Along with conscious breathing practices, clean water, and great food, sleep is absolutely essential to radical self-care. We need more sleep than any other animal. No one knows exactly why but our large brains need a third of a day to replenish, detox, and repair.
In the US we get about two hours less sleep per night on average than we did 60 years ago. While many of us feel we can get by with 7 hours or less of sleep, the consequences of not getting 7-9 hours are very real and serious.
I’m sure you’ve all had the experience of not getting enough sleep for just one night and know how depleted you feel the next day or the day after. Unfortunately for many of us that depleted feeling has become a low-grade chronic condition. When we push beyond our natural tiredness our will power diminishes, we become less effective at many levels, and prone to much longer term problems including: insomnia, compromised immune function, depression, weight gain, diabetes, sexual dysfunction, addictions, heart disease, premature aging, and dementia.
It’s so important to find out what really works for your body and stick with that. Finding our natural rhythm is a radical move since we’ve lost touch with what really works for us. Even if you do know your best sleep cycle intuitively, you are also probably aware of that list of reasons why you blow past your natural tiredness.
This pattern of overriding tiredness and the consequences for us personally and as a society is perfectly summed up by this powerful piece titled “Sacred Tiredness” by Michael Leunig.
You must rest – otherwise you will become REST-LESS!
The world is sick with exhaustion and dying of restlessness. Tiredness is one of our strongest, most noble and instructive feelings. It is an important aspect of our CONSCIENCE and must be heeded or else we will not survive.
Tiredness has become a matter of shame! This is a dangerous development. Everywhere we see people overcoming their exhaustion and pushing on with intensity – cultivating the great mass mania which is making life so hard and ugly – so cruel and meaningless – so utterly graceless – and being congratulated for overcoming it and pushing it deep down inside themselves as if it were a virtue to do this. And what happens when such strong and natural feelings are denied? We live in a world of those consequences. So I gently urge you to curl up and rest – FEEL YOUR NOBLE TIREDNESS – LEARN ABOUT IT AND MAKE A GENEROUS PLACE FOR IT IN YOUR LIFE.
That first line totally hooked me. No rest…. you get rest-less. It’s as if we have become a world of children saying to their parents: “No, no, I’m not tired, I just want to stay at my screen (TVs, computers, pads, video games, or phones) for a few more minutes.” And as Leunig makes so clear the consequences are hugely far-reaching at both the personal and collective levels.
Here are some radical self-care moves that can help you become aware of and trust your natural tiredness and sleep better. As with all these posts, my suggestion for increasing the likelihood of success is to pick one item from the list below for this coming week.
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-In the bedroom cool, dark, and quiet is best. Wear eyeshades if necessary. Remove or cover all blue light emitting devices from your bedroom. That means: computers, pads, TVs, smart phones, video games, compact fluorescents, LCD bulbs, and the digital clocks with glowing numbers. Blue spectrum light is great for getting work done during the day but at night blue light inhibits the production of melatonin, your natural sleep hormone.
If you and other members of your family use blue light devices after dark and have trouble sleeping buy blue-blocking glasses. The health payoffs are well worth the costs.
Another option is to load in an app called F.lux that automatically reduces the blue light emitted from your computer screen after dark. (https://justgetflux.com/)
-Create as consistent a schedule as possible – especially your rising time. Your animal self loves that. Research studies have shown that sleep between 10 pm and 6 am is much more beneficial than 12 midnight and 8 am largely because that schedule is more tuned to the natural light rhythm and our internal clocks.
-Take a power nap of between 7 and 20 minutes during the day.
-Avoid sleep medications such as Ambien that prevent the deeper stages of sleep necessary for renewal. Experiment with melatonin.
-Avoid caffeine at least six hours before bedtime. If you have any sleep issues, giving up caffeine is often the best first step.
-Avoid late night carb snacks, they put your body into digest and activity mode rather than sleep mode.
-Meditate and breathe deeply for a few minutes before going to sleep. Offer yourself a blessing and a few gratitudes for your day. If you and your partner can share a few of those gratitudes with each other, all the better.
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