I’ve been thinking of late about the function and the necessity of sleep. It wasn’t that long ago that I realized that I have an issue with sleeping. What’s interesting is that I do not suffer from any sort of chronic insomnia or a genetic predisposition to not sleeping….I just don’t like to sleep. Maybe I think Im going to miss out on something.
If given a choice between going to bed or staying up reading or writing or researching, I will almost always desire the option that involves staying up a little later, finishing this chapter, this movie, this article, this…whatever. You get the point – I’d rather do anything than go to bed.
There are a number of different reasons that have been primary at one time or another during my lifetime. At times I’ve felt that I’d be missing something if I went to sleep, therefore I’d stay up and do the much more interesting thing whatever that is, instead of wasting valuable time abed. At other times I’ve been working on various projects or been under some sort of deadline that would require in my mind extended periods of time where I felt I needed to go without sleep to accomplish some goal I’d set for myself. Note, that even as I write this I recognize that my impressions of what was ‘necessary’ with regard to my own sleep deprivation may not have been realistic, but it certainly felt so at the time. And since we are ruminating, let me also add that there seems to be a thought in the back of my mind that sleep is for wussies. A strong, capable person (like myself, apparently) has the ability to tap into hidden reserves of strength not immediately apparent to the average person and thereby exist on about half the amount of sleep that most people need to function. I told myself (and others) some version of that macho bullshit for years, as I routinely allowed myself roughly 4 hours a night of sleep on average, many times going without sleep entirely, getting what I called my ‘second wind’ around 4 a.m. at which time I’d start to feel more awake as dawn approached. I’d crash the following afternoon of course and take a nap during lunch and somehow make it through the doldrums of the afternoon in a quasi awake state. On some level I knew that this wasn’t good for me and I’d also be cognizant of the need to make some sort of change…but I’d do it again and again anyway. Sound familiar?
(saw a comic yesterday that said that one of the signs of sleep deprivation is telling other people how much sleep you arent getting every night..har de har har!)
The Beauty of the Night
For me, the middle of the night is a beautiful place to be. Its quiet, dark – the people that you love are safe and tucked away sleeping, there are no interruptions, no phone ringing, no worrying about finishing up things here before you have to be there by X time – none of those irritating phenomena that we accept as part and parcel of the daylight world. After what is commonly considered ‘late night’ activity, the susurrus of murmured conversations over the issues of the day, sex, television etc. typically goes until midnight and then there is this moment of peaceful, beautiful silence that stretches before me like a vast, blank tablet that is waiting. Waiting for my hand to mold and to shape it into somewhen that is totally mine to do with as I will…until the approach of dawn. It is a wondrous and incredibly seductive time. And the most amazing thing is that unlike birthdays, holidays and other special occaisions – this moment will unfurl before me like a beautiful delicate, inky black rose each and every night. What an awesome re-usable resource!!!! I LOVE being awake late at night. Apparently.
Unfortunately….Sleep Deprivation Can Kill You.
There’s an unfortunate tradeoff for not sleeping – yah, there are a handful of people on the planet that dont appear to need sleep, e.g. they arent afflicted with any of the negative effects brought on my not sleeping. Apparently the rest of us NEED sleep. For your idyllic sojourns in the land of sleeplessness, there is a toll. Your bill is paid by the body – if you look at the body as a “bus” figuratively speaking, by being chronically sleep deprived you cannot keep some or all of a growing list of ‘travelers’ to climb onboard and accompany YOU through the pathways of the waking world. These travelers go by varied and numerous names;
- Hallucination – do you ever see those elusive little shadows that appear to be just out of the corner of your eyes, darting under beds or couches or the sense that ‘something’ was over there but isnt right now?
- What about Irritability,
- Cognitive impairment, Memory lapses or loss, Severe yawning, symptoms similar to ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), Impaired moral judgement, Decreased reaction time and accuracy, Tremors, Aching muscles, Risk of Diabetes Type 2, Growth suppression, Risk of obesity, Decreased temperature, Increased heart rate variability, Risk of heart disease, Impaired immune system…. the list goes on and on.
