Fatigue makes cowards of us all.
I am nearly worthless when I am dog-tired! When I try cramming too much into my day, the quality and duration of my sleep has been my go-to compromise. Unfortunately, I rarely get by unscathed when I cheat myself of sleep.
In my whole married life, I never could have dreamed I would ever want to kick my wife out of bed…not for any reason. However, in recent months she has begun snoring. Sometimes, it’s as if an accordion player has jumped under our covers. I nudge her several times if it gets bad, trying to get her to roll onto her side and breathe more normally. Until recently, I had not made the connection between these brief nocturnal exchanges and the impact to my day.
So many people I know are suffering from a lack of sleep; either they aren’t sleeping long enough or the quality of their sleep has diminished over the years. A man with whom I work will let out the yawn of a lion, no less than fifteen times during a short conference call. He is so used to it now that he doesn’t even excuse himself, regardless of who is on the call. Evidently, it has become a normal part of his life.
Some of us have physical conditions that make sleep difficult, while others have developed bad habits that run contrary to their sleeping tight. When you think about it, our sleep patterns change drastically throughout our lives. As newborns, we sleep between 18-20 hours a day for the first 2 months of our lives. As older infants, we start taking two long naps a day and sleep between 10-12 hours at night. As toddlers, we eventually outgrow one of our naps, but still log a full night’s sleep of 8-10 hours.
By the time that we are five or six years old, we have outgrown naps almost altogether. Then, as teenagers we start reversing our sleep engines again and get back to logging 12-14 hours each night. Parents of teens will tell you that their kids would sleep almost all day if they were allowed.
Regardless of our age, doctors and care-givers agree that all the good stuff, below the surface of our being, happens during our sleep. We restore, rebalance, and reorient our bodies, minds and spirits as we slip of into the “the arms of Morpheus.” Sleep is an irreplaceable source of energy and longevity.
It would be best if we approached it as the fundamental building block of life that it is. Mark Sisson, a former world-class triathlete claims that we should treat our sleep like a sacrament; making the time for and duration of our slumber non-negotiable. New England Patriot quarterback Tom Brady attributes his getting to bed each night at 8 PM as a key ingredient to his longevity and recovery from his beatings on the football field.
Additionally, we need to better nurture an environment that increases our odds of having long blocks of uninterrupted and restorative sleep. Falling into a bed with a tablet in our hand or a flat screen TV going through the motions with a Seinfeld re-run diminishes any real chance we have of logging a tight 8-10 hours of shut-eye.
As we age, a variety of things can interrupt our sleep patterns. Insomnia, the television, sleep apnea, alcohol & drug use, excessive worry, kids’ schedules, pets, a snoring spouse or a long list of undone to-dos to name a few. These things can have profoundly negative effects on the how deeply we rest. We must address this growing problem if we intend to experience a more meaningful quality of life. Sleep aid drugs seem to be an easy answer, but as is normally the case, using chemicals to trick our bodies has unintended consequences.
When we were first time parents, I recall hearing how important it was to keep our young kids on a consistent sleep schedule. For the better part of thirteen years now, our schedule pivoted on our childrens’ nap and sleep schedules. Adhering to the routine was always assumed and never compromised. It worked so well when they were younger…how do we manage to forget the importance of staying on a routine for sleep when they are older?
When I cheat myself of sleep, everyone pays. I can’t survive more than a day or two without at least seven hours of good, quality slumber each night. Something eventually breaks. Either my body throws in the towel or my energy levels are zapped and leave my spirit chafed. I start wondering if there is something wrong with my concentration or internal source of energy. Then my wife reminds me to just go to bed. Nine out of nine times she is right.
My mom used to tell me that nothing good happens after midnight. She was right as it pertains to what’s going on “out-there” but “in here,” if I am in bed recharging from the inside out, a ton of good happens after midnight! Remember, we call it midnight because it is supposed to be the middle of our night.
When’s the last time you were in bed at 8 o’clock without having the flu? Can you recall the last time 4 AM found you hitting the shower to begin your day? Most folks can more easily remember going to bed at 4 AM more recently.
Recognizing the importance of sleep is the first step. Determining the adjustments you need to make to restore your natural, healthy sleep patterns is critically important to your overall health and happiness. We approach so many aspects of our life with a plan and intention, but expect deep sleep to just happen to us.
I’m not a sleep expert, but I have started adopting different habits in order to get better in bed.
Thomas “TD” Dierker
Live like you’re dying…. cause you are!