My mother tells me that when I was a baby I got a reasonable amount of sleep, though not as much as others. As a toddler, I didn’t do as much of it like other toddlers my mother knew, and was quite envious of.
Once in school, I especially appreciated the beauty and grace it offered, especially in the darkness of cold mornings. As a teenager, I wanted no part of it at night, though I didn’t mind if I spent the whole day asleep on a weekend. As a new mother, the sleep I got was interrupted and the novelty of it was something I craved day and night. My most exotic fantasies dancing in my mind’s eye were of sleeping in a variety of settings and different times of day and night. Now that my children are old enough to appreciate the beauty of it, it’s easier to come by in that respect, except for the fact that I am busy and try to cram too much in one day. In other words, it’s hard for me to get there, but once I do, it’s heavenly, and I realize the more I get, the more I want.
Sleep is something we all need in varying degrees. We’re all individuals and are wired differently. I’m still trying to figure out my ideal pattern. Although experts agree that the standard for most adults is seven to nine hours. If you get less than eight, you may fall into the category of being “at risk” for various illnesses.
There was a time when my mental health was severely challenged by a lack of sleep. Tolerating a sleep deficit creates a breeding ground for crisis. My work suffered, my attention span was severely challenged and even the awareness of what the deficit was doing to me for the long-term kept me in a pattern of low-level depression. Then I experienced anxiety about feeling exhausted all the time. Since I was already eating well and exercising thinking I could push past my exhaustion, the only answer was more sleep, which was just not possible sometimes.
Things got worse during another even more difficult period of my life when I was literally afraid to sleep anticipating the bad dreams I would almost undoubtedly have. But that passed and ever since, I’ve been trying to catch up, though I wondered if once lost, it was gone forever.
Unfortunately, I was right, according to the National Sleep Foundation, a charitable, educational and scientific not-for-profit organization located in Washington, DC. They conducted a study that discovered that sleeping an extra 10 hours to make up for sleeping only six hours a night for up to two weeks, worsens your reaction times and ability to focus more so than if you had pulled an all-nighter, the website says.
A story published this month online by Mercola.com, whose tagline is “Take Control of Your Health,” also confirmed my understanding that a lack of sleep can’t be cured with even perfect nutrition and/or exercise.
News flash: We need sleep to live! Living well means sleeping well, that is, if you want to avoid every kind of problem from memory loss, cancer and diabetes to behavioral problems. There’s no way around it.
Getting too much sleep is also something to avoid. For seniors, more than eight hours a night puts a person at risk for stroke. However, more people get too little sleep than too much, which can have similar results. Research conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says sleeping too much can lead to diabetes, in that your insulin sensitivity is impaired, and sleeping too little can create the same issue. The same goes for depression. Just the right amount of sleep is truly the only way to get back on track.
Take inventory of how you feel. Push yourself to get up early and see how you feel. Do you shake off the sleepy bugs easily? Or do they follow you around all day? It’s not difficult to assess what kind of adjustments you need to make. But whatever they are, make them soon and stick to them. It could add years to your life.