Are Children's Sleep Problems Caused by Today's Culture?

Page 1 of 2 [ 17 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next

Aspie1
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 7 Mar 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 5,791
Location: United States

23 Mar 2015, 10:17 am

I've been looking back on my own sleep problems as a child, as well as reading post about kids' sleep problems here. And I came to a blunt, Occam's Razor-esque question: Are children's sleep problems caused by today's society? An environment where a child is forced to sleep alone in a cavernous room, surrounded by tooth-like shadows from curtains, ominous vents on the walls, blinking red lights from the smoke detector, shrill car sirens outside, and mysterious outlines in mid-air. That is NOT a natural or sleep-conducive environment.

Of course, the last paragraph describes how it felt for me to fall asleep in a hotel, located in a marginal area in South Florida. But I have access to alcohol, life experience, and heavy objects I can strike an attacker with. Kids have none of that. Plus it was in Florida, a state with laws that favor the victim, rather than the criminal. That, and monsters under beds feel ill at ease around adults.

In other words, it's not the kids' fault, and it's not the parents' fault. It's the conditions we as a society force them to sleep in, that cause children's to have constant sleep problems: insomnia, nightmares, night terrors, fragmented sleep, sleepwalking, etc. These issues are even more true for aspie children, especially the first two.

Let's look at the world history. I'm aware that some of it may seem like romanticizing the past, but bear with me. Also, I'm referring to average American families.

20,000 years ago
A family lived in a small cave or a wooden hut. Dangers still abounded, but humans now had basic tools to fight off the predators, and learned how to protect their homes. Whole families lived and slept in a single room, protected by their newly domesticated dog. When children slept, they didn't feel isolated, like they do in contemporary homes. Because the world was still quite safe and free of crime, parents could sneak out for some ahem... privacy behind bushes or rocks when their child was asleep. Due to lack of ahem... latex barriers, families ended up with many, many children, all of whom kept each other company. Especially during the intimidating nighttime, which really doesn't feel intimidating when you're surrounded by many sympathetic siblings (who share your fears) and two strong adults in the same room. All is safe. All is right with the world.

Today
Families live in cavernous, McMansion homes (middle class) or condos/apartments (working class), with every member pretty much having their own room. While families spend some together during the day, they do a complete 180 at night. The child is exiled by himself to a cavernous room, filled with tiger teeth on the ceiling (curtain shadows), snake burrows on the walls (heating vents), a wolf den in a corner (dark space behind a credenza), shadows in mid air (unidentified danger), and potential predators outside (street noises). 20,000 years ago, these things meant certain death. And yes, a child is forced to sleep surrounded by them. Alone! Other siblings and a parents are separated by walls, which do not conduct sounds well. All that said, the parents do need privacy for ahem... privacy, since it's now illegal to sneak out outside to do that.

So does anyone agree that the sleeping conditions we create for children today are major contributing factors to their sleep problems?



izzeme
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 4 Apr 2011
Age: 32
Gender: Male
Posts: 2,686

24 Mar 2015, 9:28 am

i have reached similar clarity indeed, but i have not attempted to lay it out in this way.

indeed, human bodies and brains are still working as if we were cavemen; 20.000 years is a short time.
this is also evident in other areas of our culture, like the winter depression (we stopped hibernating), binge eating (you never know when you are able to find another animal to kill, stock up) and group mentality (obvious)

actually, this is one of the reasons i found the RDOS to have some validity, the neanderthal had smaller groups, in which negative emotions had a bigger impact, explaining our differences in communication. also, there were less sentries in a small group, which can explain our hightened perceptive ability



Aspie1
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 7 Mar 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 5,791
Location: United States

24 Mar 2015, 3:38 pm

Izzeme, your posts bring up a point, just how little humans have changed in terms of their evolutionary instinct, and how it manifests itself in today's society. Namely, it's extremely unnatural to exile a child to a cavernous room all by himself, surrounded by things resembling primal dangers. Historically, kids slept in the same small room as adults, or more recently, on a straw mattress on the floor, while the parents had a more substantial sleeping space. As people grew wealthier, the houses had the parents' bedroom, the boys' room, and the girls' room.

