Get Some Sleep

What should you do when you feel out of sorts? There are times when things in life feel out of place even though nothing much has changed from yesterday to today. An unsettling feeling comes over you and you may find yourself stuck. What do you do? I have been known to sleep.
I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?
-Ernest Hemingway
Photo by StockSnap
Sleep has been largely ignored and taken for granted by the medical community for a long time. You hear, anecdotally, that you should get eight hours of sleep but until recent years it has not been truly understood why. There are so many pieces of advice regarding sleep that it can be overwhelming and yet they are still working on understanding the overall reason why sleep is so important.

One thing we do know is that depending on the day, getting some sleep can mean a world of difference and make us feel better. There are four sleep theories listed on Harvard's sleep education website. All of which, seem to make sense to me and if we combine them then we have a good picture of how sleep helps heal us.

  • The inactive theory basically points out that sleep is vital to keep us out of harm's way during a time when activity is not necessarily safe.
  • The energy conservation theory focuses on how we need to use that time to conserve energy which in turn helps us to compete for limited resources. It seems moot in our modernized world in which we are no longer hunting for food or having to store away resources when it may be scarce but that survival mechanism is still part of our make up. 
  • The restorative theory which is the one we hear about the most is that we need to sleep to restore what we have lost while we were awake. Our physical and mental functions are rejuvenated during sleep so that we may continue moving forward.
  • The brain plastic theory though is a fairly new aspect being researched. It looks at the type of "effect that sleep and sleep deprivation have on people's ability to learn and perform a variety of tasks." 
None of these theories has been proven to be absolute. For our purposes of basic understanding, I gather that there is truth in all of them. Recently, and ever so often, I feel lost. Even though I have a million things to do, I will sometimes sit, immobilized unsure of what to do with myself, unsure of how I am even feeling. I'll be all "in my feelings" but unsure of what those feelings even are or how to even express them. I just know that something is off. 

Some level of anxiety tends to follow because I am a fixer and want to figure out what the problem is so that I can fix it. If I cannot put my finger on it then my mind starts to whirl and I get anxious. This is self-induced stress working its way into my life. I can presume that I am feeling this way because I have so much to do and so much going on and etcetera. 

I then try to calm myself by going into my stress management tool kit to see what I can pull out to make me feel better. There are times when nothing was working for me, not music, not reading, not watching something on television, not working out because I did not want to even try it and definitely not talking to someone (or venting to a friend) because I did not know how to or want to express myself in that way. 

Ever find yourself at this point, when nothing you would normally do to change your current mood works? Well, as aforementioned, the only thing I could turn to was sleep. I worked on listening to my body. I cannot call it meditation because I had crossed that off the list as well but I did take a moment to do a quick body scan which includes an assessment of what I may need physically. Afterwhich, I decided on sleep. 

I feel as though I needed to be inactive inorder to get out of harm's way from myself. Being awake at that time was only making matters worse for me as I was headed towards the path of increased anxiety  around a DEFCON 3 level. I also figured I can go to sleep to have enough energy to conquer things the following day since I mentally knew I had so much to do but could not organize my thoughts enough to form a plan of attack at that time. 

Tired minds, don't plan well. Sleep first, plan later. -Walter Reisch
Photo by Cimberley
Restoratively, even though I had just returned from a great time with my girlfriends, I felt that my body and spirit needed refueling because of things going on at home. Sometimes it is nice to go on vacation but we have to be prepared to deal with what we left at home when we get back. I did not do that while I was enjoying myself on vacation. I just ignored and pretended that home issues did not exist for a time. However, coming back, I had to get my mind right again. I needed the refuel in order to tackle home stressors that were waiting for me.

Lastly, I have no doubt that my brain could use the rest. The stress of my thoughts had rendered me useless. I was literally walking around staring about like some mummy. I honestly did not know what else to do. My proper brain function was definitely impaired.

I cannot stress enough how we are homeostatic beings that strive to maintain a delicate balance. Sleep is very much part of that balancing act. Stress can affect our ability to get a good night's sleep, and adversely a lack of sleep can affect our ability to handle life's stressors. We cannot take for granted or ignore the role that sleep plays in our lives. Furthermore, we have to practice a level of awareness that will allow us to live in a balanced place, creating an environment in which we thrive.  


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