It is a hot topic amongst people in all stages of life, and from my experience the primary theme is not getting enough of it. Whether it’s the 20-somethings foregoing sleep for socialising, parents wishing for a night without having to attend to a child, people with chronic illness or pain trying to remember when they had their last unbroken night of slumber, or older generations settling into life requiring less time in the world of dreams, sleep is something that can be quite defining in our lives, and it’s an area full of unknowns and wonderings.
February’s focus for Ways of Wellbeing is sleep, particularly how important it is, good sleep hygiene, and how we can improve our sleeping experiences. We’ll look at what sleep does for our brains and bodies, what happens if we don’t enough of it, what is sleep hygiene (hint: it’s not clean sheets and pillowcases), and what we can do to to optimise our experience.
My sleep story has had many ups and downs over my lifetime. I was the kid who never wanted to get up in the morning, but could lay awake for hours in bed at night. As a teenager, I struggled to get to sleep, but never felt tired, and never had any problem sleeping in until lunchtime if I could. When I became a parent at 21, broken sleep didn’t bother me, and on reflection I can say that the best period of sleep experience in my life is when my kids were babies and toddlers and early school years. I never had any trouble actually sleeping, I could stay up late and live well on about 7 hours sleep a night (often less), and didn’t have any health issues.
It was when I hurt my back nearly 10 years ago that my journey into the world of problematic sleep began. Pain would keep me from getting to sleep and then wake me through the night, and just as that settled I developed Psoriatic Arthritis, which while it made me so fatigued, I couldn’t sleep well enough to overcome the constant deep tiredness. Over the past 10 years, I’ve gone through ups and downs of some times being better than others, with a good period of about 4 years or so being pretty problem-free, but the past few years have been the most challenging, with my experiences ranging from struggling to fall asleep, to waking frequently through the night, constant fatigue, never feeling rested, and just generally sleep deprived. And in the middle of this time, I thought working night shift would be a good idea (it wasn’t)!
I’m now in a time where going to sleep is (usually) no problem, but staying asleep and having good quality sleep cycles sometimes feels impossible – I can be asleep for 8 hours and wake up feeling like I nodded off for half an hour, possibly with having run a marathon during that time (and according to my sleep tracker, I can sometimes have been restless enough to account for nearly 10,000 steps worth of movement through the night!). So I’m on a mission to improve my sleep quality, to feel better and more awake and energised through the day, and I’m starting with implementing good sleep hygiene practices. It will take more than a month to turn the tables, but this month will be a good start, and hopefully we’ll find out some interesting things along the way!
I’d love for you to share your experiences, good, not so great or otherwise, I know I’m not the only one who longs for the land of sweet dreams!