Here's a historical factoid. After the 1917 Revolution, USSR had a massive housing shortage that lasted until after World War II. To combat it, the government moved multiple families into communal apartments. Each family had a room with a locking door, while the kitchen and bathroom were shared. Adults had hell of a time coping, but kids benefited tremendously. They mingled together, and often freely moved about between families' rooms. During the time period these communal apartments were common, doctors found few nightmares, fears, and anxieties among kids. They increased when Khrushchev starting a nationwide housing program for all families to get their own apartment; these disorders are extremely common in Russia today.

In some cultures, people practice something called "co-bedding". This is different from co-sleeping (a concept I disagree with), in such way that a child shares a bed with one or more same-age siblings, rather than his parents. I think co-bedding is a truly wonderful concept. Sympathetic siblings who can relate to a child's fears can provide exponentially more psychological comfort, than adults who "don't know" just how "dangerous" curtain shadows are, or a teddy bear that's just an inanimate bundle of polyester. The children can practice "being afraid together", so to speak, which turns into a game no scarier than telling ghost stories at camp.

Consider that South Florida hotel room. It would have scared the bejeezus out of me as a child. It had shadows on the ceiling from streetlights, the TV screen showing ghostly reflections, blinking red lights from the smoke detector, my suitcase that looked like an ominous black box in the dark, hallway light shining in from under the door, trucks rumbling on a nearby highway, police sirens on the street, animals outside whose noises I never heard before (for instance, there are no pelicans or bullfrogs where I live), and so on. I was fine alone as an adult, but as a kid, I'd have needed 10 bedmates to cope with that :).



[email protected]
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 15 Mar 2015
Gender: Male
Posts: 709

24 Mar 2015, 4:01 pm

Could just be the net of electrical wiring inside the walls, the electronic devices littering the house and the crisscrossing grid of television and radio signals, not to mention cell phone towers and repeaters pinging everywhere, disturbing normal brainwave activity.


_________________
"I don't mean to sound bitter, cynical or cruel - but I am, so that's how it comes out." - Bill Hicks


Aspie1
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 7 Mar 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 5,791
Location: United States

25 Mar 2015, 10:59 am

I'm not sure if I'm buying into the "surrounded by electrical signals" theory. My NT parents not only had zero problems falling asleep, they could doze off while watching TV. I was so jealous of them. Plus, there really weren't that many signal sources in the 1980's: just landline phones, electric wires, and the TV.

Look at how most mammals sleep: in groups in relatively tight spaces. Solitary mammals that sleep alone have incredibly strong natural defenses: teeth, claws, horns, size, etc. that humans don't have. So sleeping all by himself for a child is against nature, especially in a room that looks huge to him.

Am I wrong?



ASDMommyASDKid
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 27 Oct 2011
Gender: Female
Posts: 3,786

25 Mar 2015, 11:32 am

I think it depends on the person, and I so am not sure about general trends. In my case, I hated sharing a room. of course that may because I was the oldest and had a few glorious years by myself, before this happened. I have always had insomnia regardless of the population size of the sleeping area, so in my case my issues are clearly something else.

That does not negate your theory because I could very well be an outlier.



trollcatman
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 21 Dec 2012
Age: 39
Gender: Male
Posts: 2,920

26 Mar 2015, 5:20 am

I think it's completely different: today people are required to wake up and go to sleep at unreasonable times. It is not natural to wake up when it's still dark outside, or to go to bed when it's still light. The hunter-gatherers would probably wake up whenever they felt like it, or whenever they got hungry. The biological clock is kept on time because of light. I remember during winter it was still dark when I went to school, and it was already dark before school ended. Felt like an eternal night. The summer was the opposite, how can you expect kids to sleep when it is full daylight? There are many adults with sleep problems as well, I don't think it is really age related. Recently a sleep doctor warned people not to drive in the morning because of all the sleepy people, which is about as dangerous as driving on the alcohol limit.
Also, there are morning people and evening people. This might have made more sense in a hunter-gathered society because it's probably good to have the time when everyone is asleep at the same time as short as possible. We are not evolved to all wake up during the night and then go to school/work/whatever.



