Get Some Sleep!!!
People keep asking me about sleep – how to sleep when they can’t, whether meditation can be used to replace sleep, or whether meditating will make it such that they don’t NEED to sleep.
It seems people just don’t have time to sleep anymore, and it’s so damned important that they do!
So I’m going to write a bit about it now,then at the bottom of this post, I’ve recorded a 15 minute ‘nap process’ that you can use anywhere – at your desk, or sitting or lying on a couch – anywhere.
I figure at least, if people cannot sleep, they can learn to nap properly, to help ameliorate SOME of the effects I’m talking about in the following post.
When I walk down the street most days in the West, I see the results of lack of sleep all around me – obesity, illness, depression, premature aging, allergies, hyperactivity, anxiety, uncontrolled emotions – all of these things can be sourced back to lack of sleep. But nowhere in either the media, or any public discussion, am I seeing any coverage of this subject.
All I hear about is the need for MORE work, MORE productivity, more fun, mo9re entertainment, and so on.
It’s insane … and it leads to a slow, insidious insanity.
They did a survey of people in the United States in the ‘80s, and they found 80% of the respondents suffered one or other of the effects of sleep deprivation, and I imagine it’s the same now in most countries.
In the kind of culture we have created, we work harder and longer hours than ever before, and take our leisure later and later in the day. So where our forbears were usually in bed by 9 or 10 pm, the average contemporary human being now considers it normal to go to bed at 11 pm or midnight.
And once they’re up, there’s no napping or stopping – they forge right through the day and far into yet another night, to collapse exhausted into bed for another inadequate sleep – then get up and do it all over again. And as they become sick, obese, ill, anxious, depressed or impotent, it’s always slated to other causes – food, stress, kids, overwork and so on.
But it’s not these things on their own.
IT’S LACK OF SLEEP!!!!
As I say in my book, ‘Love & Imagination’:
“Chronic sleep deprivation is becoming so universal that Thomas Wehr, chief of the section on biological rhythms at the National Institute of Mental Health, believes few adults in the industrialized world know the crystal-clear sensation of being completely rested. “Perhaps we modern humans have never really known what it is to be fully awake,” says Wehr.”
The irony is, the pace of our lives being what it is, we need sleep more than ever. It’s estimated that with the intense level of stimuli our mind and body experience every day, we need more than just 8 hours sleep to stay as alert and healthy as we need to be.
Sleep is essential – without it, we slowly fall apart – we mentally and physically disintegrate. In experiments with laboratory rats, it’s been seen that they die without sleep – their immune defenses totally break down and they fall prey to infections and cancers of every kind.
During sleep our mind and body rejuvenate and recharge with essential hormones that regulate our immune system, brain functions and organs.
For example, there is a hormone called Leptin which tells the body when we’ve eaten enough. Without sleep, Leptin levels drop and we begin to crave carbohydrates even when we don’t need any more food. So, we keep eating, particularly the carbohydrate rich junk food which is so ubiquitous in our cities. And this kind of food, when combined with the sluggish metabolism of an exhausted body, inevitably leads to the obesity that is so prevalent now.
Also, when we are under slept we lack energy, so we naturally reach for nervous energy (adrenalin) to push through our tiredness – energy our body usually keeps only for emergencies. Which is why we reach for coffee, tea, sugar foods, cigarettes, excitement, fun, aggression, and more lately, the new energy drinks that have large amounts of guarana in them.
All of these things boost our adrenalin levels.
And the more we resort to this kind nervous energy the more we become addicted to it. It becomes a substitute for the normal, calmer metabolic energy we should be using.
And because we’re not sleeping enough to give our body time to metabolise the excessive adrenalin we’re producing, we develop ‘adrenalin toxicity’ in our bodies, causing a build-up of different effects, the most notable being:
• Digestive problems, ulcers, irritable bowel, diarrhoea or constipation, occurring because adrenalin has diverted blood away from the internal organs, causing them to become sluggish.
• Aching muscles caused by a build-up of lactic acid (residue of unused sugars –unused energy) in the muscle fibres.
• Inability to sleep because the body and mind have been overstimulated and are still processing excess adrenalin.
• General fatigue caused by inability to sleep, or inefficient sleep.
• Inability to concentrate with any deep understanding. While adrenalin certainly mobilises aspects of the brain that make quick decisions, it dampens the deeper, more analytical aspects. And when adrenalin stimulation has gone on too long, profound mental fatigue sets in. At that point even the most basic functions shut down, and the mind tends to either wander, or go unconscious. Hence the famous indication of battle fatigue in soldiers who had been in extended action, the ‘thousand yard stare’ where the subject would gaze at an unseen distance, not thinking, or feeling, or able to engage – in a semi catatonia of exhaustion. The stage after this is nervous breakdown, where the mental and perceptual processes break down and profound mental confusion occurs.
• Apathy, depression, a lack of interest in love, or giving – a strong feeling of emptiness.
• Sexual dysfunction. Though in the short term, the sex function is often highly stimulated by adrenalin, if the wear and tear continues for a continued time, eventually the sex drive will shut down. This may take many years, but it will happen.
• Hyperactivity in reaction to increasing sleepiness – we become more and more agitated as we try to stave off sleep. A telling indication of this is when people sit, but cannot be still – their legs judder up and down, they shift and fidget and so on.
And when it comes to meditation, forget it. To meditate and be still, we need to be well slept, because though meditation certainly has a calming effect, it’s extremely difficult – almost impossible if the mind and body need sleep.
If you want to read more on this subject, then download either of my free books – ‘Love & Imagination’ or ‘Happy to Burn’ from my website.
Now, if you just don’t have time to sleep, then I strongly recommend you take regular fifteen minute naps, around one every four hours. These will not replace a good night’s sleep, but they will help to keep the mind and body well regulated so you can deal more efficiently with your underslept life.
So I’ve recorded a 15 minute nap audio in which I’ll lead you through a gentle, refreshing nap for fifteen minutes, and it’s got some relaxing ambient sound behind it to help block out background noise.
So take a resting position wherever you are, close your eyes, and for the 15 minutes of the audio, practice the instructions and if you fall asleep as you do it, all the better.
‘BEING STILL – MEDITATION THAT MAKES SENSE’, Roger’s new book, is available now.
(The audiobook includes all the exercises, as well as ebooks of Being Still, to fit any device.)