Sleep Manners - Let's bring them back

“How did you sleep” used to be a polite inquiry, like “how are you today?” Its decline in daily discourse reflects a reduction in the social recognition of the importance of sleep to happiness and well-being.

Sleep manners are an old idea that may be due for a new look.

Also called sleep etiquette, sleep manners means respecting the need and desirability of sleep.  Sleep etiquette is sometimes used as a synonym for sleep hygiene – the practices that promote good sleep.  However we are using sleep manners and etiquette to refer to interpersonal, social relations.  Respect for others should extend to their private time, including sleep.

Yawning is considered rude.  People were supposed to cover their mouths when yawing in public.  While this rule is still followed by some, it is less prevalent than it once was.  Not yawning and not looking obviously sleepy is part of presenting yourself to others.  It is also impolite to blatantly and unceremoniously tell someone they look tired or sleepy.

Calling on the telephone after a certain time at night is rude.  This time varies with culture, but a norm exists in most societies after which you should not call.  If you don't know a person well, assume they go to bed early until you hear otherwise.  Similarly there is a socially accepted earliest time of day you should telephone someone, unless there is an emergency.

If you are in the house with a person trying to sleep, you have a social obligation to stay quiet.  This means turning down or off the television and music.  It means not running around the house, but walking softly.  It means not walking in on a sleeping person suddenly and turning on the light.

Old houses had shutters that sealed the house from light more thoroughly than most modern houses.  Bedrooms should have heavy curtains or shades that can keep the light out.  If you have guests over, offer them a dark, quiet comfortable place to sleep, with sufficient covers.  Sleep care is as important part of being a host as offering a well-stocked table for eating.

Another important part of manners is not questioning or making fun of a person's sleep habits.  Just because someone needs more or less sleep than you do, or is more of a morning lark or night owl than you are, does not mean you should question them or imply they are lazy or unusual.  Daytime naps are becoming more common even in cultures without a heritage of siestas, so respect them.

The Arabic word for sleep is Noum.  A professor at King Saud
University had an interesting, although fanciful, hypothesis for relating traditional concepts of sleep with modern understanding of brain science.  Ahmed BaHammam relates Sinah to stage 1 sleep. Nu’ass correlates to a short nap, or to stage 1 and stage 2 sleep.  Ruqood is more or less hibernation.

Traditional Muslim society has the concept of sleep manners, with recommendations for when to get up (before morning prayers - Fajr prayer - and not going back to sleep immediately afterwards, no significant socializing after Isha prayer - darkness prayer - about two hours after sundown.)

Sleep manners are a concept that may be under assault by our 24-hour society. But part of Sleepdex's mission is to promote respect and appreciation for sleep, so we want to reinvigorate the idea.


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