleep” started at sunset and ended around midnight and “second sleep” or “morning sleep” started at around 2 am and lasted until sunrise. (The times depended on the sun’s cycle. During winter, darkness spanned up to 14 hours each night.) Thomas Edison’s light bulb was a major factor in the shift of how we currently sleep.
In places with electricity, though, artificial lighting has prolonged our experience of daylight, allowing us to be productive for longer. At the same time, it has cut nighttime short, and so to get enough sleep we now have to do it all in one go. Now, “normal” sleep requires forgoing the periods of wakefulness that used to break up the night; we simply don’t have time for a midnight chat with the neighbor any longer. But people with particularly strong circadian rhythms continue to wake up in the night.
Traditional patterns show people normally awaken from REM sleep, which is the deep sleep stage during which dreams occur, which affords people a pathway to their subconscious. Now-a-days, with morning dreams one doesn’t have the opportunity to let their dreams settle. The light goes on and one gets out of bed immediately. Society has lost what people in the past regarded as a critically important part of their lives – their dream life.
Remedies-The Unproven and the Proven:
- Gerolamo Cardano (1501-1576), a doctor and mathematician in Renaissance Italy stated sleep could be attained by rubbing some canine ear wax across your pearly whites.
- A medieval European one-drinking a potion containing the bile of a castrated boar before bed. A Japanese one-sea slug entrails eaten at bedtime aids insomnia. Entrails are considered a delicacy in Japan which they extract, salt, and cure.
- A bath before bed can also help one wind down physically. The body temperature naturally dips about two hours before one goes to sleep, but the rapid cool-down period that happens after soaking in a hot tub should immediately make you feel relaxed and sleepy.
- In Elizabethan England rubbing the feet with dormouse fat was thought to be an effective insomnia cure. Another name for the dormouse is the sleep mouse, and in French the equivalent phrase for sleeping like a log is ‘to sleep like a dormouse.’
- According to the 1898 edition of the Glasgow Herald offered this advice to insomniacs: “Soap your hair with ordinary yellow soap; rub it into the roots of the brain until it is lathered all over; tie it up in a napkin, go to bed, and wash it out in the morning. Do this for a fortnight. Take no tea after 6 p.m.”
- To hang a flint with a hole in it over the head of one’s bed is a preservative against the nightmare.
- Before going to bed, place your shoes carefully by the bedside coming and going; that is with the heel of one pointing in the direction of the toe of the other and then you will be sure to sleep quietly and well.
- Wear socks to bed. The additional layer on one’s feet can help improve circulation in extremities, which should speed up the process of falling asleep.
- Eating fried lettuce was a French folk remedy for insomnia. The ancient Egyptians believed in consuming lactucarium or “lettuce opium,” a milky substance secreted from certain varieties of lettuce greens. However, today lettuce opium is known mainly for its psychotropic effects.
- Eating onions before bed was once thought to be a sleep aid. Today, it is known that they can also mess with one’s metabolism and health.
- Charles Dickens believed pointing his bed northward was the best cure for his own insomnia.
- You can’t forget about counting sheep. Do you fall asleep through hypnotism or through boredom? Mental imagery can help distract you from thinking the kind of stressful and anxious thoughts that keep you up at night.
- Don’t eat cheese before bed. Scientific theories suggest that the bacterial and fungal elements of cheese might actually be to blame for weird post-sleep brain activity.
- Toe curls is a form of progressive muscle relaxation, which involves deliberately tensing and relaxing certain muscle groups. There is evidence that this does help promote the relaxation, especially when combined with taking a deep breath between tensing and relaxing the relevant muscles.
- Cinnamon balances blood sugar levels so your hormones can function in a way that allows for better sleep.
- Bananas, especially the peel, contain magnesium which promotes muscle relaxation and stress relief.
- A glass of warm milk also contains magnesium and a trace amounts of the amino acid, l-tryptophan. A popular night drink is: 1 cup milk; 1 teaspoon honey; 2 drops vanilla extract; 1 pinch ground cinnamon. Cook on stove until the milk is very hot and begins to foam, about 3 minutes. Stir in honey and vanilla, then sprinkle with cinnamon before serving.
Jolene Griffiths, Staff ND, The Health Patch
The Health Patch 1024 S. Douglas Blvd., Midwest City, OK 73130 Ph: 405-736-1030
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.