Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Blessings of the Sandman

I have a friend who swears she will visit this blog even though she tells me she's going to hate it because "it isn't science," as she says. True I don't always adhere to strictly scientific standards in the formulation of my many colorful theories, but the truth is, most healers throughout history, all over the world, have not worried so much about science. We traditionally err on the side of compassion, paying attention, and taking care of our clients/patients. Science is a part of it, but only a part. In fact I find it rather hilarious that we hold such a blind faith in science (in my society at least) even though what was scientific fact yesterday is often disproved today. What IS proof anyway? And how is it that science is reliable? A recent study "proved" that studies mean absolutely nothing over time, that results are often different when identical studies are conducted a few years after the original study. Hmmm. So what good are the results of studies? Someone please explain.

I could go on a big rant about that, but instead what I want to write about today is sleep. Yeah. A lot of serious scientists are studying sleep recently, a fact that makes me happy. If you want the hard science, google "sleep+brain+plasticity." Oh yeah.

What scientists are discovering is how important sleep is for pretty much everything. Good, solid sleep improves cognitive function, immunity, good humor, memory, even digestion. If you sleep well, your food will be more nutritious. Is that incredible? Even I think that's amazing, and I tend to be a serious believer in the blessings of sleep.

Here in Washington DC, sleep is seen as kind of a waste of time. Instead of sleep, we could be working hard or playing hard, we could be reading or thinking or solving a policy issue, writing a book, writing a legal brief. In general we do not believe in rest of any kind in this crazy city. If only we could recognize how damaging sleep deprivation is, but we can't because our powers of discernment are fractured - the result of sleep deprivation. It's a vicious circle.

The next time you get all riled up because of something going on in Congress, please consider that the staffers as well as congresspeople regularly work 100 hour weeks. If you do the math, you'll see that the only way this is possible is to work all night at least one night a week. What scientists are discovering is that sleep deprivation impairs judgment, clarity, and the ability to synthesize ideas. It also hampers memory and affects decision making. Imagine some poor overworked staffer down there, trying to make sense of a one-thousand page piece of legislation. Is it any wonder that such crap goes on down there? C'mon.

At a certain point, sleep deprivation creates psychosis. I've seen this in people I know who are bi-polar. It's really scary. Take it just a bit farther and the non-sleeping person will die. Yep. You will die without sleep. It's a scientific fact, it is.

Sleep is important, it is not a waste of time. It is a fundamental, constitutional part of good health. I wish you a sweet, long, beautiful sleep tonight. May you wake tomorrow well rested, alert, and cheerful. May it be so! Shalom.


Rebecca Clayton said...

The last few years I lived in D.C., the words "This place is going to kill me." would pop into my head at odd times, day or night. I loved D.C., but the pace was more than I could take. Thanks for explaining it!

Reya Mellicker said...

I wonder sometimes if it is killing me, too. Though - I sleep 9 hours every night. Maybe I'm ok.

Infinite Possibilities said...

remember Mr. Holland's Opus? Didn't he die because of some sleep disorder/