Are you sleeping enough?
It is vital for physical and mental health
How much sleep do you think you need? Are you getting enough? Research shows that our actual requirement is not less than eight hours every night. In modern life, most people are getting no more than 6-7 hours. The health damage accruing from this sleep deprivation is immense — it increases the risk of almost all major chronic diseases.
Why has sleep deprivation become an epidemic?
We have so many more conveniences nowadays than our grandparents did. We have airconditioning and heating, better beds and pillows, music that we can listen to at any time, etc. But these conveniences have come at the cost. Instead of taking the time to sleep, we spend time being awake and distracted or stressed. Even children struggle to get enough sleep. They have to wake up early to go to school and they stay up late into the evening. Adults are no different. The pressures of work and family keep them for longer and longer.
A person who misses a night of sleep has as little concentration as a person who is drunk! Without rest, the body and mind deteriorate in performance. Athletic skill, job productivity, emotional balance all suffer when we don’t get enough rest. Don’t we know this from our own experience? When a child is cranky, which parent has not said, “She/he didn’t sleep enough last night!”
A basic step in progressing towards sufficient sleep is to give ourselves permission to rest. Unless our life values and perspective allow us to rest, the mind and body will not take the time to sleep. Sleep is the ultimate and healthful form of rest, but every minute you take to allow yourself to experience deeper rest is a minute where your body can repair and rejuvenate itself, a minute where your mind can de-stress and find better balance.
Look at how coffee and tea have become staples of the modern day. Many people rely on these stimulants to keep themselves going through the day. What does this mean? If you did not have a cup of coffee and felt sleep as a result, does that not mean that you actually need the rest but are keeping your nervous system artificially stimulated, preventing it from resting? Now, it’s not that drinking coffee is bad. But if it is consumed as a substitute for getting adequate rest, that is an unhealthful habit.
Consider taking time during the day, even if it is just starting with a few minutes, to take a pause from your busy routine. Consciously tell yourself that you are taking that pause so that your body and mind can rest. Sit down and lean back. Slow down your breathing. Let your muscles relax. Feel the support your body gets from the chair or any other surface. Do not reject this experience. Don’t mentally rush to the next activity. Give yourself permission to take this minute and appreciate how valuable this brief time of rest can be to help rejuvenate your body and mind.
Whenever you take these rest pauses, let your breath slow down, and grow more calm and even. Tell yourself that, in this minute, there is no need to be in a hurry, leave alone rush. Then let your exhalation grow a little longer than your inhalation, and you will find the stresses in body and mind releasing.
If you can develop the habit of enjoying this feeling of resting, choosing it deliberately, wholeheartedly, you will find it easier to gradually improve the quality of your sleep at night. And you will also find that health in body and balance in mind is closer at hand!