I am a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Yoga Health Coach in training. I talk to people about how to get their bodies back into rhythm with nature and how to thrive in their lives. I teach daily habits that can get to the root of the issue in the body and help to reduce and alleviate symptoms like inflammation, pain, weight gain, digestive disturbances, skin issues, brain fog, and mood disorders.
I talk to people a good deal about the importance of sleep- not only how much sleep, but what time the sleep is occurring. Don’t get me wrong, this was definitely not always a priority for me. I am still working to catch up on the deficit I created from years of sleep deprivation. I too believed that 5-6 hours of sleep per night was sufficient and I fell into that trap of staying up later to get things done, but then getting up early to start the next busy day. I didn’t understand how I could be so tired, but then once I was in bed, not be able to sleep. And I definitely didn’t understand the damage that was being done to my body.
According to the National Institute of Health, getting 6 or fewer hours of sleep per night equals sleep deprivation. Only 30% of high school students are getting 8 hours of sleep each night, but, did you know that kids really need 9-10 hours of sleep? And adults need 8 hours to feel their best and function optimally. When I learned this, I realized that I had been sleep deprived since I was a teenager. Without knowing the damage that I was doing, I was pushing through and saying things like, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”. With that attitude, I was going to get there sooner than I had hoped.
As a society, we are taught to keep going, to “do whatever it takes”, to ignore our bodies’ signals and signs. Then, we often find ourselves dealing with illnesses and dysfunction in the body down the road and have no idea where it all came from.
(This guy has no problem sleeping any time, any where. If he is sleepy, he lies down and gives in. Maybe we should take a lesson from my dogs…)
Let me tell you a little about what happens in the body with too little sleep. Sleep deprivation leads to an increase in traffic accidents, slower reaction times, and lower brain function. When we are in that state, we also can’t realize that we aren’t functioning as well as we could. When we don’t allow the body to restore and rejuvenate itself through rest, it takes a toll on the immune system and things start to break down. Our brains and bodies aren’t able to efficiently digest all of the things that are coming in to the system. We begin to rely on stimulants to get us going and then suppressants to wind us down. Our system ceases to function as it naturally would and we lose overall body and brain efficiency. Our hunger and cravings get knocked out of whack because we don’t feel well, turning to quick fixes like sugar and caffeine more and more, and we begin to develop inflammation in the body. The body begins to work against itself and it shows up as illness or develops into long-termer issues like autoimmune disease. And all of this has an impact on our mental health and our ability to not only cope with stress, but also manage our moods.
Sleep is the best medicine for repair work. – Cate Stillman
Ayurvedic practitioner and my teacher, Cate Stillman points out that issues like Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, Chrohn’s disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Lupus, etc, are provoked by extreme stress in the body (chronic or acute) that was not recovered from appropriately. Our body’s natural rhythm gets thrown off and until we take the time to reset that rhythm, we cannot benefit from immune integrity. Our body can’t support itself until we take the time to recover from the extreme stress. Recovery time can vary depending on the degree of damage done, but it can get better!
There are other factors that will influence your ability to get more sleep, and it won’t always go perfectly, but believe me, changing your daily habits to support healthy immune function can be done. Taking charge of your body through small, daily changes leads to health altering benefits. I invite you to start to explore how much sleep you need right now to heal and rejuvenate. It may be more like 9 hours to begin to fill in the deficit. Can you put your body’s needs first and make bedtime between 9 and 10pm? I promise you, it is worth it. You can do ‘all of the things’ early in the morning rather than late at night and support brain efficiency at the same time.
Begin to think of sleep as the tool that will help you feel your best. You can undo damage that has already been done and prevent other issues. Give it a try for the next week. Run an experiment to see if you can go to bed between 9 and 10pm every day to see what it does for you.
I will be trying right along with you.
Talk again soon.