Restoring My Soul (and Body) … With Sleep!

by Arline on September 30, 2009

How much sleep do you get?  Do you sleep the proverbial 8 hours every night?  Probably not.  Most of us have lives that are way too complex for the luxury of sleeping until we are fully rested.

Now that I work from home, I usually sleep about 7-8 hours.  There’s no alarm clock startling me awake, unless I have an early morning appointment.  So my body is free to do pretty much what it needs to do when it comes to getting enough sleep.  (I’m not bragging… just explaining, because it’s the background for the story I’m gonna tell you in a minute.)

But it wasn’t always that way.  I’ve been where you probably are right now, and it sucks.  I know.  Back when I DID have to wake up to an alarm four days a week, I often went to work with only 5-6 hours sleep.  Sometimes even less than that!  When I got sleepy in the afternoon, I would drink a cup of coffee and keep going.

On my day off (mid-week), I would nap for 3-4 hours in the afternoon.  That helped.  It’s the only way I could survive the other four 10-hour workdays.

But you might not have the luxury of napping like I did.  Stuff just has to be done, right?  So, if you’re like most people, you end up going from day to day somewhat sleep deprived.   In fact, a recent survey by the National Sleep Foundation discovered that 63 percent of American adults get less than 8 hours of sleep.

Experts use the term “sleep debt”.  When you don’t get enough sleep – about 8 hours per night for most adults – it adds up.  If you’re short one hour each night, for example, at the end of a week you have a sleep debt of seven hours.  So it’s like you’ve lost almost an entire night of sleep!

This adds to the stress you’re already under.  Maybe you find yourself getting grouchy, or not handling things as well as you could.  Your mental functioning is probably not up to par.  Your attitudes and outlook on life may be less than ideal.  You’re more likely to make poor decisions… or just put things off and not deal with them at all.  So it’s pretty clear that sleep debt affects our mental and emotional health.

But did you know sleep deprivation can take a toll on your physical health, too?  Yep.  Our bodies need that time of rest.  Many things take place that don’t happen while we are awake.  It can be compared to rebooting a computer.  Neurological centers that are activated while we are awake have a chance to re-balance their connections to each other during our sleep. 

Research also suggests that sleep stimulates the immune system.  I believe it!  My personal observations strongly support that theory.  In my own experience, being overly tired is an open door for illness to occur.  On the other hand, when I feel like I’m almost ready to come down with something, I crave extra sleep.  If I “listen” to my body and go with the flow, that extra sleep is often what makes the difference in fighting off the germs.

Oh, yes….. I promised you a story.  (Don’t worry, it’s short.)  It’s what inspired me to write this post.

This actually happened to me twice within a week or so.  Like I said at the beginning of this post, I basically wake up when I’m rested, which is usually after about 8 hours. 

But on these two occasions, I was amazed to sleep a full 10 hours!  Both times I had zero sleep debt to make up for, so something else was going on.  I don’t know what………

But let me tell you… I felt incredibly rested!  I felt so refreshed!   Not only in my body, either.  I sensed that my soul had been “restored” somehow through that extra sleep.

I would encourage you to do what you can to avoid sleep debt… and to “repay” the debt as soon as possible when it happens.  Obviously, the only way to pay back a sleep debt….  is to sleep!  Listen to your body.  Go to bed a little earlier, or take a nap.  Your health will be better for it, I promise.

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