Sleep takes up a very big part of our lives. I have often thought about this ever since my childhood days.
It always seemed funny to me how we close our eyes at night, go limp and get lost in our private world of dreams, that too for hours and hours. After which we wake up by ourselves when we have had optimum dose of this vegetative state called ‘sleep’.
Sleep is life, but how much like death it is. A sleeping person looks lifeless but we all consider him/her to be normal because we know they are going to ‘wake up’, become alive and kicking again. It often becomes sadly humorous when elderly members within our families over-sleep and we fear they are no more alive. Only after we have checked their heaving chest or heard their mild snore that we get relieved. That’s how akin to death this sweet sleep is.
This death-like sleep is a dire need for every living being. Our bodies are programmed by nature to eat food after specific intervals and also take regular rest. We coined these terms exhaustion and rest, which proves we are like machines that can’t handle too much stress and need a break to recharge our batteries. Many people do not seem to be able to do this recharging. They badly need rest but, owing to their secret worries or ill-health, they can’t fall asleep. Sleep deprivation further leads to irritation and sickness before this sleeplessness becomes cyclical and chronic. Difficulty falling or staying asleep is Insomnia and many people, esp. above the age of 40, begin to get addicted to sleeping pills.
Luckily I have never had any problem falling asleep at night. That’s funny given my sensitive nature I should have been the one to be awake for hours, thinking of this and that. Rather as I hop on to bed, within five minutes I am asleep like a baby. I also love cat naps, a refreshing siesta during the day if I am at home that is. I can do without food but if I am sleepy, I just have to fall down on the bed and snooze off, even if for five minutes. Sometimes I doze off while sitting.
Nowadays I consider my sleep pattern to be normal but there was a phase in my life when I had felt more and more need for naps. Moreover this sleep had a nature of urgency about it. There were dreams galore in this plentiful sleeping. This got me worrying, enough to consult my doctor.
My General Practitioner related this drowsiness to simple health problems like lowered immunity, seasonal allergy or elevated blood pressure. He said, contrary to our belief, sometimes thinking too much can cause more sleep. He asked me if I get dreams. Yes I do, I said excitedly. Sometimes I get nightmares and often very predictive dreams. A night before Australian Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin was killed by Stingray, I saw his death in my dream. My GP laughed at this and said Dream Analysis is not his territory. Rather, by asking me about my dreams he was trying to assess the quality of my sleep. As most memorable dreams occur in the last stage of our deep sleep called the REM sleep so if I remember my dreams vividly, it means I’m being woken from my deep sleep. Which also means, if my immunity is low, then it is due to my defective non-REM sleep.
The GP advised some tests via another medical specialist who further gave a very quaint verdict. Other than the prickly RAST test disclosing my extreme sensitivity to cockroaches, the clever specialist accidentally saw my nose shape. He informed me that the left side of my nose bone is slightly risen. How come I never noticed it but a veteran who is deft in operating faulty noses quickly pointed out that I’ll be better off with a small operation? He attributed my need for naps to this nose structure. He said possibly I have Sleep Apnea, because even though I happily think I sleep better and longer than all the insomniacs, my nose does not let me have sound sleep at night. This was funny news for me.
Now, Sleep Apnea occurs when upper airway is blocked, causing breathing to stop for a time during sleep. Truly sometimes I do wake up with a jerk but I always thought it is due to common cold.
After I discovered all this I became kind of paranoid. As I researched more on this topic, I started imagining I have other sleep-disorders mentioned on various sites. Possibly I have Narcolepsy which is ‘extreme tiredness with intermittent sleepiness during the day, which can include involuntary napping.’ It is indeed true that on feeling sleepy I just fall unconscious abruptly. It also makes me a bit cranky if I do not get this nap. But does it qualify enough for Narcolepsy? My doctor ruled it out completely. Other than that, I’m sure I don’t have Sleep Walking or Snoring. What about occasional Restless Legs Syndrome but that could be due to walking around too much, I concluded.
Thus, when my excessive sleep began to give me sleeplessness, I decided to take it easy. Finally now I believe it was deficiency in vitamins that gave me plentiful sleep. Anemia, genetic Thalassemia, lack of B vitamins – all these came up in further tests. People assume that if we eat more than required, we feel heavy and sleepy. It could be true. But if we are eating less than required and this is causing vitamin deficiencies in our body, then also our body urges us to rest and recuperate so as to cope with daily stresses. Eating nutritious food can make one feel less sleepy. That worked for me.
I also got pest control done to keep away allergy-causing cockroaches but I haven’t got my faulty nose operated yet. The cynic in me didn’t even believe there is anything wrong with my nose. Steam inhalations have been enough to open up the airways. What helped me further? I made changes in my diet and sleeping habits. I used to love creamy and tasty oats for breakfast as they are soothing but I discovered oats too are sleep-inducing. Which means, addition of protein based food, peanut butter, boiled eggs, and sprouts helped me feel less sleepy.
Another effort was to have a regular sleep pattern. We may fall asleep quickly and that is great, but if our sleep gets disrupted again and again, we are bound to feel drowsy during the day. If, in a family, different members have erratic timetables and there is even sporadic or slight noise around, we do not get sound sleep. Of course keeping the computer out of the room, switching off the phone, dabbing drops of lavender oil on my pillow, taking Magnesium/Calcium supplements for restless legs, experimenting with sleeping postures, sleeping on the back and many such little tricks worked. Whether these served as a real panacea or a placebo, I’m not sure. I feel, either I had no problem at all to begin with or else the fact is that simple solutions work better for our seemingly complex problems.
The point of writing all this is to convey the ways in which overall sleep management must be done by one and all, in whatever way you deem appropriate based on your symptoms. The goal should be to get enough sleep as well as quality sleep.
That also means if we can wisely manage our sleep pattern then we can get away with lesser hours of sleep, that are better in quality not quantity. Once we do that we’ll be amazed to see how our day-dreaming goes out of the window, and how we get extra active hours that we can spend in wide awake state, doing proactive productive work.
Of course no harm in taking a siesta off and on as long as it adds to your productivity. This stray cat lives in my backyard, plays with her kittens the whole day, works/hunts hard for her living and yet doesn’t feel guilty enjoying her afternoon nap under the sun.
Enjoy your sleep!
Daily Prompt: To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
Header: Sleeping Child – by Dez Pain http://www.rgbstock.com/photo/2dyWQ1G/no+title
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