Most people cheat sleep in an whole range of different ways with explanations such as:
“The children won’t stay in their bed and keep coming into our room waking us up.”
“I watch the television to relax before I go to bed, so I stay up late.”
“I lay awake half the night worrying about work the next day.”
And the internal mind chatter of excuses you make to yourself about the reasons you are not getting enough sleep go on most inventively, even when it is making you ill and grumpy. Then you justify those excuses to yourself in a myriad of ways.
The reality is that sleep is a biological function. If you are not getting enough of it, you get sick physically. If the quality of your sleep is not deep enough, you get sick mentally.
Tissue regrowth is fastest and most efficient during sleep. Simply relaxing is not enough. When you are asleep your immune system uses the energy you would use for moving around to check for infection and create antibodies and other ways of fighting toxic invasion of your body.
Also digestion gets a chance to begin to clear your gastrointestinal track of rotting food, thereby avoiding poisoning.
During deep sleep you enter REM (rapid eye movement) periods where your eyes are darting to and fro underneath your eyelids and you are deep dreaming.
Studies in psychiatric wards clearly show a direct correlation between lack of REM sleep and mental illness.
The less REM occurs, the more disturbed, irrational and unable to focus and concentrate you become.
So, sleep really is the royal road to physical and mental health, happiness and sanity.
Whilst it is true some people need less sleep, the majority of people in Western culture are not getting enough sleep as is witnessed by our mental illness explosion. Yes, it is really is a bomb.
You have a sleep bank. This is the number of hours you need to be able to function at an optimum level of performance and high level of personal happiness.
Generally, it is from eight to 10 hours a night. If you take hours out of the bank one night you must put them back in the next night.
Cheating sleep all week and trying to catch up at the week-ends does not work as it stresses your body five days a week.
What to do to get the best from sleep:
– When possible, go to bed as early as you can after it gets dark and get up with the sun as your hormones and body functions are linked to daylight and dark.
– Napping in the day is perfectly natural thing to do, just like other primates.
– Do not have electronic equipment in the bedroom such as televisions or iPads and only a telephone in emergencies.
– Make the room as dark as possible and reduce the noise although you can train yourself to sleep in noisier environments.
– Never eat large amounts later in the day but simply eat light after it gets dark.
– Fiercely protect the time you spend putting your sleep investment in the sleep bank every day from outside forces and distractions and then sleep will give you the greatest dividends.
Dr Tracie O’Keefe DCH, BHSc, ND, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Psychotherapist. Counsellor, PACFA registered Mental Health Professional and Naturopath in Sydney. Also trained in medical hypnosis. You can to get help to sleep well by booking an appointment with me at the Australian Health & Education Centre.