“Let her sleep- for when she awakes, she will move mountains.”
If there was a one size fits all recommendation I could give to all my clients, regardless of the reason they are seeking therapy, it would be to increase and improve their sleep. I truly believe a large percentage of the challenges they face would be improved and sometimes even eliminated by attending to better sleep.
Today we are going to talk about two very important reasons you absolutely need to make good sleep your priority.
- Sleep is when your body heals.
Life is hard on the body.
Each day you get up and ask your body to work for you. You ask it to provide oxygen, digest food, regulate your temperature and keep your heart beating. Your immune system is constantly scanning and destroying invaders while your muscles and joints take untold hours of stretching and straining.
In your brain, there is constant action. Between processing current information, relating it to historical information and projecting future scenarios, you ask your brain to process more information than we can ever truly comprehend.
And with all of these complex and symphonic systems going on in the background, most of us live our lives unaware and disconnected from our bodies. It’s like we’ve forgotten that they are part of us.
We often mindlessly push our bodies to perform. Mindless, meaning that we have disconnected from the cycle of charge, use and recharge.
Think your cell phone and how you cannot go even one day with plugging in and charging the battery.
Being disconnected means that we often miss the signs of fatigue our bodies give us and we reach for something other than sleep to keep going.
- Caffeine, from coffee to energy shots, is a mega-million industry built on the sleep deprivation culture we live in.
- Food, particularly high sugar carbohydrates is another way we try to fill our tanks.
- Sheer determination is also a strategy that I see women utilizing in the face of exhaustion. “Just keep going” is the mantra of our culture.
All of these may work for a short time, but in the long run, they are deceptively dangerous.
Without the Deep REM sleep we all should be having each night, research shows humans suffer devastating physical and emotional impairment. The body and mind are not built to run on empty, neither are they built to run on substitutes. Sleep is the charge for your battery and the gas for your tank. When you sleep, you heal, both in mind and body.
So, what happens when we go without sleep?
I see it every day in my office.
We start to fall apart.
I’m not just talking about our blood pressure increasing, or our immune systems dropping the ball allowing us to contract illnesses as varied as colds to autoimmune disorders. Although those things most definitely happen.
I’m talking about not feeling like yourself.
Which brings me to the second reason you absolutely must learn to protect your sleep.
- When you take charge of your sleep, you are stepping into your power.
Too little sleep = too little power to choose how you show up in the world. And I see that every day in women who are depressed, anxious and feel like the light and spark have left their lives.
I get it- there is too much to do and not enough time to do it. It’s so tempting to cut out a couple of hours sleep to get everything done that needs to be done. But, when we do this, we also cut the legs from under us, leaving our body vulnerable and our minds and hearts depleted.
- Having enough sleep means that your brain will work as it is supposed to because sleep restores and maintains cognitive ability.
- Having enough sleep helps you with emotional regulation. Regulating your emotions means that you know how to “keep it together” in the midst of the stress of life. Nine out of ten women who come to me with anger control or emotional outburst problems are not good at taking care of their own needs. One of the biggest of these needs is sleep.
Protecting sleep means that you will have to start listening to your body and saying no to some things so you can say yes to taking care of yourself. Saying no can be hard, but it also can lead to more saying yes, once your tank is refilled.
This kind of decision making puts you at the center of your life. I know that is not a comfortable place to be for most moms, but if you aren’t in the center, then you will perpetually be off balance.
There is a way to take care of your needs without being selfish. It’s called wisdom.
Being wise about:
- how you structure your time
- choose your activities
- plan time for restoration
So, take the challenge to seriously look at how you protect your sleep and commit to giving yourself the best chance possible to heal your body and take charge of your life.
As always, take good care of you!