SLEEP ' O SLEEP - NATURE'S GENTLE NURSE
Because getting enough of it at the right time and for the right amount of time is critical to health and well-being as sleep
deprivation is so common and carries so many negative consequences to everyday life.
As young children we are taught to stick to a pretty strict regime for going to bed early and at the same time and for waking up when we did and keeping quiet until we heard our parents moving around.
It is just one of the things we all did and continue to do pretty much the same as our hunter-gatherer ancestors according to research over the last two decades.
We spend one third of our lives doing this and we had better get it right.
So we were told.
And sleeping for 7-8 hours per night became the norm.
Thats 7-8 hours in one block of sleep.
And that is where we supposedly differ signicatntly from our ancestors who used to get up quite a few times every night - sometimes be awake for an hour or so - and then get back to sleep.
Which made sense as someone needed to be awake all night to warn off predators!
But it wasn't just someone - it seemed to be built into their DNA.
In South Africa as a child I went to bed just before 7pm because it suddenly turns black outside at that time. So you might get to sleep around 9pm and the next thing you know it is 5am and the sun is already up.
And my pattern of sleep was the same then as it is today - I would wake up at certain times of the night - maybe go to the loo - or not - as the case may be.
And then easily fall back to sleep.
Sleep researchers agree that the average patterns or waves of sleep last an hour and a half.
From going into a deep sleep and then into a lighter sleep adn if no distractions (loo) then back into a deep sleepl
The more I research sleep the more I am forced to rely on my own experiences of it which is that it is different each and every night and is never the same.
And I generally wake up early and refreshed - as bright as a button - sometimes not so bright - but alweays looking forward to the day ahead.
I am lucky to have that sense of purpose.
It is true that a good nights sleep will generally be very beneficial for general aches and pains, particularly of the lower back, neck and shoulders.
If you are like most people 'going about your day' then you will probably breathe shallowly from the sternum using the muscles of the chest and neck
When you lie down, your breathing mechanism moves to the diaiphragm which immediately slows down the rhythm of your breathing and slowly in so doing melatonin - the night time calming hormone - kicks in and you drift off to sleep.
And that is exactly what I do every night.
I leave my "luggage" at the door.
ie I "draw a veil over the future - let go of the past - and sink into the present".
I become immediately aware that I am breathing from my lower abdominal area using my diaphraghm and I quickly and easily fall asleep.
A few tips you might take up
Trying to keep the spine aligned is the general rule to fully relax the muscles of the neck and back.
Take a look at the pictures if you are a side sleeper - like I am.
Make sure that your pilllow is able to take the weight of your head and keep your neck straight and aligned.
This means that the thickness of your pillow needs to be the distance from your neck to the point of your shoulder - when you have rested you weighty head on it.
Put another pillow between your knees in order to reduce the pressure on your lower back and pelvis, by decreasing the angle of the thigh to the knee.
Or, as in the picture above use one long circular pillow and achieve both!
Not only is this a practical solution to feeling stiff in the morning but it makes for a delightfully comfortable sleep.
Back sleepers should put a small cushion or soft pillow under their lower backs/pelvis.
Front sleepers are very prone to aches and pains of the neck and back and should really be encouraged not to sleep on their fronts as they get older.
If they really have to sleep on the their fronts then they should place a small cushion or soft pillow under their lower tummy/pelvis.
Some rules for you
1 Leave your mental luggage at the door.
2 Along with your mobile and tablet.
3 Organise the same rough sleep and waking times 7 days a week if you can.
4 Use your bedroom only for sex and sleep.
5 Have a 20 min siesta topup once a day.
6 Draw a veil over the future
7 Let go of the past
8 Breathe nasally using your diaphraghm
9 Avoid liquids 2 hours before bedtime.
10 Enjoy your sleep - it is nature's nurse.
11 Sleep alone whenever you can.