We all know it instinctively, a life without sleep sucks. Yet we push the boundaries regularly. I will stay up for just a little while longer, watch one more episode of The Punisher…yip that was me last night. Was it worth it? No, not in the morning anyway.
I just lost the run of myself and watched one too many. About 20 minutes in, some sense kicked in and I actually stopped it and went to sleep.
Imagine a little over a century ago, the average person slept 9 hours a night. Now the average is between 6 and 7 hours.
So what happened, did we become super human? More like super caffeinated and super sweet and super anything that can get us over the slumps and humps.
I have two young girls and sometimes they don’t always listen to their Dad, they stay up late playing or using their tablet. The next day when they are overtired, I watch how their behaviour changes.
How homework is tougher, how they beg for sweets or how the littlest thing can set them off emotionally. This is where I usually suggest to them they are overtired and as tears stream down their face insisting they aren’t tired, I realise one thing.
When it comes to sleep, kids and adults are the same.
We may not have tears running down our face but we also don’t have someone guarding the sweet tin. We can eat biscuits, drink coffee and wine and get on with adulting. We can mask the symptoms of tiredness in any way we please, coz we are adults, we know what is best for us.
Even then, the symptoms of tiredness can still eek through. We find ourselves losing our train of thought mid sentence and as for learning a new complex task, oh dear! Its easy to say ‘Im not smart enough for this or its too complicated’ but what if its simply ‘I am too tired for this.’
Our mental chatter has a tendency to turn negative as our interactions are frayed by the lack of sleep. So a shit day or an argument with a work colleague may have all been exacerbated by your lack of time spent horizontal.
Later on, we might long for that good nights sleep but we messed up our natural sleep/wake cycle by drowning it in stimulants and sedatives.
Herein lies the catch 22. If we take away our caffeine and alcohol and sweets, we can start to sleep properly again but if we do, what happens?
Initially, we are faced with a wall of tiredness. Life becomes even more unbearable, why on earth would I sign up for that?
A few very valid reasons;
Caffeine taken now and again can really perk us up but taken regularly, we become numb to the effects of it. It can actually make us anxious and affect the quality of our sleep. Caffeinism/Anxiety are almost indistinguishable by symptoms.
Sweet things make us happy, even if only for a short while. They can however interfere with our stress hormones, waking us up during the night when we are supposed to be getting some quality zzz’s.
Alcohol, sweet sweet alcohol. One or two units (Yes, I said units!)might take the edge off the day but more than that and we are sleeping off the alcohol and opposed to sleeping for rest and recovery.
The truth is, leaving this stimulant/depressant cycle is tough, so there usually needs to be some motivating force for change. Something even worse than giving up our treats.
I don’t really expect everyone to see the benefit of this but if you are in pain.. then this might be the right time to consider one of my face to face health programs where you optimise your diet,exercise, sleep and light signals.
Its not about restriction, its about resetting and gaining back appreciation for your life. From that new position you then have a choice.