≡ Menu

MayBE 2019: Day Twenty

MayBE 2019: Day 20

This morning my daughter, my second oldest who will turn sixteen in a days, came downstairs at 8:00am. She had just woken up.

A typical morning conversation with my children:

Her: “Good morning, Mama.”

Me: “Good morning. What time did you sleep last night?”

Her: “Right when we got home. 9:00.”

She received 11 hours of sleep.

Me: “Awesome!”

Although I had already been awake since 5:00am, I too, woke up on my own without an alarm clock and received my normal 8 hours of sleep. I rarely use the alarm clock when I am here where the light signals my waking hours.

Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care,

The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,

Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast.”

― William Shakespeare, Macbeth

SLEEP.

(Shouty capitals because this is an important topic.)

On average, I get 8 hours of sleep a night. Sometimes a half hour more sometimes a half hour less. But I try not to veer lower than 7.5 hours.

My younger kids get on average 9-10hours. The teens get roughly 10-11 hours of sleep.

When my kids get sick, the first thing we do is survey the amount of sleep, continuous sleep, they have had. Almost always, sickness coincides with decreased quantity or quality of sleep. (Diet and stress can play a factor but sleep is ALWAYS a factor.)

(Routinely getting an inadequate amount of sleep demolishes the immune system.)

Quality is just as important as quantity. I ask if they dreamt. I ask if they woke up in the middle of the night. They tend to sleep through everything – powerful windstorms, barking dogs, howler monkeys, cicadas, bright full moons.

In Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, a prominent medical sleep researcher, he writes about the last twenty years of research around sleep. A topic we take for granted.

A balanced diet and exercise are of vital importance, yes. But we now see sleep as the preeminent force in the health trinity. The physical and mental impairments caused by one night of bad sleep dwarf those caused by an equivalent absence of food or exercise. It is difficult to imagine any other state – naturally or medically manipulated – that affords a more powerful redressing of physical and mental health at every level of analysis.

Based on a rich, new scientific understanding of sleep, we no longer have to ask what sleep is good for. Instead, we are now forced to wonder whether there are any biological functions that do notbenefit by a good night’s sleep. So far, the results of thousands of studies insist that no, there aren’t.

Emerging from this research renaissance is an unequivocal message: sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day – Mother Nature’s best effort yet at contra-death.

Let’s repeat that in bold:

Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day.

When we began homeschool, I noticed something immediately. In that first week that we were all home together with no where to rush to in the morning, my children slept. And slept. And slept. I slept even with a baby. (And of course, without having to be at school by 8:30am, we were all less stressed.). The later mornings changed my life. I maybe netted an extra half hour but I felt a world of difference and so did the rest of my family.

Without adequate sleep, we accumulate an incredible amount of toxicity in our brains. Sleep allows for our brains to drain the “sewage” that builds up during the day. The brain can only perform this function during sleep. This explains a lot.

Sleep is the symbol of re-birth. In creation myths, souls go to sleep while a transformation of some duration takes place, for in sleep, we are re-created, renewed. – Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With The Wolves

When you consider brains of children and adolescence, the research consistently shows that they require MORE sleep than what we think they need.

There are things that we hold essential in our life where the majority can’t wrapt their heads around. Sleep is one of those things.

Chris and I are very protective of our children’s sleep. Most people assume that our teens are lazy, staying up all night, which explains why they sleep in. They do fall asleep a little later because of something called “sleep phase delay.” There is a natural shift in the circadian rhythm of teens. The need to sleep is delayed about two hours but they still at least 9-10 hours of sleep.

At least.

The judgment feels similar to when I breast-fed on demand and co-slept: people assume we are overindulging them.

No. We just did our research and are interested in the long game – mental and physical health over the course of a lifetime for our entire family, including ourselves as we get older. (For more information and links to studies, read this article.)

As we talk about sleep in our house, the teens ask about the “real world.”

What if we want to go to university and have to work and change our sleep patterns or sacrifice sleep?

I tell them at the end of day, they have to believe that they can dictate the rhythms of their day and night, to craft a life that cherishes sleep. And I also add, “Take comfort, there is a sleep revolution afoot.”

When we shrink our whole reality down to pending projects, when our life becomes our endless to-do list, it’s difficult to put them aside each night and let ourselves fall asleep and connect with something deeper.” ― Arianna Huffington, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time

Steven Pressfield, in his book Turning Pro, outlines what a “pro” life looks like versus an “amateur” life, and it is a life with more simplicity and in the end, more sovereignty:

It changes what time we get up and it changes what time we go to bed. It changes what we do and what we don’t do. It changes the activities we engage in and with what attitude we engage in them. It changes what we read and what we eat. It changes the shape of our bodies. When we were amateurs, our life was about drama, about denial, and about distraction. Our days were simultaneously full to the bursting point and achingly, heartbreakingly empty.

Lofty goals, I say to my kids. But what is the alternative?

This is why sleep is essential. We start with something small. Something easy to protect in a world that glorifies “being woke” literally. If we manage to make sleep a priority, we are one step closer to opening up a life of more possibility.

TODAY’S PROMPT:

  • Copy a quote.
    • Pay attention to your sleep tonight. Try to sleep when you are tired and wake up without an alarm.
      • Can you remember the last time you dreamt? Look up the importance of REM and non-REM sleep.
      • Paint/Colour/Sketch a starry starry night.
{ 0 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.