Sleep: Luxury or Necessity During a Pandemic?
By Caroline Shola Arewa
The thought of a good night's sleep is luxury for some, for others, sleep is like oxygen; life depends on it. Sleep deprivation, which is on the increase during this global pandemic, causes numerous problems such as tiredness, exhaustion, stress, and passive parenting. Sleep researcher Dr William C. Dement, says “sleep-deprived people are less happy and more stressed than those getting eight hours downtime at night.” He claims that 95% of Americans suffer from lack of sleep at some point in their lives.
Sleep is essential to our health and wellbeing. Popular opinion states that we need an average of eight hours sleep a night to maintain optimum health. Few people would argue with this, but actually getting eight hours sleep may be another matter.
People suffer from insomnia for numerous reasons. However, the inability to sleep is underpinned by common features, such as feeling under pressure, overworked, anxious about coping and achieving your desired results. Whether you're parenting your first child, caring for teenagers, heading a major organization, researching your PhD, changing careers, starting school, or awaiting a prison sentence. If you feel emotionally overwhelmed, your sleep is likely to be the first thing to suffer.
Main reasons people lack sleep
1. Loss and grief
2. Relationship problems
3. Caring for new babies and young children
4. Workplace stress — pressure, bullying, redundancies, adapting to change
5. Business owner — fears and worries
6. Financial worries
7. Parenting teenagers
8. Life changes — divorce, moving house, children leaving home
9. Pain, disability, and ill health
10. Low self-esteem, powerlessness
A dictionary definition of sleep is "A state of rest in which consciousness is almost entirely suspended." Sleep and the resulting shift in consciousness provide the opportunity for "self-regulation." This is the body's unique ability to rest, repair, and rebalance. As you read this article, your body is hard at work. Trillions of cells have reached their sell-by date and need to be replaced. I'm afraid to say that they will not all be replaced unless your health is in optimum condition. Deterioration of health occurs when more cells die than the body is able to rebuild. Sleep is so important because that’s when your body does vital catching up.
So how much sleep do we need?
No fixed answer, it differs for us all at different times in our lives and depends on the activity we exert during our waking days. Some people get by on very little sleep while for others, anything less than eight hours has disastrous consequences. If you've been ill and your body has repair work to do, then you will require more sleep. If you are depressed, less sleep can help raise your mood and energy levels. Children whose bodies are growing, maintaining, repairing, and learning need lots of sleep to function at their highest potential. Adults who actively exert themselves mentally or physically need good sleep to maintain health and wellbeing.
Timeless wisdom suggests it is not really the amount of sleep you get that matters, but the quality of sleep. It's important to create an internal environment where self-regulation can occur. Self-regulation harmonizes your body and optimizes your energy so you can perform at your best.
The ancients developed ways of optimizing energy while still awake. It is said in yoga psychology that 30 minutes of deep relaxation is as beneficial to your system as a night’s sleep. While it is not always within our control to get a good night’s sleep; most of us could find 30 minutes twice a day to practise deep relaxation or what is known as Yoga Nidra or yoga sleep.
When you're anxious and stressed about issues in your life, even if you do go to sleep your sleep is light, you're tossing and turning, things are on your mind, and you're likely to be creating scenarios in your mind that are far worse than the reality. So although you were asleep, you were not really resting, and when you wake up you could still feel quite tired.
This is why yoga psychology suggests deep relaxation as a powerful tool for fully resting the body. Deep relaxation has a beneficial effect on the brain and nervous system, which positively impacts health. Relaxation eases brain rhythms, creating alpha waves, which are a reduction in activity from the busy beta waves of ordinary waking consciousness. Research shows that relaxation is beneficial for many stress-related ailments and health complaints, including insomnia.
"75 percent of long-term insomniacs who have been trained in relaxation and meditation can fall asleep within 20 minutes of going to bed."
Dr. Gregg Jacobs, Psychologist, Harvard
A lot takes place during relaxation. Although relaxation is shorter than a night’s sleep, the results are similar. Your body gets the opportunity to relax, repair, and rebalance. People who find it hard to fall asleep are often the ones snoring during relaxation sessions. When the mind is relaxed, sleep comes easy.
Ten natural ways to relax the mind and enhance sleep
1. Lavender baths — pour 20 drops of lavender essential oil into a hot bath
2. Camomile tea — drink a cup of camomile tea before bed; can also be given to children
3. Reflexology — intense foot massage relaxes the body and induces sleep
4. Relaxation — learn breathing and muscle relaxation techniques
5. Journaling — clear your rmind by writing down what went well in your day, plus anything you need to remember for the next day
6. Talk to people — share your worries with someone who cares
7. Avoid coffee, caffeinated drinks, or heavy meals in the evening
8. Play soft relaxing music once you're in bed
9. Create a relaxing sleep environment —comfortable, uncluttered, no TVs, airy, and dark
10. Create a relaxing and repetitive pre-bedtime routine using any of the above ideas
We know sleep is a necessity, yet unfortunately this knowledge alone doesn’t create sleep. If it could be bought, then like most luxuries it would bring a high premium. Sleep is wonderful if you can get it; if not, maybe it’s time to stop seeing yoga and relaxation as luxuries that take time, energy, and money, and begin seeing them as necessities for reducing stress, enhancing sleep, and maintaining health.
Caroline Shola Arewa is known as the Energy Doctor, transforming lives worldwide for more than three decades with her pioneering and award-winning work. Shola is passionate about health, wellness, and supporting people to feel energized and empowered. She is the visionary behind Energy 4 Life Wellness Coach Training and Enlightened Entrepreneurs Lounge. A psychologist, coach, yoga teacher, speaker, trainer, mentor, and author of five books, Shola can help you get your energy back and your life on track!
Click here to visit Shola’s website.