Aspie1
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 7 Mar 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 5,791
Location: United States

26 Mar 2015, 11:09 am

trollcatman wrote:
I think it's completely different: today people are required to wake up and go to sleep at unreasonable times. It is not natural to wake up when it's still dark outside, or to go to bed when it's still light.

This raises the question: how did the Inuit/Alaska Natives, who lived north of the arctic circle before electricity, organize their sleep cycles? After all, they live with polar night and the midnight sun, of a month or more each. (Six month of polar night/midnight sun only right at the north pole (90 deg. N.), which was always uninhabited.) I'm sure igloos were covered with bear skins to block out the sun, and modern houses have blackout curtains and full-spectrum lights.

Interestingly, lack of normal day/night cycles in polar regions also poses problems for a very un-animal element: Jewish holidays. The Jewish calendar has days starting at sunset, which is used to mark off feasts and fasts. Rabbis solved that problem for the midnight sun: the sun's lowest point in the sky, as it moves in circles, counts as the sunset. There is still no general consensus for marking off days during the polar night. The Talmud permits Jews to follow the solar cycles of the last location moved from (basically, by treating their move to Alaska as a form of travel), and many people do just that, but even rabbis agree that this is only a workaround.

I did some reading on co-bedding. That means having siblings, not parents and children, share a bed. While co-sleeping is going somewhat mainstream, co-bedding is still very new (to the US, at least). But I've read testimonials from parents who tried it, and they're all singing praises about it. They're talking about how their bed-sharing kids rarely cry at night, have relatively few nightmares, help each other fall and stay asleep, and generally "keep each other in check", so to speak. And for the child, the "There are no monsters!" statement sounds way more convincing coming from someone their age, rather than from an adult who lives in a different plane of existence, so to speak.



trollcatman
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 21 Dec 2012
Age: 39
Gender: Male
Posts: 2,920

27 Mar 2015, 3:45 am

Aspie1 wrote:
trollcatman wrote:
I think it's completely different: today people are required to wake up and go to sleep at unreasonable times. It is not natural to wake up when it's still dark outside, or to go to bed when it's still light.

This raises the question: how did the Inuit/Alaska Natives, who lived north of the arctic circle before electricity, organize their sleep cycles? After all, they live with polar night and the midnight sun, of a month or more each. (Six month of polar night/midnight sun only right at the north pole (90 deg. N.), which was always uninhabited.) I'm sure igloos were covered with bear skins to block out the sun, and modern houses have blackout curtains and full-spectrum lights.

Interestingly, lack of normal day/night cycles in polar regions also poses problems for a very un-animal element: Jewish holidays. The Jewish calendar has days starting at sunset, which is used to mark off feasts and fasts. Rabbis solved that problem for the midnight sun: the sun's lowest point in the sky, as it moves in circles, counts as the sunset. There is still no general consensus for marking off days during the polar night. The Talmud permits Jews to follow the solar cycles of the last location moved from (basically, by treating their move to Alaska as a form of travel), and many people do just that, but even rabbis agree that this is only a workaround.

I did some reading on co-bedding. That means having siblings, not parents and children, share a bed. While co-sleeping is going somewhat mainstream, co-bedding is still very new (to the US, at least). But I've read testimonials from parents who tried it, and they're all singing praises about it. They're talking about how their bed-sharing kids rarely cry at night, have relatively few nightmares, help each other fall and stay asleep, and generally "keep each other in check", so to speak. And for the child, the "There are no monsters!" statement sounds way more convincing coming from someone their age, rather than from an adult who lives in a different plane of existence, so to speak.


I don't think Judaism meant for Jews to observe their holidays in the arctic, leave that to the goyim. :D
I hear that Muslims with their Ramadan are allowed to use the daylight times of Mecca if they are near the arctic. Otherwise they would not eat or drink for an entire month if Ramadan is in winter. That's also why a moon-calender is rubbish unless you live near the equator because a moon-calender ignores the seasons.

