Catching up on sleep

The process of finding the time to sleep, prioritizing that time for the maximized potential, and applying the mechanics necessary to facilitate wholesome rest, can be a daunting task in today’s fast paced, action centric world. There are so many elements per day that prevent us from one of the most important activities we can engage in. It’s hard to regain energy throughout the day unless you rest, consume food or drink, or receive benefits from an enhancement such as drugs (prescription or non, alcohol, etc.) and therapies. So, why is it that we ignore one of the greatest needs the body could ever ask for?

 Because we just don’t care. Sort of…

One possibility is because we don’t care about our bodies. I hope that isn’t true for you, reader. The consequences of carelessness, especially when pertaining to our bodies, are pretty negative. Here’s some information, as it is aware to me, though without proper research I am probably wrong in some of my understandings…

Here’s something I found on Ezine that helps shed the light of the risks of overeating, specifically obesity.

Article Source: http://www.EzineArticles.com/117549

When we over eat we are vulnerable to obesity, which of course increases the risks of:

  • hypertension
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • cancer
  • diabetes
  • endocrine problems
  • gall bladder disease
  • arthritis
  • lung and breathing  problems
  • bone deterioration
  • sleep disturbances (sleep apnea)

The article was helpful and maybe you’d like to check it out too, but that’s a list of possible disorders and conditions that could affect your health from not taking care of your body, just by overeating. Notice the last one?

How else can we not take care of our bodies? How about dehydration…

Here’s something from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dehydration/DS00561/DSECTION=complications which is a link to a list of probable complications due to dehydration as made public from Mayo Clinic, a professional opinion when it comes to all things medical. Here is a condensed version of their list:

  • Heat injury
  • Swelling of the brain (cerebral edema)
  • Seizures
  • Low blood volume shock (hypovolemic shock)
  • Kidney failure
  • Coma and death

So, obviously, dehydration is one way to show our body we don’t care about it. Oh, by the way, there is a MULTITUDE of reasons one can become dehydrated (soda, exercise, summer heat, winter dry air, medications, medical conditions, just forgetting to drink enough water, etc.), the point is: DRINK WATER! But, if you drink less than 2 hours before bed you may need to get up in the middle of the night to relieve some pressure in your bladder. So drink water, but not before bed.

Okay, consume food in moderation and drink plenty of water. How else can we show our body we care about it? Or, actually, how can we show our body we do not care for it? Well, there’s plenty of examples, one I’m thinking of is drugs (prescription, non-prescription, alcohol) but let’s cut to the chase and talk about why we’re reading this: sleep. More specifically the loss of sleep and trying to get those lost hours back.

Before we figure out what we can do to get those hours back, we should first ask some questions: Why is sleep so important to the body? What is the definition of the inability to sleep? What causes my sleep disorders? How can I cure my sleep disorders? What are the risks of sleeping less than the body needs? How much sleep is enough, and is this number the same for everyone?

I don’t have all the answers, but I can share with you the things I agree with and have at least a little experience with. Remember, I am no learned man by any means and all my words are those of experience and the only method of learning I know how: trial by fire.

Why is sleep so important to the body?

Wow. Here, read ALL of this: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why.html It’s a great post and I encourage you to take the 5-10 minutes to read through it. Basically, it’s like this: take your computer as an example. After being on for days on end with no break, and constantly processing calculations, posting updates to Facebook and Twitter, sharing photos on Instagram, watching videos on YouTube, checking out new ideas on Pintrest, writing and reading many blogs, etc. your computer becomes warm to the touch, maybe even hot in certain areas and has started to bog down. Now, it is taking a little more time to: open up webpages, load bigger and more demanding programs, load YouTube videos…you get the picture. That is, until you take the time to restart the computer, which helps to clear some of that suspended information that is fragments of the processes of the day.

Ok, I know it’s not a perfect illustration, so let me try to say it again (because it truly is THAT important!): after a full day of thinking and making decisions and feeling emotions our brains become tired. Unlike a computer, a brain is the component of a living, breathing, feeling, dying body. It takes real energy for our brains to compose information into a form of data we can use to make decisions. When we sleep, we regain that energy BUT we also create easier paths, or channels, for our brain to use to make those processes faster which also creates a need for less energy for that particular process. There will be thousands of processes, paths, and channels the brain will be working on during sleep to provide maximum efficiency for the day ahead and it’s important to allow the brain to do what it was designed to do. So, in conclusion, sleep is important to the body for the brain to take all the mental activity of the day and decompress all the stored information so that it can work at a better efficiency.

What is the definition of the inability to sleep?