These are facts my friend…not opinion. Irrefutable, scientifically verified, independantly provable, in-your-face.. facts.
At the shallow end of the pool, the list of travelers that would go with me through the waking world seemed like a small price to pay, for me – as long as they were few and variable. But be warned that the effects are cumulative and it has been my experience that the longer one goes without sleep on both the short (single night, or series of adjacent nights) or the long (over a period of months or years) term – the more of these critters clamber aboard. And they do NOT like to leave. In other words, you feel worse and worse over time, till you die. Additionally, I’ve found that even if the list of symptoms doesn’t grow – the ‘weight’ if you will of specific attributes like obesity, or irritability tends to expand geometrically. Did you know that Amnesty International lists sleep deprivation as a form of TORTURE?
Fact: Going without Sleep makes you FAT. There, I said it.
Why fatness? Sleep deprivation disrupts your bodies ability to regulate hormones that control metabolism and appetite? As a result you overeat and don’t lose weight as rapidly or consistently as a healthy person. Being overweight changes how you breathe, especially when sleeping – so you develop chronic snoring and also sleep apnea where the soft tissues in the back of the throat relax and cut off your air – you literally stop breathing for extended periods of time while asleep, the body jolts itself awake to breathe by releasing panic signals/hormones whenever oxygen levels dip and remain below an optimal level. These constant cycles of oxygen deprivation/adrenaline throughout the night stress your heart and also prohibit deep, restful sleep ..which leads to tiredness during the day, and disrupts your bodies ability to regulate hormones that control metabolism and appetite, as a result you overeat and……..
Lather, rinse and repeat the above cycle until dead.
Yes, I could have waxed long and pedantic about various and sundry sleep aids like the best mattress for the money, size and quantity of pillows, their assorted fillings, the importance and relevance of thread count in bed linens and the merits of egyptian cotton vs domestically grown.
And perhaps I will at a later date.
But before we explore the concept of sleeping WELL, – we need to tackle head on the issue that many of us struggle with, and that is sleeping AT ALL.
Look into this article and raise your hand if you see your reflection anywhere. If you are a part of my Tribe of the Sleep Deprived – you know who you are and you know that this is Truth. If you have one or more of those aforementioned critters on your ‘bus’ during the day…you are Sleep Deprived.
And you’re killing yourself slowly.
And killing oneself by degrees is not living a Best and Highest life.
Take the Sleep Challenge
You know the deal. You know if you’re sleep deprived. So….Lets DO IT. Its time to make a change – lets start living, loving and feeling better. (and living longer!) Lets start by getting a good amount of sleep. Starting tonight!!!
First thing – stop with the “I only need X amount of hours” – that’s evaluating need on a sleep deprived model. Lets start with the old fashioned EIGHT. Ok…wait. SEVEN. (see, Im trying to make this a REAL Goal I can stick to – I’ll be honest with you, my day normally begins @ 5:30 A.M. – there are early a.m. football practices and such that kids need to be ontime for, so our days during the week start pretty early. So if I want to get at least SEVEN HOURS of sleep, I need to be in bed by 10:30. Besides, Eight hours of sleep would mean being in BED BY NINE-THIRTY! WTF!!!!
We are going to be in bed by 10:30 p.m. during the weekdays. Even though – I must confess that I DO feel some internal pushback at the prospect of going to bed so early. But Im going to do it ANYWAY.
For my health, for my family, for my life!!!!
JOIN ME IN GETTING ‘SLEEP HEALTHY!’
for the next 7 days, will you commit to going to bed ONE hour earlier than you normally do? If you want to go hardcore and go for the full seven or eight instead of the 3-4 that you are currently getting, more power to you!!! For the rest of you, Im asking for ONE additional hour of sleep per night. I’ll keep track and see how many extra hours we get in total 7 days from today.
Who’s with me? There’s strength in numbers – if you are a fellow member of the Sleep Deprived Tribe then let me hear from you. Lets encourage each other!!!! We can DO THIS!!!