Parts of this article are excerpts from “7 Steps to a Naturally Unbridled Life: An Introduction to Holistic Living: Body, Mind, Spirit, & Planet” by Patti Bartsch, M.A., Ph.D. of Naturally Unbridled Holistic Life & Wellness Coaching for Equestrians.
Why Sleep? – While still somewhat a mystery to scientists, sleep is a time when we physically and mentally restore ourselves. It is critical to good health and happiness. In our modern day society, sleeplessness due to insomnia, overwork, hormonal fluctuations or restless housemates (children, pets, etc.), is rampant. This is evident by simply watching an hour of primetime TV when you are sure to see at least one, if not two or three commercials for sleeping pills. There are a lot of books written on sleep and dreams, with a variety of opinions, but one thing they all seem to agree on is that dreams are necessary for good mental health and you need extended periods of quality sleep to facilitate dreaming. In order to awake energized and ready to conquer the tasks of the day both physically and mentally, a good night’s sleep is essential.
Short Changed – With all the demands of society today, it seems the area of our lives that is easiest to cut is sleep. Bad idea! Sleep is biologically, mentally, and emotionally essential. It is during deep sleep that our brains produce Human Growth Hormone (yes, even in adults) which our is used to rebuild our cells; which is why we tend to sleep more when we’re sick or injured. It’s like your own personal fountain of youth! Sleep is also important for mental and emotional recharging. We require approximately half an hour of sleep for every hour we’re awake, but more and more of us are trending toward reducing the amount of sleep we get. Throughout the phases of sleep, your body secretes various hormones. Growth hormone directly effects the restoration of your body through encouraging new, healthy, vibrant cells to grow. However, Growth Hormone is only produced during certain phases of sleep so if you are sleep-fasting instead of fast asleep, you’re not getting enough of it. This will result in increased signs of aging and decreased time in healing, such as the cold that just won’t go away. They don’t call it beauty sleep for nothing!“Sleep is the best meditation” ~Daili Lama
Sleep Debt – Sleep Debt is a term used to describe the difference between the amount of sleep our body needs and the amount we actually get. Most adults need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night. Teens need closer to 9. If you are a person who requires 7 hours of sleep per night and during the workweek you only get 6, you accumulate one hour of sleep debt per night. On the weekend you either need to sleep in or take a nap in order to pay off your debt. No wonder so many equestrians lack energy to do everything they need to; they’re carrying around a mountain of sleep debt!People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one. ~Leo J. Burke
Eureka! – Believe it or not, your brain actually does problem solving during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Have you ever had one of those moments where you wake suddenly in the middle of the night and have the answer to a problem that you’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to solve? Sometimes all your brain needs is for the clutter of the day to be swept away so that it can fully process the information and form a solution. Hence the expression “let me sleep on it.” Since you may solve your problem in your dreams but when you wake up you might not remember your dream right away, your brain may dig up its solution shortly thereafter. I know that there are oftentimes when I wish I had a pen and paper during my morning shower because that’s frequently where I “remember” the solution my brain came up with before I woke up a few minutes ago.It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it. ~John Steinbeck
Balance – Sometimes equestrians have trouble sleeping due to external factors. I discuss a variety of natural solutions to insomnia in this chapter. But if your sleep debt is due to a choice to watch one more TV show, or spend a little more time on facebook, choose to unplug so that you can recharge and have the energy to meet your goals the next day.
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