Look. I’ve hardly been on this blog in the past six months (longer, actually) as I fell out of the habit of writing regularly, and my work / study / personal life filled up with numerous other tasks that took priority. I intend to post more regularly, and to go through some of my older articles, clean them up and put them out there for another round; not to blow my own trumpet, buuuuut there’s so much good information I’ve shared on this blog in the past, which is currently buried and hard to find.
Today I’m reposting a blog I wrote at around this time last year, when I was coming out of a long period of extreme sleep deprivation… and only as I was starting to get some reasonably decent sleep again could I really appreciate what a significant impact this had had on my health. ALL aspects. Phsyical. Mental. Emotional. I’ve had the conversation about sleep, and its importance, with several people over the last week, so it seems pertinent to put another reminder out there. And also, for anyone who is currently sleep-deprived (for whatever reason) I want to reach out to you. To empathise – and commiserate! – with how you’re feeling. Fair cop, it’s pretty shit.
The value of sleep cannot be overstated. It is such an important factor for physical and mental wellbeing.
Sleep is the time our bodies use to recharge our batteries, something we need to do every day. Every day. It restores and revives us: physically and mentally. It ensures we have enough energy to do what we need to – to work, study, grow, and thrive.
Sleep is medicine. For real.
When you are sleep deprived, be it short or long term, your body will not work as well as it should and could. You will notice obvious signals that you need more rest, i.e. feelings of fatigue and heaviness. Sleep deprivation will also manifest in other, less obvious, ways such as changes in mood, poor memory, headaches, difficulty concentrating, impaired judgement, delayed reaction times, lack of coordination and recurrent infections. And if you have an existing health condition, anything from seasonal allergies to chronic disease, fatigue will have a negative effect on this.
The prevalence of general sleep disturbances experienced by people over the course of each year is estimated to be around 85%. That means most of us are feeling it, in one way or another.
I was recently reminded of this, courtesy of my own bout of prolonged, severe sleep deprivation. It highlighted for me how fundamentally important adequate sleep is. For many months, I was hardly sleeping more than a few hours a night due to a combination of the following: teething baby with recurrent infections (thank you daycare germ pool) who was waking every 2-3 hours; full time work (including re-establishing a business i.e. clinical practice); solo parenting for 3-4 weeks / month while my husband travelled for research work; and no strong support network around me (I’m also terrible at asking for help). Initially, I was managing ok. But as days turned into weeks turned into months, I was not. I was spread extremely thin. I started to get extremely thin. I felt stressed and anxious. My throat was always sore and I could cry at the drop of a hat. Overall, I felt barely functional and no amount of good nutrition, adrenal supplements, herbal tea, coffee or sunshine was going to ‘fix’ it. I needed sleep.
That was months ago now and, happily, we’re all out the other side. My health, sanity and marriage still in tact. It was not the nicest way to receive a lesson, but nonetheless served as a valuable reminder and opportunity to grow.
What this really highlighted for me is that the value of sleep cannot *CANNOT* be underrated. And lost sleep cannot be replaced – not with medicines, not with supplements, not with stimulants, not with anything. I see this come up time and again: with patients in clinic, during conversations with friends or family, when I’m dealing with stressed-out natural medicine students. When you miss out on sleep – regular, good quality, restorative sleep – you are missing out one of the foundations of good health. And if you don’t address this, over time it will impact all aspects of your health more and more significantly.
So, my dears, take your medicine. Get good sleep where you can. Find ways to get better sleep if you need. And enjoy it.