We’ve all heard the term “insomnia”. Well, let me tell you, friends, it’s a monster under the bed and it scares the hell out of me! It is defined by Wikipedia as this:

“Insomnia is most often thought of as both a sign and a symptom that can accompany several sleep, medical, and psychiatric disorders characterized by a persistent difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep or sleep of poor quality. Insomnia is typically followed by functional impairment while awake.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insomnia

I’ve dealt with insomnia, I know friends and family that deal with it, and let me tell you, it’s a burden. The health deprivation that accompanies insomnia is dramatic, and for good reason. There are more reasons than insomnia to explain why you may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, but let’s explore insomnia as the reason for today.

What causes my sleep disorders?

I don’t know the answer to that. You and your health professional need to discuss your symptoms and environment to figure that out. Of course, the internet does provide some really good ideas as to what might be the root of our problem. Check this list out from, again, Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insomnia#Causes_and_comorbidity And here’s a truncated list of some of those items:

  • Use of psychoactive drugs. Includes: prescriptions, herbs, caffeine, nicotine, and excessive alcohol intake. Also the use of cocaine and other illegal drugs.
  • Withdrawal from anti-anxiety drugs
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Pain
  • Hormones
  • Fear, stress and anxiety
  • Constipation
  • Mental disorders
  • etc….

There’s just too many to list here and in greater detail, please check out the previously provided link for the full list. I’m sure there could be stuff that isn’t on that list that may or may not be affecting you.

How can I cure my sleep disorders?

Curing your sleep disorder may be as simple as removing soda or coffee from your nightly routine, eating earlier in the evening, turning on some relaxing music or sounds to fall asleep to, changing your sheets a little more often or buying a new pillow every six months. But, and I hope your resolution comes easily, you may find that it will take a little more work than simply deciding to change a habit or replacing a pillow. You may need to take counseling, change medications, buy a new mattress, adjust your sleep schedule, or something even more dramatic. Be prepared to explore all options as a possible source of success to your improved sleep and control over your disorder. But, I believe it will ultimately come down to taking care of any and all apparent reasons first and then explore hidden possibilities under the supervision of your health care provider.

What are the risks of sleeping less than the body needs?

We, in part, covered this already. So let me just say again: sleep is as important as good diet and proper exercise. Sleep helps your brain to decompress the thoughts of the entire day into sorted data and makes a stronger connection, faster path, or clearer channel to the processes it used during the day. This makes the next day that much more enjoyable, for your brain. Happy brain, happy day.

How much sleep is enough, and is this same number for everyone?

That’s for you to find out, and no, it is a different number for everyone. Here’s why. The body is, on a biological level, programmed to sleep at a certain point in a 24 hour period. These circadian dips add another level to some of the reasons we can’t fall asleep when we try! I, personally, get super tired between 11:30pm and 1:00am. That’s my circadian dip. Usually, if I’m awake for a 24 hour period, and I hit that circadian dip, I’m yawning, my vision goes in and out and I can’t comprehend conversations. It is, in a way, funny to watch, I must admit, but it’s a dangerous place between consciousness and unconsciousness. My friends laugh when they see me hit this point because I’m wobbling, can’t keep balance, say really random things and forget some of the most important things in my life. I don’t blame them, it is pretty hilarious to watch, but for me, it’s not a safe place. However, about an hour after my circadian dip I’m back to reality and ready to go for another day. It’s as if my mind is saying “ok, time to rest….oh, no rest, eh? *sigh* alright boys, start ’em up again!” It’s quite impressive, to me, that the body can endure so much abuse.

But, to better answer the question, the amount of sleep you need is based upon your understanding of your body. So, if you feel tired, unhappy, unmotivated, and unable to make decisions after 8 hours of sleep then you know you need to change something. Maybe it’s the time you go to bed? Finding your circadian dip and going to bed slightly before that time should provide some of the best sleep. Again, if my circadian dip is between 11:30 and 1:00 then I know I need to go to bed between 11 and 12 to take advantage of that biologically programmed time for my body to get the best rest possible.

Sometimes, there’s a kink in the chain that prevents us from fully realizing the maximum potential rest possible from sleeping with our circadian dip, such as a work schedule. Such as working at 3am. This makes it basically impossible to sleep during my circadian dip. The good news is that there is some research on the possibility of “paying back” lost sleep, which was the original intent of this post, but, I don’t know much about it, so I’ll do some research and let you know what I find.

I hope you are able to get some rest, friends!

~B

P.S. As I’ve said in other posts, PLEASE, understand that I’m not a learned man, I don’t have an education in health, and I don’t assume any responsibility for information you read here that you decide to apply to your life. You should talk with your health professional if you are experiencing health problems that prevent you from proper sleep habits.

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