“I sometimes liken the study of sleep to Oceanography…like the ocean, sleep is little charted in its depths and stunning in its vastness.” ~ Dr. William C Dement
Since the advent of the industrialized revolution, many precious resources have been ebbing away—one of which is clearly sleep.
Sleep is a beautiful and profound metamorphosis we all undergo every night, with little or no recollection. Although each of us generally spend the night in bed, our journey through the night is unique, and we all arrive in the morning in different shape, depending on a number of factors, like our season/stage in life and our relationship to basic rest and activity cycles.
Sleep is far from an oblivion where activity ceases and nothing happens.
During sleep, the brain behaves differently, releasing new combinations of energy that stimulate cellular activity throughout the body.
Sometimes the sleeping brain actually appears to be more ‘active’ than while it is awake, as higher brain processes can work uninterrupted by sensory input from the outside world.
Sleep is a natural resource, a portal to deeper layers of consciousness, a precious opportunity.
While modern science is ripe with fascinating data about the many benefits of sleep, popular culture generally encourages humans to be in a constant state of outer activity and production.
Slowing down is often thought of as lazy, especially in a “time is money” ruled workplace.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, one in five adults are so sleepy that it interferes with their daily activities a few days a week, while an additional 20 percent report impairment a few days a month. Fatigue has also been cited as at least a contributing factor in many of the worst disasters in recent history.
Dr. Sara Mednick, pioneer in nap research, says “No single organ is affected by lack of sleep more than the brain—which directly and critically influences decision making, attention span, and the speed at which we adapt to new information”.
Sleeping less will not help you accomplish more. So why, when few would argue the benefits of sleep and rest, would so many of us be sleep deprived?
A huge contributing factor is stimulation. Being ‘too awake’.
Most humans live in fast paced environments, and they entrain with the pace around them. The delicate senses of people in industrialized cities are constantly assaulted with information and stimulation, plus bombarded by unprecedented amounts of stimulants like caffeine, sugar and multimedia options.
As Dr. Rubin Naiman, author of “Healing Night” says, “While everything around us in the natural world is yielding to darkness, many of us are anticipating a second wind.”
It can be a struggle to slow down, invite in a sense of rest before sleep, and let go of any unprocessed emotional residue from waking life.
Our attention and energy is often directed externally, toward the periphery, and away from our centre and deep inner perception.
When attention is constantly directed and pulled to the periphery, the nervous system is in a sympathetic or stress state.
This not only affects our ability to fall asleep in the first place, but also influences how deeply we release into the stages of sleep.