Sleeping With Fireflies

urlAs impossible as this seems I grew up without air conditioning. As a matter of fact we didn’t even have a fan. The first house I grew up in to the age of five was a one bedroom house with a sort of make shift room where five of the nine of us slept. Not what you would call luxury accommodations but given my age I don’t remember much except when someone was sick, the ripple affect was undeniable.

Right before I turned six we moved into a home my father built. It was certainly more spacious considering it was a 3-bedroom ranch. The new house had huge acreage to play all sorts of games like hide-n-seek and tag and the traditional sports of baseball, basketball and football. With a total of nine family members it relegated four of us to the basement, which had one room to squeeze us in to. The upper level had an attic fan, which pulled air in and would drop the temperature of the house considerably during the hot Midwestern summers. The basement was comfortable because for the most part during the summer months it was nice and cool. On the flipside, the winters were brutal so the saving grace was a fireplace, which was located at the opposite end of the house. Not close enough to keep the frost off the single pane windows in the basement bedroom but efficient enough to stop frostbite.

We were pretty poor I guess by current standards. The beds were bunk beds and metal to boot. I don’t know but I am assuming they were military style and possibly issued. The mattress was a stuffed flat striped cloth covering a pile of dense cotton fibers pad. Most of the time we didn’t even have sheets. Sleeping head to toe feet cleaning was a priority. But given how long ago and the fact we played from sun up to sun down I can imagine I could have slept on a concrete floor and remembering doing as much a couple of times in the makeshift living room placed centrally near the fireplace.

Times have changed and I now have the luxury of a king size bed, central air and an overhead fan. But unlike being five or thereabouts I have an acute awareness I am not sleeping well or the fan isn’t on or the thermostat is set too high. Kids have heightened my spider senses to coughing, throwing up, sneaking in the kitchen, sneaking out of the house, sneaking in the house or sneaking to play video games long after the bell has sounded for lights out furthering my one eye open sleeping style!

Many things affect the perfect environment for sleeping. Way back when I was little comic books were popular and a handy flashlight would suffice to keep me well supplied to read into the night once the sentry (Mom or Dad) went off duty and retired to their quarters. There were four of us so plenty of minds to create interesting games and pillow fights. And during firefly season we would capture a bunch of them in a jar and let them go and fly around the room. I still don’t know if my parents ever knew that.

Kids today have a lot more “distractions”. The list is long and the need or more appropriately the want tugs at the sandman to stave off sleep for well beyond reasonable hours. Internet, cell phones, MP3 players, video games, and bedroom televisions are a constant battle. Looking further we analyze the meals and types of food we eat and just as important when we eat. High sugar products with lots of caffeine weren’t the norm. I grew up going to bed early. With only 4 TV stations, other than reading or playing board games what else do you do requiring you to stay up so late? And dang I was tired we played so much.

I’d be less than honest if I told you that I didn’t have a TV in my bedroom, and yes I have my IPhone next to me.  I am a product of my environment but hey this isn’t about me, this is about you! Let’s display some basic ground rules for the best possible sleeping environment.

A good mattress is vital. Most people cringe because they can be expensive but remember you spend one third of your life laying on it, it’s money well spent. The best temperature varies from individual to individual but the cooler environment is typically best. If you get too cold, add a blanket. Now you’ve created a nice cool spot to lay down and sleep. Is that your phone buzzing? Turn it off. You are supposed to be sleeping and unless you are on call or are required for immediate services like say, a surgeon it will wait. Statistically speaking 99% of all phone, computer and internet uses in the bedroom are not necessary and purely for entertainment and robbing you of your health!

Let’s refresh here, good mattress, cool room, no food, no electronics and last but not least turn off the TV. Lots of distractions, which don’t allow your mind to relax and calm down from the day’s worked are carried into the bedroom. Use a fan or purchase one of the many different sound machines, which now mimic rain or waves crashing on the beach. Once you are set sleep is more likely and the outside world is where it belongs, outside your bedroom. Just don’t forget the alarm, you certainly are going to sleep better.