Why is sleep important? Sleep is the foundation of all health. In many ways it is more important than diet or exercise. Soldiers who have become sleep-deprived in war will eventually become so tired that they are able to sleep through a rocket-launch attack, an unbelievably loud experience.
People can even hallucinate from too little sleep. I read about a canoe paddler in a multi-day race who after so many hours without sleep started to see "trees bleeding". This isn't something you want. The body craves sleep.
Lack of sleep can cause many ailments. Cancer, heart problems, depression, anxiety, altered moods. Lack of sleep can make you more susceptible to colds, migraines and headaches.
Too little sleep can also cause weight gain, and that's another reason why sleep is important. Too much time away from your bed can make your body create fat.
Sometimes lack of sleep is beyond our control, but for many of us, it is something we can prevent. How do we go about doing it? One way is to go to bed earlier. Which leads me to a paradox. Why do we love bed so much in the morning, yet at night we have this aversion to it? It's like we don't want the day to be over. Like things are too exciting and if we go to bed we'll miss out on something.
Or perhaps our brains have been going all day with a lot of stimulation that they just keep going on the same track and don't shut down. So here's a remedy. Try thinking of the wonderful feeling of sleeping in during the morning when it's time to go to bed at night. Instead of having an aversion to the bed, you may start thinking about how wonderful it is.
Try getting into bed and "sleeping out" in the evening, instead of "sleeping in" in the morning. Lie there and enjoy it, even though you may not be tired enough to fall alseep yet. This way your body has a chance to start to wind down, instead of being continually energized by staying up and doing more active things.
Another benefit to this is that it gives you a chance to daydream or to do other less-stimulating things like meditate or reflect back on the day. This, by the way, is another practice I encourage to try to work into your day as well. Simply sitting doing nothing. Thinking. Your mind needs unstructured time. It can't always be following a schedule.
Soldiers, athletes, people who survive natural disasters, people who survive horrible diseases - the most important tool they have at their disposal is what? What do you think it is? Their physical strength? No. Their minds. Your mind is the most important asset you'll ever own. And guess what? Lack of sleep destroys it.
This is another reason why sleep is important. Not enough of it can worsen your judgment, your speed of decision-making, your optimism, your happiness, your very own thoughts. Your ability to think your way through situations.
More successful people try to make the most of their minds. And taking some time each day to use it's more creative side pays off hugely. Let your mind wander. It's a practice I've been using for quite some time. Instead of always bombarding with it television or Internet images, take a break. I find it quite a pleasant experience. And once in awhile I am amazed with some of the ideas I come up with. It definitely taps into my creative side.
So lying in bed before you feel like it is actually time to go to bed can help. Another trick I've started using is going to bed a little earlier and setting my alarm clock for a little later. If you need 8 hours of sleep and you absolutely have to be up by 7 am, try to be asleep by 10 pm or 10:30 pm. That way after 8 hours of sleep, you will technically wake up by 6 am or 6:30 am and (wait for it) you won't be woken up by your alarm clock.
I repeat: you won't be woken up by your alarm clock. You won't be woken before your body is ready. You won't start the day unhappy and miserable and, of course, tired. I think I speak for millions of people (no, billions of people) when I say I hate being woken before I am ready to start the day. I despise it. Okay, enough said.
By doing this your alarm acts as a backup system in case you sleep longer than 8 hours, so you won't be late for work or school or whatever. This is a trick I thought of myself (during some of my creative downtime - See? I told you it was useful!) and I'll admit, I feel a bit proud about it. I do find it works it quite well, though. I'm not able to use it all the time, but when I do, it's quite nice to wake when your body is ready.
I should also mention that your body doesn't need exactly 8 hours every night. I know some of us need only 7 hours or 9 hours every night (or 6 hours or 10 hours or whatever), but that's not what I'm talking about here. What I'm talking about is sleep variability within your own individual times each night.
If you ordinarily need 8 hours every night, that's not exactly true. You don't sleep for exactly 8 hours and 0 minutes each night. Sometimes you might sleep for 8 hours and 20 minutes or 7 hours and 30 minutes. On average you need 8 hours, but it can vary depending on a multitude of factors: your stress levels, how active you were that day, your general health, to name a few.
Sleep rebalances us. It recharges our batteries. It gives the body a well-needed break and lets us start the day fresh and new. It's not enjoyable dragging your tired body about of bed in the morning when all you want to do is lie there and go back to sleep. This isn't what life is all about. As I read once, if you don't jump out of bed in the morning full of enthusiasm and excitement, something's wrong.
That in itself could be the biggest reason why sleep is important.
There is music available on CDs and online that uses brainwaves - like alpha waves, delta waves, theta waves - incorporated into it that help you sleep. It can help you get to sleep faster and then have a better overall sleep. The music is usually very relaxing, like yoga music, but shop around to find some you like. What one person might enjoy listening to could irritate someone else.
A good place to start is Daniel Amen's "The Brain Warrior's Way Music Program". Available on CD and online, it has brainwave music you can fall asleep to, as well as music for the rest of the day. It has music to wake up to, music for anxiety, music for creativity, music for focus, and others. These other types all use brainwaves as well to help activate certain parts of your brain. There is no speaking or singing in them, quite relaxing and is like going to a spa.
Click here to look at "The Brain Warrior's Way Music Program" By Dr. Daniel Amen and Barry Goldstein on Amazon. You can hear 30-second samples of each song on Amazon for free.
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