The Inuit don't really need to organise their sleep cycles, they don't have office jobs to go to. They fish and hunt, and if the light lasts longer I guess they are just happy with that since it leaves them more time for fishing and hunting. I think for pre-electricity people the eternal night was much more annoying since you can't see and it will probably get even colder without the sun for weeks or months. But day/night becomes meaningless near the arctic anyway. As I was typing this I googled Inuit sleep cycles, and I found this:

"Inuit and other arctic indigenous peoples certainly don't adhere to the 'modern' sleep cycle, even today.
With 24-hour daylight in the arctic during the summer, there's no 'night' in the regular sense of the word.
Many full-time hunters can be seen departing and arriving in their boats at all hours of the day and night. I work a 9-5, but when I take my summer holidays and get on the boat I take my watch off as it becomes essentially useless.
Same thing goes for the winter. With 24-hour darkness there is no distinction between day and night if one discounts store hours and work hours.
Regarding sleep: while out boating one sleeps when one needs to, or when it is convenient i.e. during stormy weather or while waiting for the tide to come in/go out."

So yeah, if you are a fisherman in eternal night or day it doesn't matter when you sleep. Before watches no one would have known the time anyway without day/night cycles. People can still sleep when it's light, they just don't reset their internal clock so the time of sleep onset is somewhat random. This also happens for people with circadian rythm disorders.

My parents let me sleep in their bed for a fairly long time against advice of almost everyone at that time, but it worked. They said I wouldn't sleep unless I was with them.



Aspie1
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 7 Mar 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 5,791
Location: United States

27 Mar 2015, 10:54 am

trollcatman wrote:
I don't think Judaism meant for Jews to observe their holidays in the arctic, leave that to the goyim. :D
I hear that Muslims with their Ramadan are allowed to use the daylight times of Mecca if they are near the arctic. Otherwise they would not eat or drink for an entire month if Ramadan is in winter. That's also why a moon-calender is rubbish unless you live near the equator because a moon-calender ignores the seasons.
...
My parents let me sleep in their bed for a fairly long time against advice of almost everyone at that time, but it worked. They said I wouldn't sleep unless I was with them.

Judaism doesn't have an equivalent accommodation for polar regions, which would be, presumably, following Jerusalem's daylight times. I think that's because Judaism is so old that many situations weren't fully thought out when its rituals were formalized. After all, travel was a lot more difficult (and less common) during Abraham's lifetime than it was during Mohammed's. The Talmud, however, expands on the Tora, and provides instructions for situations like travel and such.

My parents tried the co-sleeping thing too. I guess they did it because they found out I wasn't falling asleep as quickly as they would have liked, and wanted to help. While I took on average 2 hours to fall asleep, my parents took less than 10 minutes. I'll spare you the details on what kind of problems those things caused. I'll just say I was punished in the morning for "my bad behavior". The experiment was scrapped in just 3 days.

I think what made things worse is the height of the furniture in my room, as well as a high ceiling. My parents had me sleep in a low bed, so I don't injure myself if I roll off the edge, since I moved around a lot. So the bookshelves and such really towered over me when I lay in bed. A far cry from sleeping in a tight corner of a cave 20,000 years ago. Ironically, the best sleep I ever got was in a very unnatural place: on a cruise. But mostly because the movement of the ship lulled me to sleep. A perfect cooperation between the billions-years-old ocean and the 21st century technology.



arielhawksquill
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 28 Jun 2008
Age: 44
Gender: Female
Posts: 1,872
Location: Midwest

27 Mar 2015, 11:56 am

I think we read more on WP about people who can't sleep with others in the bed with them. I know if I were forced to sleep in a room with a bunch of other people snoring, farting, turning over, and getting up to use the bathroom all night long I would barely get a wink myself.



trollcatman
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 21 Dec 2012
Age: 39
Gender: Male
Posts: 2,920

27 Mar 2015, 12:19 pm

Aspie1 wrote:
trollcatman wrote:
I don't think Judaism meant for Jews to observe their holidays in the arctic, leave that to the goyim. :D
I hear that Muslims with their Ramadan are allowed to use the daylight times of Mecca if they are near the arctic. Otherwise they would not eat or drink for an entire month if Ramadan is in winter. That's also why a moon-calender is rubbish unless you live near the equator because a moon-calender ignores the seasons.
...
My parents let me sleep in their bed for a fairly long time against advice of almost everyone at that time, but it worked. They said I wouldn't sleep unless I was with them.

