Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Power of Sleep

Winston Churchill used to have afternoon naps.

Years ago a friend gave me a book about napping. It was colourful and fun, but I can’t remember the name of it and I gave it away at some point. At the time, I was going through menopause, which can be a very sleep disturbed and sleep-deprived time. It was for me. During one period I never seemed to get more than 6 hours a night. I couldn’t nap much during the week because I still worked full time, but I did start taking naps on the weekend to catch up on sleep.

Eleanor Roosevelt napped before speaking engagements.

Now that I’m retired from jobs of any sort, though I still work – I’m a writer – I sleep whenever and however long I need to. My circadian (biological processes that occur naturally in a 24 hour period, even without reference to light) rhythms seem to vary from time to time. If I’ve been visiting my grandson, who gets up fairly early – 7 am usually – I get into that cycle. If I’m on my own at home, I may have periods where I stay up late and read, write, the creative juices flow and it could be after midnight before I sleep. At times I go to bed fairly early, then wake up at 4 or 5 am and am awake for a few hours. After that I may sleep until 10 or even noon.

Here is a web site about several famous people who napped regularly. Unfortunately they’re all men, but I’m sure there have been and are many women who understand the power of a nap:

According to some things I’ve read, if your circadian rhythms get out of sync with night and day you may have a sleep disorder. Well, I reject that. I think that we’ve gotten too attached to our modern day world of work and how we need people to function for that world to work. If someone couldn’t sleep at all, I could see that being a problem. The body needs to rest. But why do we all need to be awake or asleep at a certain time? In reality, of course, our world does have people who have to or choose to work at night.

I do think it’s important to get enough sleep for your personal health. Sleep deprivation is linked to heart disease, diabetes, poor immune systems, poor mental health, and obesity. I know someone who suffered from severe insomnia for many years and ended up with memory problems. The doctor said this was a result of the constant insomnia. The amount of actual sleep may vary from person to person, and I think when and how you get that sleep may not matter. There are lots of examples of people who sleep differently and need varied hours of sleep.

I recently had a bout of flu that didn’t make me feel very sick, but made me incredibly tired for several weeks. I’ve also had quite a bit of stress in my life for a while. All I wanted to do after the flu, was to sleep and read. I felt in need of the kind of holiday I loved as a kid, where I could just laze about and read as much as I wanted. So I relaxed and let sleep heal me.

Sleep patterns also change with age, but there is some difference in how this is viewed. Some studies apparently show we need less sleep as we age, other experts say we need just as much. But our sleep does become lighter and more fragile as we age. For more on this:

My own belief is that the thing to do is to accept who you are, and what your body and spirit are doing and needing at any particular time. Then find ways to make that work for you in the best way possible.

“I love sleep. My life has a tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” – Ernest Hemmingway

“He loved his dreams, and cultivated them.” -- Colette

1 comment:

  1. Sleep is my medicine. Even a short nap of a few minutes refreshes and revives me. I've always needed a lot of sleep - a minimum of 9 hours. I am reading in various places that most of us do not obtain as much sleep as we need - screen time and work/life pressures make us push our sleep requirements to the side. I lived many years feeling I lived with a sleep deficit.. Kids, work and the need to finish the task list came before sleep.