Sleep. The glorious time when your body rejuvenates, repairs, and recharges. We all know it is important, but for most people it is also the part of our life that suffers the most. It is necessary for survival. The American Psychological Association (APA) stated in an article that 60% of adults report having some sort of sleep problems. These vary in magnitude and can run from mental to physical disorders. The consequences of sleep deprivation are many, and I would bet that every person who reads this has experienced some of these. Slurred speech and slowed thought processes – which can change the speed and accuracy of problem solving – are a few of the effects. An alarming symptom I read was that a person who is sleep deprived has difficulty being imaginative or creative, instead slipping into very common speech, using clichés, even stuttering and repetitious. Prolonged lack of sleep can cause hallucinations (which seems odd, considering the fact that sleep deprivation can make one less imaginative – I always thought of hallucinations as a very creative way for our mind to express itself). It is entirely possible that if the immune system gets weak enough from sleeplessness, death could occur.
I have done my research on sleep in a very personal way. I have gone through periods of time in my life where I choose not to sleep as much as my body requires, trying to tell myself and others (particularly the ones that live with me) that I don’t need as much sleep as they do. Yeah… I’m wrong. I turn into a grumpy, incoherent ghost of a person who can barely function even with extreme amount of caffeine coursing through me. I think I am accomplishing my tasks, only to turn around and see my mistakes literally following my footsteps. I imagine myself as a night owl who goes out and stalks through the dark wide awake and without care. In reality, though, I am a mom who must wake the next day at some early-ish time to care for the rugrats, excuse me – children – who grace my life. It doesn’t help that I also prefer to take my bike rides in the morning, so I force myself to get out bed often enough to ride for a few hours before I have to face the rest of my day.
This lack of sleep also affects me physically. The studies have shown that you do sleep better the more exercise you get (most likely because in the beginning you actually pass out from the exertion). I know my body demands that I get more sleep the more I push. For me, it is necessary to give my body that period of rest. If I don’t allow that time, it reacts – sometimes in a violent manner. I see it in particular in the two activities that I am currently focused on – ballet and biking.
In ballet: lack of sleep makes it difficult for me to concentrate on my routine, it impairs my ability to memorize. My confidence is gone, my performance value is diminished…. I am the definition of lackluster. When it comes to going out on my bike: I feel sluggish and exhausted. I make little mistakes that slow me down, but could also cost me because I drift more than I should or stop paying attention to the little details that take away from the joy of going out in the first place. This doesn’t even take into account that physically, I often get run down, which affects my immune system. Needless to say, I get sick.
I can easily come up with a multitude of reasons to stay up. I play stupid games on the computer, read a book, watch a movie, go out with friends, even write this blog. In my youth, when I could easily make up for my sleep through sleeping in or taking naps, sleep wasn’t an issue. Now that I am getting older and my ability to sleep when my body requires it is diminished, I must be more rigorous in my sleep habits. As much as I still want to be the party girl who stays up, the fit woman in me wants to get up and get her exercise in before the rest of the day gets away from me. Ballet and dance have become so important to me, I actually do not want to mess with my ability to go to class and learn. Because I dance some nights, and some mornings, that means a good nights rest is a must.
It has taken me too many years to learn how important sleep is to my psyche. I fought it on many levels – to the point it has even caused me personal grief. As I prefer to learn as I grow, I think it is time to turn off the computer and go to sleep… don’t you?