We become sleep-deprived without even noticing. A couple late nights on the weekend at my age and I will surely still feel cranky on Monday. Stay up too late spiraling down a Youtube documentary rabbit hole and I’ll need to schedule a recovery nap. The sleep debt creeps in slowly but eventually, enacts harsh consequences on my body and mind.
I used to be such a good sleeper! My mom brags that I grew easily from an idyllic, snoozy, baby to a teenage bookworm who read my book every night before drifting into peaceful sleep. I didn’t think about sleep or being tired – THAT’S how rested I was.
So, wtf happened.
As much as I am tempted to blame my induction into the world of poor sleep habits on the unnamed ex-boyfriend who required the sound of 80s sitcoms to fall asleep every night, the fact that I’ve been dependent on background noise to sleep for the remainder of my 20s…? Well, that’s on me. Oh…and anxiety.
The big bummer about using distraction techniques to manage anxious thoughts and feelings throughout the day is that when there are no more distractions, anxiety pounces on the opportunity to be heard. And I’ll tell you, that background noise is loud and does not soothe us into a restful slumber. Perhaps for the mind, bedtime is the equivalent of flinging your bra off at the end of the day and slipping into your apartment pants, and I can hardly hold THAT against my brain. But I am interested in improving my sleep habits to be less dependent on these modern sleep aids.
Many of us become dependent on that glass of wine, the melatonin, the medicinal toke, or perhaps even a more formal sedative agent to fall and stay asleep. And we do this because being tired is the pits. It affects our daily functioning, memory, mood – the side effects are endless. When sleep-deprived, our poor bodies look for energy sources wherever they can: sugary, sweet treats during the day, that mid-afternoon latte that gets us to 5pm*, the after-work nap. We are less able to resist the donut holes in the staff room not only because we are tired and need a boost, but our ability to reason and resist impulse has been compromised and we gravitate towards the quick fixes and easy comforts.
NEEDLESS TO SAY, subscribing to the modern “sleep is for the weak” ideology has had some very real consequences for both my mental health and my party thighs. For all the parents of small children reading this, you have my reverence. Chronic sleep-deprivation represents your sacrifice and you manage to keep your child alive and get to work**. I know only a sliver of your struggle.
Much like a poor diet can impact on your overall health, underestimating your need for sleep long enough and you’ll guarantee yourself a bad time. Your body may forgive you and adapt for a measure of time, but even the strongest and smartest need to refuel the tank.
** I’ll save my thoughts about the pitiful and frankly, offensive, maternity leave policies I’ve become aware of for another day