Sleep is so wonderful, so why do I avoid it so? I have this problem that I do like sleep and I love being well rested but I find it hard to close things down and go to sleep at night. Obviously I am not alone in this regard, people are getting less and less sleep year by year in developed nations and the penalties for this behaviour are becoming well known and widely published. I am lucky that I am married to someone who gets sleepy before me and that we both like cuddling together before actually nodding off so I have real external pressure to go to bed at a reasonable hour instead of being up far too late online; without that I expect I would end up being up very late far too often. In high school and university my sleep schedule was very strange and it only became reasonable once I got a job and became a real person. I remember getting to high school more than an hour before it started every day due to commuting issues and sleeping on the floor on top of the heat pipe. Every morning there would be 2-5 students snoozing in the edge of the basement along the wall that had the heat running under it.
This is one of those bizarre issues that modern life created which wasn't an issue at all in years gone past. When a candle costs a significant chunk of a day's wages or is entirely beyond one's means then sleeping 10 hours a night is easy - there isn't much to do in the pitch dark. Lighting at night has gone from a luxury enjoyed only by the rich and powerful to a triviality available to everyone and we as a society have not adjusted well to that. When light is at a premium it is entirely sensible to push oneself to keep going as long as there is something to do because the world will enforce an end at a healthy hour, but that desire creates a mess these days. It used to be that drunken driving was the most problematic issue on the roads but drowsy driving has handily overtaken it as the greatest threat as public acceptance of drunken driving has plummeted.
Sleeping longer increases health, longevity, happiness, learning potential and productivity and yet we increasingly push ourselves to avoid it as a society. Even children are chronically sleep deprived; in fact teenagers average only 6 hours of sleep a night even though improving their grades and success at school is far best served not by more activities or studying but simply more sleep. Apparently many schools are switching to a later start time to try to accommodate this and are finding that starting at 8:30 instead of 7:30 reaps huge benefits in both scholastic achievement and behavioural issues. Not that this would have helped me any when I was in school since I had to get up at 6:30 for a 9:00 start due to living way out in the boonies. According to Nurtureshock being sleep deprived is even a strong risk factor for childhood obesity, although that relationship does not hold true for adults.
The tricky thing is that the world is so interesting during the night. The silence and foreboding atmosphere of a city of comatose people is intriguing and there is simply never a shortage of things to do - the internet never sleeps. I wish I had an answer to this very modern dilemma but I certainly do not. We all would be better off if we could force ourselves to sleep more but just like saving more, eating less and using less stuff we utterly fail at doing so despite messages to the contrary we see every day. Until the cost of being up just one more hour becomes more obvious at the time I suspect we are in for even less sleep in future.