When I was younger, my grandmother would spend her vacations with us. It was so much fun, we stayed up till the wee hours of the morning watching movies and eating snacks. It was great, like eating forbidden fruit. But what I did not realize is that my grandmother’s sleep cycle did not match mine. Grandma worked third shift at a factory. She went to work at 4:30 pm and came home at 4:30 am, ate what she called dinner, showered, then settled to watch the news or a movie then went to bed at 7am. So when she visited us on her vacation she was still in her wake/sleep cycle, which was opposite of mine. As much as I loved her visits, and I wouldn’t change those wonderful memories for the world, it did make for a rough week back at school. During my college years life was no different, I stayed up late working on my art projects, and hanging out with my friends. Again, sleep escaped me and I found that I slept at odd times, such as in classes, while I was eating lunch, and hanging out with my friends. When I had my first baby – OH DEAR, did I lose sleep. I was up every two to three hours for feeding, and changing diapers, and waking up when she cried, and when she wasn’t crying worrying why she wasn’t crying.
Talk about losing sleep, will I ever catch up on my lost sleep? The answer is, yes. I believe that we innately know what is right for us to feel better and to get better sleep, but we let life interfere with what our bodies tell us. We know that our health is associated with getting sleep. We know that during sleep our body works to build new cells, repair existing cells, save memories, boost immunity and prepare all of our systems for the day ahead. We know that we if we get quality sleep, we can decrease our chances of diabetes, heart attack, and better regulate our weight, just to name a few. Of course, the benefits of restorative sleep include being less tired and having more energy, but fantastic sleep also elevates our mood, supports optimal immune function, improves our “executive” decision making and solidifies the storage of our memories. Forget extra make up over your dark circles, mass consuming energy beverages and driving home after work with the window open to help keep you awake, just get the sleep your body needs. Sleep well and everything feels better. Just like your mother used to say, everything will look better in the morning.
Keeping to a sleep schedule will help you to recover from sleep loss. Experts recommend at least 8 hours of sleep each night, and keeping to our wake/sleep cycle on the weekends and holidays. On those special times with your grandmother when you stay up late and watch bad movies, you can recover from your loss sleep by getting back into your regular wake/sleep cycle. When grandma finally retired from her third shift job, she was able to get into a new sleep/wake cycle, but it was not overnight. She gradually altered her bedtime hour to go to bed earlier, and started setting a new wake up time. During this time the only thing she used to stay awake was strong coffee, she would drink it all day long.