Friday, March 21, 2008

Sleepytime Gal

I think we all know that there's nothing like a good night's sleep to renew and refresh us. But studies indicate that it is also vital to our physical well-being.  According to the CDC, it is an essential part of a healthy life and the prevention of chronic diseases and conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression. Lack of sleep also causes car and other vehicular accidents, and has been shown to be as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. The CDC reports that more than one-quarter of people in the U.S. report occasionally not getting enough sleep, and almost 10% suffer from chronic insomnia.

The CDC and other organizations have found that adults need 7-9 hours of sleep a night, although that can vary with individuals. I know that if I have the chance to sleep in, I awake naturally after 8-9 hours, or less in the summer when it's sunny earlier in the morning. How often do I get that much sleep? Rarely. Usually it's 6-7 hours, which is probably pretty good for most people. I've found that in order to function well at my job, I need to get that amount on most nights if I want to be on top of my game, alert, and productive. I learned a long time ago that being up until 1 or 2 AM didn't bode well for my abilities during the work day.


Sleep is a way for our bodies to heal. If we are sick, what is the first thing we want to do? Stay in bed and sleep. It's our body's way of repairing damage, and our immune system's way of fighting off the marauding Huns of bacteria and viruses. While we sleep, our body can put all of its efforts into cellular repair, damage control, and defense. It's a remarkable thing, but we have to give it a chance to work.

It's also a chance to repair our wounded psyches. We all wonder about various dreams that we have--some are funny, some are scary, and some are downright disturbing. We are constantly stimulated during the day with images, sounds, situations, thoughts, memories...what's a poor, overworked mind to do? Dream. Every night, we clean out the attic of our mind by dreaming, and we have no control over it. Someone from our distant past can appear alongside someone we see every day, someone we've never met can speak to us, and we can experience surrealistic situations that we would never see in real life. Some dream analysis has merit, and if we think about it, we can usually figure it out, but I find that most dreams are nothing more than our minds breaking out a big vacuum cleaner and sucking up the detritus of our day, assembling it all into an interesting movie, and then chucking the whole mess into the trash.

Some people say that they'll sleep when they're dead. True enough, and I find that most days, I wish I had more time to do the things I want to do and still get a solid 8 hours of sleep. That doesn't usually happen, because how can a person fit in a day of work, dinner, time with family or friends, and time to relax with TV, a movie, or reading, and still get 8 hours? I'm not sure it can be done. But every so often, there are times when I say, "I need to sleep," and I go to bed at 8:30. It happens rarely, but it's very restorative. If I'm physically and mentally exhausted, just the sheer indulgence of going to bed that early can give me a sort of boost, knowing that I chose to give my brain a chance to shut down. Sometimes we need to prioritize and listen to what our body is telling us. "For the love of God, will you please get some sleep! I'm dyin' here!"

As the CDC says, "sufficient sleep is not a luxury—it is a necessity." 



buckoclown said...

I find that if I spend more than 6-7 hours, my aging body starts to ache, especially my back.  It was nice to sleep in today :o)

aimer said...

I used to teach high school and half of my students were always sleepy! I don't think that most teenagers get enough sleep. I wonder why schools still run on a schedule based ona an agrarian economy, when farming was a major industry, electricity was relatively new and everyone went to bed early and rose slightly before dawn? Great post, now if only people would take the seriousness of getting enough sleep to heart.--Sheria

luvrte66 said...

Sheria, the CDC recommends even MORE sleep for teenagers, something like 8-10 hours a night. I remember that when I was that age, I craved about 10 hours of sleep. Unfortunately, so many folks seem to load their kids up with endless activities and push them into things that the kids aren't thrilled about doing. Sometimes kids just need to get some rest, because their metabolism is at a crazily high rate. (I remember my folks calling me the Human Garbage Disposal, because I could eat like a horse at that age.)

Hope you sleep tight tonight! :)


queeniemart said...

i have been on nights for 15 yrs and my sleeping is just destroyed...i often say i will die younger than i should due to the hours i work.....most of the people i work with are on anti depressants and started them AFTER getting this job and everyone i know on nights does not sleep normally. I have problems GETTING to sleep but not staying asleep. I usually sleep about 5 hrs a day and get up exhausted. Then on Saturday, i will crash with Tylenol PM's for 12 hrs straight. Then i am back to not being able to get to sleep. Ugh.
Great article.
hugs, lisa

luvrte66 said...

Lisa, shift work has been documented to be detrimental to good sleep. In my first job, I worked multiple shifts in a week, e.g., day shift Monday, night shift Tuesday, day off Wednesday, 4 hour shift Thursday, evening shift Friday and Saturday...AGH! Thank God I was in my early 20's, because that kind of shift work would absolutely kill me now.

I admire you and applaud you for doing night shift work--it's not easy, and it's hard to maintain that. Just do your best to take care of yourself and get some sleep when you can.


robinngabster said...

I think I get too much sleep and I still want more.  I also have very strange dreams!

mpnaz58 said...

I work at a health/wellness resort, and believe it or not, the sheer number of guests that had trouble sleeping was so great, that we built a service around it.  The whole issue of why people can't/don't unwind, can't fall asleep, don't stay asleep, and all the problems that arise from lack of is just way more common than I thought.  I get about 7 hours a night and that seems to suit me, but when I haven't worked out, or I can't quiet my mind, I can awaken so tired, like I never slept a wink!  Or have you ever been in the twilight sleep, not quite asleep, but not awake??  I seem to have nightmares in this state of sleep!
xoxo ~Myra

luvrte66 said...

Myra, that's amazing and sad that so many people have such a hard time with getting restful sleep. I know exactly what you mean about that "halfway" state of know you've slept, but you don't feel well-rested because you feel like your brain never really shut down. Frustrating!


rdautumnsage said...

Since Doc started his job as a teacher's aide (along with still teaching guitar lessons and gigs on weekends) there is little time left in a day. I have found myself getting up with him (unheard of since I don't work, who ever heard of forcing oneself to arise at the ungodly hour of 5:30AM) hoping to get most of my day accomplished before he decides to turn in at 10pm. So ho hum...well I'm just not getting any sleep as I can't seem to turn in at that early time. I'm working on a sleep schedule....hopefully sometimes soon. (Hugs) Indigo