Saturday, June 19, 2010
What We Mean When We Talk About Tired
After years of telling myself that I did just fine on 6 hours of sleep and then having to pour three cups of coffee down my throat in the morning in order to do more than grunt, I finally succumbed to the idea that I really did need more sleep. I started sleeping seven hours a night. I felt so enlightened.
That is, until I told my nurse practitioner about my right-thinking and fine new habit. She listened and then she laughed at me. I was so Washington, she told me between guffaws, so out-of-touch with my body. Then she enlightened me. Turns out, a woman my age needs -- you'll never believe it -- NINE hours of sleep a night.
When I tell Successful and Purposeful Washingtonians about this, their usual reaction is to ease away from me and roll their eyes sympathetically. It's easy to read the message in their eyes (once they stop rolling): Who would waste nine hours of their day away from their blackberry.
I must admit that I was having a hard time with the nine hour rule -- and I still only made that goal about twice a week. Then, I got my inspiration from Kate, a blog friend who is recovering from a stroke. One of her main activities in healing her brain was sleep. Turns out that when we sleep our brains and bodies heal and rejuvenate -- more than at any other time or from any other activity. In fact, human growth hormone, the thing that helps keep your cells flexible and productive, is only released in our bodies when we sleep. Sleep is like our own metabolic and emotional personal trainer -- but without the lycra or the exorbitant hourly rate.
So my nightly routine is different: Instead of climbing into bed and thinking about all the things I should be doing instead or that I should do tomorrow (what I like to call "the mental hamster run"), I have another custom, one that is both friendlier and healthier for my own darn self. I switch off the light, snuggle into my pillow, and think to myself, "And now I will sleep. I will heal and grow stronger through the action of rest."