Ah, sleep! That wonderful, blissful time when we get to rest and rejuvenate. Or is it?
So I’m reading this fascinating book right now from Matthew Walker, entitled “Why We Sleep”. Now, I’ve known sleep is important. We all know sleep is important. But I think very few understand the exact “why” when it comes to needing sleep. And I always believe we make better choices more often when we understand how things work.
Getting to sleep and being able to sleep has never really been an issue for me. Unfortunately with my thyroid condition, the exact opposite has been the case. I could just never get enough sleep. Yet, as I work to heal my body, and thus my condition, I’m discovering how sleep works best for me.
More isn’t necessarily better. While not everyone needs the same amount of sleep, it’s important to note that in general, adults need at least 7 hours of sleep. Some need as much as 9 hours. And each person has their own window of sleep time that is natural for them.
Through some experimenting of my own, I’ve discovered that my optimal time is from 10:30pm to 6:30am. Unless my sleep has been disrupted somehow, I tend to naturally wake up around 6:30. And while I don’t just bound right out of bed ready to greet the day, I do find it difficult to fall back to sleep. As in. It generally doesn’t happen.
I’ve also discovered that even if I don’t get to bed by 10:30, I still wake up the next morning at 6:30. And while I do feel a bit groggy I still can’t fall asleep. Further, if I’ve had a really late night and HAVE to get up the next morning, I’m okay the next day. It’s the second day after that the late night takes its toll on me. And I do tend to sleep a bit later, but if I have to get up, I’m definitely struggling all through the day.
But enough about me! Let’s look at what is supposed to happen when we sleep. . . .
When we sleep, our bodies repair and recover from the damage we’ve done to it during the day, both physically and mentally. If we are really dialed in to what we should be eating, and have a fairly stress-free lifestyle, (or are taking measures to counter the stress) it’s a lot easier to repair. But let’s face it, for a frighteningly high number of us here in the US, this isn’t the case.
Sleeping is also where short-term memory gets converted to long-term memory. Without adequate sleep, this conversion doesn’t happen. On top of that, when we sleep, our brains make contextual connections, meaning it takes everything learned and sees where it can all fit together.
Have you ever woken up one day and all of a sudden possess the ability to creatively solve something that’s been eating at you? That’s because your brain put the puzzle pieces of information together in a way to help you see it in a different light. If you don’t get enough sleep, this can’t happen.
Adequate sleep also helps keep our mood in check. Case in point, I have a group of friends that have a credo - “Tired kids don’t make for happy memories”. Okay, so this comes out of planning trips to Disney World, but it’s just so true! When kids are tired, they’re cranky and quite frankly not that fun to be around!
Guess what?! It’s exactly the same for our kids when they have tired parents! Tired parents have a lot less patience with their children, and others of course, and we tend to snap or give short answers or just don’t take the time with our children to properly deal with what’s at hand. That’s not exactly fair to our kids, is it?
For so many people, sleep disorders isn’t just about getting to bed on time and allowing for the proper amount. There is frequently something bigger at play. Insomnia can be, and quite often is, a disorder of the adrenal glands. Chronic Fatigue, quite the opposite of insomnia, is also a malfunction of the adrenal glands. And diet definitely plays a big role in the health of our organs and glands.
Sadly, there’s an alarming number of people in the US that are sleep deprived. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), around 70 million Americans aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis. That means at least 35% of Americans are not getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
Adding to the gravity of the situation, the CDC has declared sleep disorders and epidemic. An EPIDEMIC! Which means that more and more people are being diagnosed with a sleep disorder at faster and faster rates.
Hmmmm, could you imagine how much better industries, institutions, politics, and everything we encounter might function if everyone just perpetually got adequate sleep!??!
And forget about just being plain irritable and cranky. Lack of sleep, whether self-induced or an actual inability to sleep, leads to so many more disorders and diseases and puts us at an increased risk for:
Decreased sex drive
High Blood Pressure
I don’t know about you, but it’s not exactly a list of things I’d like to suffer from!
While sleep aids can be very helpful and effective in the short term, it shouldn’t be considered a long-term solution. Taking a deeper dive into the whole body to see the bigger picture and finding the root cause is crucial and imperative to developing a long-term fix for your mind, body, and health.
So if you’re not getting enough sleep . . . . or just tired all the time . . . . . start by investigating what else is going on in your life and with your body: Do you have a chronic condition of some sort? Is there a lot of stress in your life? Are you having any downtime to counter the stress? What does your diet look like? Do you notice any other patterns?
As always, I’m happy to work with you to help you get to the root cause and properly heal your body and soul.