Sleep…It’s a Fine Balance

Sleep is a fundamental biological necessity. Less than adequate amounts will have a profound effect on our ability to function. Science is well versed on the physiological effect sleep, or lack thereof, has on the body. Important for processing, storing and reinforcing learning and memory, sleep helps to maintain cognitive skills. We know ourselves that we find it difficult to function when we are not getting enough sleep. Perhaps we even become more susceptible to illness. We struggle to concentrate, make decisions or cope emotionally when faced with challenging events and situations. Lack of sleep affects our mood and we tend to become more irritable. As well, getting too little sleep colours our perception of the outside world and we are more likely to engage in negative thinking.

Research has already shown that there is a link between psychiatric and neurological disorders, like Alzheimer’s or depression, and too little sleep. What is relatively new is the realisation that sleep might be more of a catalyst for disease and disorders than we first believed. Ken Paller, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University, said, “A lot of medical approaches have ignored sleep…People think about (poor sleep) as one of the complaints someone with depression or other disorders might have, rather than a critical part of the whole etiology (cause) of the disease, which is a new idea.” Although science understands that sleep is critical for optimal health and wellbeing, exactly how this happens, and why we need so much of it (we spend 1/3 of our life sleeping), is largely unknown. As much as we currently know about sleep, there is still much that remains a mystery.

Generally, the recommended number of hours of sleep per night for adults is 7 to 9. Comparing Gallup Poll results in the United States between now and 1942, adults are currently averaging 6.8 hours of sleep per night while 77 years ago, the average was 7.9 hours. In other words, 59% of adults today get the recommended number of hours of sleep compared to 89% in 1942. Perhaps these results are attributable, or at least influenced, by our busier lifestyles and the pervasive use of internet, streaming, electronic gaming and social media that is vying for the time that would otherwise be allocated for sleep?

“Some people don’t sleep because they have insomnia. I can’t sleep because I have internet connection.”

Despite the average recommended hours of sleep, some people will need more sleep while others function perfectly on less. You are the best judge on how much you need for optimal performance. Sacrificing a little bit here and there, however, adds up and it is not long before we feel the effects. Matthew Walker, a psychology professor at the University of California at Berkeley, had this to say, “When you are asleep, it’s the most idiotic of all things: You’re not finding food, not finding a mate. Worse still, you’re vulnerable to predation. If there was a chance to shave even 10% to 20% of that time, Mother Nature would have weeded it out through the process of evolution millions of years ago.”

Let us not underestimate the importance of sleep and its effects on our overall health and wellbeing. It is a fine balance and the demands on our waking time are many. Tune in to your body and become aware of any signs that more sleep might be needed. As always, if you are struggling with insomnia, or believe you are suffering from a sleep disorder, please see your GP.

By Elaina Curran, HPD, DSFH, AdvDPLRT, Clinical Hypnotherapist and Past Life Regression Therapist

As published in BS35 Local Magazine, March 2019 issue


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