We are living in a time warp Twilight Zone. It has been over a month since I actually wore a watch. Earlier on in the pandemic, it was more convenient to leave it off with all the hand washing. Eventually I just forgot about it, and life became normal without wearing one. I lost sense of time as well, often having no idea if it was noon or high tea time until I glanced at the clock. The rigid schedules our bodies had become so accustomed to operating by had stopped. Truthfully, we were a bit feral there for a while.
These days we are on more of a schedule, and one of the essential “ to do’s” that I am prioritizing for all of us is sleep. Likely, you have been on a bit of a roller coaster in getting your nightly fulfillment of Zzzzzzs. Despite having much more time to devote to the SandMan, all the emotions bubbling around with our current lives can be like thieves in the night stealing those precious minutes of REM. With our essential oil diffusers filled with lavender and our blockout curtains closed, we are stealing them back. I implore you to do the same.
A return to “normal”, whatever that may be, will eventually come, and it could be sooner than later. If you haven’t made sleep a priority, do it now. Your very survival may depend on it. An important clarification here is that we are talking about consecutive, uninterrupted sleep. Eight hours in one stretch does not equal two 4 hour sessions, no matter how hard you crash, so no cheating. Napping through a binge session of Tiger King does not count. The reason resides in your brain.
Despite the fact that we are disillusioned to believe that we are in the driver’s seat of this meat suit, most of our critical functions are on autopilot. One of those processes is a literal cleansing of the brain and toxic protein buildup, which is linked to impaired memory function, autism and Alzheimer’s. Another is the resetting of blood pressure levels and heart rate. The size of the synaptic neurons themselves change, impacting our ability to learn and function at our maximum potential. This process of washing out our brains with CNS fluid is called “brain washing”.
The key to all this is consecutive, uninterrupted sleep. Our brains won’t hit the reset button otherwise. Want proof? We’ve got it built right into our annual calendar, in the form of Daylight Savings time. When we spring ahead and lose an hour of sleep, researchers found a 24% incidence of heart attacks the day after. When that extra hour is gained back in the fall? You guessed it, a corresponding drop in heart attacks.
You’ve got a rare chance to work on setting a healthy sleep pattern right now. There’s no rushing to get to the office, beat the traffic, navigate the drop off lane. Here’s what you can do:
- Power down your brain, just like a computer. This may be reading, taking a bath, journaling, meditating, or whatever facilitates shut down. You would not simply unplug a laptop. Your brain is really no different.
- Save the bedrooms for sleeping only. It’s tempting to snuggle into that weighted blanket and whittle away the time being babysat by Netflix, but do it in your living room. Your bedroom needs to be a psychological signal that it’s time to prepare for sleep.
- Use natural aids. It can be tempting to reach for pharmaceutical relief to get those Zzzz’s, but you are far better using nature’s medicine. Our girls take their essential oil diffuser SnooperBears to bed with lavender every night. It is a source of comfort and confidence to them that they will have a good night of sleep. This is a big deal for our older one, who is a worrier by nature. Once we began this practice, she fell asleep easily because she was confident that she would. This ended countless nights of her anxiety spiraling out of control.
- Declutter during the day. Decide what you can eliminate from your brain’s thought process and dump it. Be really critical here – we all have the chance NOW to decide what we really need and what we don’t, so Marie Kondo the crap out of your thoughts. If it doesn’t enhance your life then it doesn’t deserve a spot in your thoughts.
- Know that this won’t happen overnight and accept that sleeplessness will still occur sometimes. The key is to not let it become a broken record and allow your mind to become your worst enemy with anxiety. Take a cue from Elsa and “Let it Go, Let it GO!”