With the advent of the light bulb, we have turned night into day, and day into night. Although this may have done a lot for our productivity, it has deprived us of our pillow! With so many things to cram into our busy day, sleep is often the first thing to be sacrificed, but we may be losing more than we bargained for.
Did you know that sleep deprivation is as serious and can be as damaging as drunk driving? Just the other day a friend’s vehicle was hit by a car in London at 7am; three cars were involved and two were write-offs! My friend later learned that the driver who caused the accident had fallen asleep at the wheel, he was returning from a night shift.
If we would prioritize our needs and plan sleep into our day we would be a more pleasant person to be around. Sleep deprived people are mostly groggy, irritable, and sensitive. If you think you can survive on a few hours of sleep a day, think again. If you find yourself losing your memory and concentration, falling asleep in meetings, falling asleep watching TV or whilst meditating, then you would be classified as ‘sleep deprived’.
‘Sleep deprived’ means we are not getting as much sleep as we need to function well. This of course differs from person to person. We all have a sleep account and if we are not fulfilling it, and instead adding to the overdraft, then we will pay for it in other ways such as through ill health etc.
We also have an internal 24 hour sleep-wake cycle. At night, our body responds to the loss of day light by producing melatonin, a hormone that makes us sleepy. During the day, sunlight triggers the brain to inhibit melatonin production so we feel awake and alert. As we disrupt these cycles with different work shifts, late nights, or disturbed sleep, we mess up these cycles and thus deprive ourselves of the proper sleep we need. It would be wise to heed to the famous adage: early to bed, early to rise, makes one healthy, wealthy and wise!
There is a lot to understand about sleep. For example, you can familiarize yourself with sleep cycles and the different stages of sleep, which include REM and Non REM, and the number of hours of sleep one needs as one ages. Yet the most important would be to understand why we need sleep.
During the stage of deep sleep, the body repairs itself and builds up energy for the day ahead. It plays a major role in maintaining our health, stimulating growth and development, repairing muscles and tissues, and boosting our immunity.
If we do not get adequate, good quality sleep, our meditation will suffer. We could be sitting in the right posture and with the right intention yet if the mind is dull, we will deprive ourselves the beautiful experiences that meditation is waiting to offer.
It is then that people become disheartened and give up hope in achieving a good stage of meditation. It is not the fault of the meditation, rather it is other things that are not allowing a person to focus and concentrate.
The quality of our thoughts also seriously affect the quality of our sleep. If we are negative and create many waste thoughts, then of course we will not have quality, sound sleep in which the body and mind can rejuvenate.
Our food also affects our sleep. Have you noticed that when animals eat meat, they sleep for hours! They need to invest all of their energy to digesting the meat. A diet that consists of nuts, seeds and pulses would be easier to digest, thus allowing more energy for renewal of the body.
Learning to simplify our lives will reduce unnecessary actions leaving ample room for good sleep. Live simply and de-clutter your life, and then see how much additional time you have on your hands.
Raja Yoga is just as much about mastering our sleeping time as much as it is our waking time. As we learn to master our thoughts… we get better sleep and are more at peace in life.
It’s time… to improve the quality of our lives by improving the quality of our sleep. Sleep right, Sleep tight!