The Importance of Respecting Your Sleep Rhythms
“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” – Ernest Hemingway
I have always loved sleep. As a child, and right through until the last couple of years, sleep has come easily. On the rare occasion that I did not find a hibernating level of slumber, I would easily recover it with a nap. I generally averaged 9 hours of sleep a night. I used to hear people talk about their problems with sleep and I felt sorry for them. Still, I felt even more sorry for the poor souls who did not see the use of sleep and found fatigue and sleep to be more of an inconvenience. It has been a couple of years now since the youngest of the kids started sleeping right through night. Nevertheless, I still find myself sleeping with one eye open. While it is not entirely due to children, I am finding that I now struggle to reach a deep state of sleep and it seems to take a ridiculous amount of time to get there. I have started preparing for sleep as if I was entering a battle and the bed is the battlefield. To win this war, I try to set the stage for success. I cut my caffeine intake off early, I do some exercise everyday, and I even take a melatonin. I take sleep so seriously that I dedicated a chapter of it in the Ekahi Method.
Last night was another example of, despite setting the stage for sleep, I just could not get into the rhythm of sleep. I think I slept three or four hours last night. Fortunately I still have the ability to get an average amount of sleep with a late afternoon nap. I know that this can set a cycle of not being able to sleep later in the evening but I had to do something! It is amazing how lack a few hours of sleep can affect not only your mood but your coordination, cognitive processes, reaction times, balance, and more. On the drive home today, I felt inebriated. I cut off a driver by accident and felt like I was operating in another dimension. My late afternoon nap sorted me right out. Let’s take a look at the research surrounding sleep.
How much is needed?
- According to the Mayo Clinic, 7-8 hours a night for adults
Benefits of Sleep:
- muscle growth and tissue repair
- hormone release (growth hormone and melatonin)
- brain development
- lower metabolism – lower metabolism=longer life
Effects of not sleeping 7-8 hours:
- higher mortality rate
- poorer results on complex mental tasks
- lab animals denied sleep for a few weeks have immune system failure and die
Tips for getting a good rest:
- get 30 minutes or more of exercise during the day or early evening
- an hour or more before you plan to lie down, start turning off the lights. Stimulating the retina with light prevents the release of melatonin (a hormone related to serotonin to make you sleepy)
- sleep in a dark room – any light source can prevent you from reaching a deep sleep
- good air flow – if possible, try to have air moving in your room
- cut the caffeine at least 3 hours before bed
- turn the cell phone off and move it away from your head
- try a melatonin. These supplements can be purchased over the counter at most health food stores and druggists. Ask your health practitioner about it.
Respect your rhythms:
- it is true that we all have different sleep rhythms
- if your natural inclination is to go to bed early and rise early, set the sleep stage for that to happen
- If you prefer to stay up later and wake up later – I hope you have found an accommodating career and lifestyle
Now if you will excuse me, I must start preparing to gain the upper hand in the war for more sleep tonight.