This week, my oldest, 4-year-old grandson was acting whiny, defiant and moody, as I was negotiating handwashing before supper, I realized that if people saw him for the snapshot of this particular few minutes of the afternoon, he would be considered a difficult child. What I knew; however, was that this was out of character for him and he was just overtired. Sleep clearly plays a major role in our disposition, attitude and overall health, even though it can seem unrelated to how we are acting.
Since the little guy was out for a sleepover the night before, it was clear he did not have his usual night’s rest. He was drained, getting upset with the smallest things and teary. You should have been there when a baby beetle landed on him, as we were prepping for supper; it was a meltdown. His pouty lip extended well beyond his usual adorable face and his chin was buried as far as you could get into his upper chest. I knew that he was completely out of gas and he was in no condition to reason.
Adults get like that too. Whenever I am particularly short-tempered, irritated and difficult, I can usually trace it back to the previous couple days of my sleep schedule. If I stayed up too late, worked a nightshift, was awake during the night while babysitting the grandchildren, awoken part way through my sleep, for any reason, was too hot, heard noises or not feeling well, it is like a sleep hangover the next day. I feel foggy, lethargic, dragging myself and out of sorts.
Just waking up from 13 hours of sleep this morning, to try to catch up on the 2 hours of sleep I got the night before, I am now absolutely convinced of how dangerous and unhealthy it is to be roaming around like zombies and feeling like we could bump into walls from exhaustion. I am so grateful sleep deprivation only happens for me every once in a while, but feeling like I have the flu, migraine and the shakes all at the same time is not fun.
According to an article titled, “68 (Surprising) Sleep Facts” (link at the end of the article), we apparently spend 25 years and one-third of our lives sleeping. The Stanford Education department determined that adults need at least 7 hours of sleep, each night to function properly and teenagers need 9 to 10 hours of sleep, each night. Since only 21% of people were getting this much sleep, in their study, you can imagine why so many people are walking among us all grumpy and miserable.
At this particular time in history, we are not getting quality sleep or enough rest, according to researchers. Our rest is also complicated by blue light on our cell phones, sounds from our technological devices, light pollution, and an overabundance of activities on our schedules. Our mental wellness is particularly affected by our lack of proper sleep, associated with anxiety, stress levels and higher rates of depression and our brain acts as if it is drunk, with one sleepless night. Sleep issues also affect our metabolism and our memory.
Although there are many other reasons to sleep properly and the subject is worth investigating further, I challenge all of you to make your contribution to healthier sleep habits. What may feel like overwhelm or the blues may actually be impacted by your sleep. What may look like weight gain or the inability to lose weight may be affected by your sleep schedule. What may seem like problems in your relationships, may be because you or your loved ones are not sleeping well.
We may not always be able to have a perfect sleep, especially with shift work, infants or young children in the family (or teens or young adults who come in at all hours of the night), weather, medical conditions or life issues, our goal could be to do a review of where we might be able to sleep healthier. An indicator if how tired we are is apparently how long it takes us to fall asleep: if it takes us less than five minutes, we are likely sleep deprived.
Are we up on our phones, until the wee hours of the morning? Are we staying up to watch movies or television long after we start to feel tired? Are we sleeping with the television on? Are we leaving the sound on our phones and seeing the phone light up when we get a notification or message, in the middle of our sleep? Are we adjusting the blue light setting on our phones to protect our eyes and our brains while we use those devices?
While camping, this past week in Lake Superior Provincial Park, we had no phone service, no Internet connection and barely looked at the time. We ended up having an afternoon nap, went to sleep shortly after sunset and slept over nine hours straight. Maybe it was the fresh clean air, the long beach walk and the quality time together, but other than the air going out of the air mattress, bouncing each other up and down every time we moved, trying to fit us both on a double mattress on the cold ground, it would have been a perfect sleep. (We are now looking at a camping trailer with a real mattress.)
Your sleep habits are not only affecting you, but they are affecting everyone who is on the road while you are driving, everyone who lives in your home, everyone who works with you and everyone who comes in contact with you when you are out of sorts.
Let’s do everyone a favour and clamp down on the effort to get healthier sleep. Since we can apparently only survive 11 days without sleep, but we can survive 60 days without food, it just may be worth your time to focus some attention on the topic of sleep, in your home. I know my grandson has a much sunnier disposition when he is well-rested and so do I.
“People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one.” ~ Leo J. Burke
To read the full sleep article titled, “68 (Surprising) Sleep Facts: Scary, Important, Interesting, Fun!” please visit: https://www.thegoodbody.com/sleep-facts/
This week’s slide show (Agawa Bay – Lake Superior): https://youtu.be/yu4HSb2mPiw