Why is Sleep so important?
Posted on 14th March 2022 at 21:27
As a mother of three sleep has, for a very long time, been a hot topic in my life. When you have a baby you start to become slightly obsessed with sleep ( I did) and how much or how little you are getting. Is your baby or your child sleeping enough ? That’s another important question. That consumes your mind at first and then as they get a little older it eases and routines are formed. That’s what the books say obviously but in reality it doesn’t always work that way.
My oldest child got up every day at 5am, come rain or shine, and as he got older this did not stop. He was in fact 5 years old before he went to bed before the end of the late night news, slept through the entire night and woke up before the crack of dawn on a summers day. Subsequently I was really tired a lot of the time ! This effected my ability to think, to motivate myself, my immune system. It was a challenging time and I really thank my lucky starts that I was so young at the time and my body was more equipped to deal with it. He did get older and he did begin to sleep more and wake less through the night…eventually… until he hit his teenage years and sleep became really important to him of course. My next child was different again. She slept anywhere and any time and it was a welcome change for me to be able to sleep when I needed to.
I think this has been the issue for me. Having to, as a mother, to work around another beings schedule…which you kind of have to do when you have a young child, meant that if I was tired and they were not then I had to somehow stay awake. My third child was another story. She has now been diagnosed with ADHD and so I know now why she was never up for bedtime. Her little mind was not tired, it had other ideas…lots of them ! This was really tough, I’m not going to lie or sugar coat that one. I was so so tired and in need of rest, it was very unhealthy and at times very lonely.
Our bodies give us signals all the time. They tell us what we need. When we need a rest they tell us we are tired and invite us to sleep, and sleep deprivation for parents can be a serious issue although we do hope that this is time limited and our body recovers.
There are other things however that keep us from sleep apart from restless babies…………………
Worry. This one is a real pain when our body is trying to sleep. Our brain wants to think about stressful things and they seem to get even more apparent when we close our eyes. It’s as if when the lights turn off, the brain turns on, and starts to remind us about everything in the world that we could worry about and that’s not to mention that to do list that we never completed today. Our brains LOVE to focus hard on what we haven’t done at bedtime. A good dose of rumination, that likes to make an appearance too and before we know it we have tossed and turned for too long and then the dreaded “looking at the time and working out how little sleep you are going to achieve, even if you fall asleep right now“ starts. These nights love to end themselves with what seems like 5 minutes of solid sleep before the alarm rings and Oh no, the day has come and we are exhausted already.
Why does this matter ? A strong cup of coffee and we get going, right?
There are a lot of general guidelines around how much sleep a person should get but it is quite individual and actually depends on you and your lifestyle. I need extra sleep for example after a day running around after my grandson, than I do after a day relaxing by the side of a pool…not that I have done that for a while, but you get the idea?
What we eat, what we drink, they all effect sleep but why is sleep so important and how could improving our sleep impact positively on us ?
When we sleep our brain gets to work on some really important things, and it has nothing to do with our worries or stresses. Our brain is repairing and forming new pathways while we sleep in preparation for the next day, that allow us to learn and remember information. It is learning how to make decisions, come up with creative ideas and problem solve, so without enough sleep our brains are missing out on some pretty important stuff. Finding it hard to make decisions, focus, pay attention, and control our emotions could all be a direct result of a poor night’s sleep. Or several.
Life can throw us a lot of difficulties, so I would say that doing anything we can to support our ability to feel good, in control and on top of things, is a great idea. Sleep just seems such a straightforward way of meeting this need. Its not over complicated, we are, the majority of us ( unless you do have a restless baby right now and I promise it will get better) allowed to just get into bed at night and sleep. Maybe it is worth taking another look at how we can improve this experience.
Our physical body needs the sleep too. When we sleep our bodies repair themselves. Our blood vessels and heart are nurtured and repaired while we sleep. These are vital parts of our body that we need to live a healthy life ! Sleep regulates our blood sugar levels and if these are out of whack this can really impact the way we eat and the foods we crave. I remember this from my real lack of sleep days. My body would start to crave sugary snacks in a bid to stay awake but it made no sense as it didn’t actually work, but everything was just out of sync ! I was also more susceptible to colds and infections, which was the worst because being ill on top of being tired is a low day. All of this comes back to our mood. If we feel unwell then our mood is likely to be negatively effected.
Are we destined to fall into a negative cycle ? Low mood leads to restless sleep, restless sleep leads to low mood for all the reasons I have stated plus about a million more that I haven’t gone in to because this isn’t a science paper and I don’t want to bore you to sleep …yet.
As a person who has lived in this cycle I would say yes, our brains and bodies can very easily fall into negative cycles but no, we are not destined and there is absolutely a way to stop the cycle and start enjoying better sleep and better health.
Where is the start of the cycle, that’s where I always start. Often people come to me and say they struggle to sleep. They want me to tell them how to get their brain to sleep at night. The issue however is that their brain is also trying to tell them something. It may be expressing to them that they are overwhelmed, overworked, sad, lonely, you name it, so when our brains cant switch off we need to take a moment to find out what they are trying to say. That’s the start of the cycle in that case. The start of the cycle may be somewhere else. It may be in their uncomfortable mattress or that they live next to an iron maiden fan who likes to play along badly on their electric guitar. Everyone is different but finding the starting point is the key to change. Once we have the starting point we can begin the process of change.
Looking at your own sleep pattern, is it where you want it to be and if not where is the starting point in your negative sleep cycle ?
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