Judaism doesn't have an equivalent accommodation for polar regions, which would be, presumably, following Jerusalem's daylight times. I think that's because Judaism is so old that many situations weren't fully thought out when its rituals were formalized. After all, travel was a lot more difficult (and less common) during Abraham's lifetime than it was during Mohammed's. The Talmud, however, expands on the Tora, and provides instructions for situations like travel and such.

My parents tried the co-sleeping thing too. I guess they did it because they found out I wasn't falling asleep as quickly as they would have liked, and wanted to help. While I took on average 2 hours to fall asleep, my parents took less than 10 minutes. I'll spare you the details on what kind of problems those things caused. I'll just say I was punished in the morning for "my bad behavior". The experiment was scrapped in just 3 days.

I think what made things worse is the height of the furniture in my room, as well as a high ceiling. My parents had me sleep in a low bed, so I don't injure myself if I roll off the edge, since I moved around a lot. So the bookshelves and such really towered over me when I lay in bed. A far cry from sleeping in a tight corner of a cave 20,000 years ago. Ironically, the best sleep I ever got was in a very unnatural place: on a cruise. But mostly because the movement of the ship lulled me to sleep. A perfect cooperation between the billions-years-old ocean and the 21st century technology.


I think the Muslims initially didn't include rules for living near the arctic, but a few centuries later Islam had expanded all the way up to Siberia so they had to come up with something. I don't think those Arab tribes during Mohammed's time got out of Arabia much. I remember reading that some army had gone north somewhere in region of Siberia and the soldiers complained that they couldn't fast during Ramadan and wanted to go back south. I think in both religions it is acceptable to break the rules if following them would endanger yourself or others.
I tend to fall asleep on trains or in cars when I'm not driving.



Ettina
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 13 Jan 2011
Age: 30
Gender: Female
Posts: 3,552

27 Mar 2015, 6:51 pm

trollcatman wrote:
The summer was the opposite, how can you expect kids to sleep when it is full daylight?


Reminds me of something my parents told me - apparently, when I was little, I'd wake them up at 4 am in summertime saying "sun's up, it's time to wake-up-a-morning".

Apparently I was extremely cute.



DW_a_mom
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 22 Feb 2008
Age: 61
Gender: Female
Posts: 11,233
Location: Northern California

27 Mar 2015, 7:09 pm

Not reading all the turns this conversation has taken:

I realized when my kids were little that forcing them to sleep by themselves in their own rooms wasn't "natural" for them, so I never did it.

But they still had sleep issues. Less than they would have alone, but keeping them company wasn't a magic cure, either.


_________________
Mom to an amazing AS son, who recently graduated from the university (plus an also amazing non-AS daughter). Most likely part of the "Broader Autism Phenotype" (some traits).


Aspie1
Veteran
Veteran

User avatar

Joined: 7 Mar 2005
Gender: Male
Posts: 5,791
Location: United States

28 Mar 2015, 11:10 am

I'll add a literary reference. The book "Time Machine" by H. G. Wells, talks about humans' sleeping arrangements in the year 802701, when the human species splits into two: the Eloi and the Morlocks. The Eloi (beautiful but frail aboveground dwellers) sleep in big groups, inside massive but run-down stone buildings. While the book says it's due to communism and not safety, the mention of sleeping in big groups is interesting. It probably kept them safer too. I'm sure the Morlocks (ugly but powerful underground dwellers who are afraid of light) were less likely to attack a big group than a single Eloi. The book does not mention anything about how the Morlocks slept in their underground caves.

Of course, the best safety mechanism would be security lights or burning torches, but the knowledge of starting a fire, let alone generating electricity, was long lost by the year 802701.