why is sleep so important?

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“Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory, makes you more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious. Are you interested?” - Matthew Walker

Let me also add that it’s free and available to everyone (with the exception of new parents)

Still interested?

It’s sleep.  

Un-sexy, impossible to sell, sleep.

If you haven’t yet read Matthew Walkers Why We Sleep, right now might be a nice time to start. For a taste, listen to his podcast with Joe Rogan. In this powerful, if not deeply disturbing book, Walker presents terrifying research making it easy to see why the World Health Organisation has now declared a sleep loss epidemic throughout industrialised nations. 

I mean, when was the last time you consistently woke up without an alarm, fresh, happy and ready to seize the day? Okay okay, then when was the last time you woke up thinking just five more minutessss… if you’re the latter, you’re so not alone. American statistics show that two thirds of the population are sleep deprived. Two. Thirds. That’s like, most people.

In another win for team humans are stupid, humans are the only species that purposefully deprive ourselves of sleep for no legitimate gain whatsoever. In fact, “Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer. Insufficient sleep is a key lifestyle factor determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimer's disease. Inadequate sleep -- even moderate reductions for just one week -- disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic… sleep disruption further contributes to all major psychiatric conditions, including depression, anxiety, and suicidality.”

Seriously.

While we might see healthy eating, exercise and sleep as pillars of health, the research clearly shows (and I think we all know this deep down) that sleep is the foundation on which the other two rest upon. There is no point even trying to eat healthily or exercise if you haven’t had enough sleep. Ever feel like you crave junk when you’re exhausted? Same. And t’s an actual scientific thing. See:

“Too little sleep swells concentrations of a hormone that makes you feel hungry while suppressing a com­panion hormone that otherwise signals food satisfaction. Despite being full, you still want to eat more. It's a proven recipe for weight gain in sleep-deficient adults and children alike. Worse, should you attempt to diet but don't get enough sleep while doing so, it is futile, since most of the weight you lose will come from lean body mass, not fat.”

So basically step one is to get your sleep under control, step two is to control your intake of oreos and french fries. Unpopular truth or what.

I could go on, but read the book and listen to the podcast and then let’s talk.

Yes, I have a personal interest in people reading this, too. Focusing much of my attention teaching and studying restorative yoga within a culture that quite obviously does not value sleep and rest can sometimes feel like a challenge I wonder why I decided to take on. Naturally the answer is because I believe in it so deeply, and it’s obvious to see how needed it is. But its nice to have a professor on my team. It’s easier to swallow the facts from a science dude than a barefoot yoga teacher with a stack of blankets.

And yes - rest and sleep are two distinct states but the lines blur when you are sleep deprived. Ironically a deprivation of rest has a very negative effect on your sleep – keeping you from having the deep healing sleep that is the magical elixir we need to not die at 45. Sleep deprivation on the other hand, will probably send you to sleep in a restorative class, which is why I encourage you to let that happen if the feeling arises. In fact I would say let yourself sleep or at the very least lie down whenever possible at the emergence of that feeling. Set your phone timer for ten minutes and just go for it, I promise you its possible - you already spend more time on Instagram.

SO In response to the low level brain damage that is wakefulness I put together The Clarity Series. Held at The Collaborative Maroubra starting next Sunday evening, it’s a three part series for anyone who feels as if they don’t get enough rest or eight hours of sleep per night, creatives and professionals who want to make better decisions, parents of young children and anyone feeling confused, overwhelmed or unsure of a specific area in their life.

Conducted over three weeks, the series is a combination of restorative yoga and a small amount of journaling. Over the weeks clarity will emerge and you will hopefully take with you the knowledge and tools to regularly practice resting the physical body to take a mini retreat from the day, the week and your whole, sleep deprived life. 

image via pintrest, Mary Gillatt 1981


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