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Monday, September 16, 2013

Intuitive Sleeping??

With all of the talk that I have done about listening to your bodies signals on eating and exercise, I thought that I would do some research on SLEEPING.  A few months ago, I wrote about the effects that sleeping has on our minds vs. our physical bodies.   Recently, I have been thinking more about the actual HEALTH BENEFITS that a good nights rest brings! How important is it? Sleep is essential for a person’s health and well being, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Yet millions of people do not get enough sleep and many suffer from lack of sleep. Why?  Well, maybe they have sleep disorders, perhaps they have kids that wake them up (THIS girl!,) or, maybe they just stay up too late or get up too early.

According to psychologist and sleep expert David F. Dinges, Ph.D., of the Division of Sleep and Chronobiology and Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, irritability, moodiness and disinhibition are some of the first signs a person experiences from lack of sleep. If a sleep-deprived person doesn’t sleep after the initial signs, said Dinges, the person may then start to experience apathy, slowed speech and flattened emotional responses, impaired memory and an inability to be novel or multitask. As a person gets to the point of falling asleep, he or she will fall into micro sleeps (5-10 seconds) that cause lapses in attention, nod off while doing an activity like driving or reading and then finally experience hypnagogic hallucinations, the beginning of REM sleep. (Dinges, Sleep, Sleepiness and Performance, 1991)

Whoa!  That's crazy!  Now, I know that this might bore you and that you are probably nodding off right now, But I think this is interesting! So, if I don't get enough sleep, I will basically become the "bat-crazy witchy redhead!" (Save the redhead jokes for later... we all know the reputation that redheads have for being a LITTLE bat-crazy witchy anyway. They are all true. Done.)  So, apathy, slowed speech, moodiness, are ALL things that I am on a quest to overcome, AND I have done pretty well thus far.  

Ok, so according to the NSF, the recommended amount of sleep that we should ALL get per night is between 6-8 hours. How many of you actually GET that amount every night???  

Yeah, that's what I thought.  But, you know, I'll admit a little something.  I think I actually do WORSE when I get 8 hours of sleep. *GASP*  Seriously though, I feel groggy, my mind isn't clear, my body aches.  I have the best mattress in the world (Intelli-gel)  but if I sleep past 6 hours, I'm tired for the whole day.  For the most part, I have found that if I get right around 6 hours, I feel more energetic and awake. SOOOO..... of course, this got me thinking.  Is there such a thing as intuitive sleeping?

We all have a Circadian Rhythm, which is basically physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness. In the case of SLEEP, the Circadian Rhythm responds MOSTLY to darkness.  Our bodies release melatonin and make us tired.  When the light shines through our windows, we wake up.  What would our bodies do if the light never came? What if we used a sleep mask or hotel grade blackout curtains?  (Love those!)  Can our bodies be reset to follow a healthier, more natural sleep cycle?  My first instinct is YES.  But, I wasn't sure how.

Step 1: Allow yourself ample sleep time. The old saying "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise" was one of the first things that popped into my head. It makes sense that if we go to bed earlier, we will wake up earlier. My only beef with this is... well, kids. If I want ANY time with hubby, I have to get it after the boys are in bed.  That means, things settle down around here at about 9:00 (or 17:00 if you are talking to hubby.) Even so, my first goal was to go to bed earlier that I might allow myself plenty of time get the amount of sleep that I needed.  

Step 2: Quit Whining! Have a good attitude about the amount of sleep that you are getting.  I noticed that it didn't matter how much sleep I ACTUALLY got.  If I THOUGHT that I wasn't going to get enough sleep, I would automatically FEEL like I didn't get enough sleep.  A perfect example of this was the night that I stayed up until 12:30.  It FELT late.  I had been fighting the urge to go to bed for a couple of hours.  I had to wake up "early" (7:30) the next morning.  
In reality, I still got 7 hours of sleep.  If we believe what we are told by the NSF, that is a perfect amount of time!  But WHY did I still feel tired when I woke up?  
                1. My attitude.  I TOLD myself that I was going to be tired. 
                2. I had fought the tiredness for a couple of hours.  I SHOULD have gone to bed earlier.  As a result, I probably ended up with a little sleep debt of my own.

Step 3: NO light!  Use your bodies natural clock!  This is totally hard, and may take some planning ahead. Even if you tried this for just one night, it's worth it!  It is SO NICE to just....sleep.  Once your circadian rhythm is set to your body, the outside factors won't have as much of an effect on you. 

Step 4: Allow Yourself time for your Circadian Rhythm to be reset.  This really doesn't take long.  I am already feeling the difference in my sleep patterns.  I think it probably took me a week.  Although that task seems daunting.  I still used an alarm clock to wake up when I HAD to, but I didn't ever sleep UNTIL the alarm went off.  On most days, I found myself waking up BEFORE the alarm.  In fact, almost always, without fail, it was 5 MINUTES before the alarm.  The reason for this is that our bodies are aware of outside needs.  We are aware of the fact that we HAVE to be gone at a certain time.  We just don't trust ourselves to wake up, so we use the alarm.  
The problem with this is that we then RELY on the alarm.  Instead of waking up naturally, we tell ourselves that it is OK to keep sleeping UNTIL the alarm.  It's not. 

Sleep when your tired. Rise when you wake.
Take a nap if needed, not just because.

Obviously, life isn't perfect.  Kids disturb your sleep, the dog outside won't quit barking, the bed is uncomfortable, and your mind just won't stop going.  But I think that the idea behind Intuitive Sleep is a worthy practice to try to maintain, just know that it will never be perfect.  It's one of those, "sometimes is better than never" ideals. 

So far, it's been nice for me.  I don't feel groggy during the day, and very rarely "wake up on the wrong side of the bed."  I WILL say that there have also been days when life has gotten the best of me and I find myself waking up at 2:30 two nights in a row, unable to go back to sleep until 6:00 because my mind is racing.

C'est La Vie!

I think that you should give this a shot!  You will like it!  Take a weekend, go to bed when you are tired, rise when you wake up.  Get your Sunshine time in early in the morning.  Breathe the air. Eat your food. Read some scriptures. Ponder life. Be happy.

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