My friends Robbie and Jo Ann and I were discussing sleep the other night over a pile of crawfish. I don’t remember who said it, but we talked about how weird it is that we sleep. Sleep is so important that our lives literally revolve around the necessity to lay down and snooze for awhile each night. Our homes would look totally different if we didn’t sleep. Without the necessity of laying down for the night, a bedroom would not be necessary. Sleep is vital to our well-being.
Just yesterday, I overheard a co-worker in cubicle land ask another co-worker how she was doing. “I’m great,” she said. “I have been sleeping so good.” Just as often, I hear people claim that they are not sleeping so well, and it impacts how they feel. When I was younger, it seemed that sleep was often an inconvenience, and I never really gave it much thought. But, the older I get the more I focus on that 8 hours in the darkness where I get my vitality. It is now my PRIME time! The hour before I sleep, I turn off the phone because I’ve learned that conversations with friends increases my energy level so much that it impacts my ability to fall asleep. I take a supplement to help lower my anxiety level so that my body will start to relax. I don’t watch TV at all anymore, and one main reason is that the lighted screen impacts my sleep. If I have a high level of anxiety for some reason, I have a meditation I do to help me fall to sleep. I also keep lavender by the bed for those nights when I need a little extra help. When I cut out coffee awhile back it was primarily to reduce anxiety so I could sleep. It helped so much, I’m now embarking on eliminating caffeine. The last 3 nights have been the most delicious sleep I’ve had in ages.
A friend of mine’s husband suffered from sleep apnea. It was undiagnosed, but night after night, he would be awakened often through the night. It might appear that he was sleeping, but he was being deprived of that deep REM sleep because it takes time to get there. The more often you are awakened during the night, the less likely you will get to that very beneficial, most important stretch of deep sleep. She kept telling him that he may have sleep apnea, and, as most men are, he was too stubborn to get it checked out. He was finally diagnosed, and he got the little apparatus that helps him sleep. I saw him a little while after he had started his treatment, and I had no idea any of this was going on. The last time I’d seen him, I thought he was starting to look old. Deep lines were forming on his face, and he looked much more haggard than I’d remembered. This time when I saw him, the difference was so profound that I noticed right away. He looked literally 10 years younger. I thought maybe I had just imagined the other, so I didn’t ask. Later, my girlfriend told me the story. “OMG,” I told her. “I could tell! He looks so much younger and well-rested.”
I found this article this morning on the impacts of a lack of sleep. Sleep affects so many things. It affects focus, ability to think and process, heart health, weight, mental health and even your sex drive. The article goes on to say that most people think they’ve adapted to less sleep – a 6 hour night – but they really haven’t. Sleep impairs their judgment about how much lack of sleep is impacting them. I know that I need 7-8 hours of sleep. There was a period of time when I was under high stress when I hardly slept at all. It was the most miserable time of my life. One of my friends that knew me during that time remembers that all I would say is that I wanted to sleep. “I just want to sleep,” she quotes me saying over and over. It was awful. And I was very worried about my health.
The good thing about sleep is that it motivates me to make healthy changes. The biggest impact on my sleep is my anxiety level. So, I work really hard to reduce stress, exercise, and eat foods that help calm my anxiety. Sugar and caffeine are known triggers for anxiety, and I’ve been stubborn about eliminating them. It’s so hard! But, I’ve cut back on sugar, and I’m now sold on the fact that my sleep will improve if I cut out caffeine. I’ve experienced it. Not everybody has anxiety, but, for those of us who do, sleep can be so elusive. I already look less tired. My skin seems more relaxed. The past two mornings I woke up before the alarm feeling very rested. I’ve been dreaming. I’ve had great, vivid dreams that make me chuckle when I recall them. The dreaming tells me I’m getting to that golden land of REM sleep. I haven’t dreamed like that in ages. This morning when I woke up, my first thought was Wow! That felt awesome! My second thought was TGIF! Tomorrow morning, I can luxuriate in this wonderful bed and sleep to my heart’s content. I can’t usually sleep late because of my body clock, but I’m hoping that now that I’ve cut out the caffeine, my sleep habits will change a little. So, don’t call me early tomorrow, folks! I’m sleeping in. And I may even take a nap or two just to indulge in my newfound luxuriousness. Have a great weekend, y’all! And get some sleep!