Many years ago a doctor said this to me. I have never forgotten it.
I don’t think the doc meant lack of sleep itself is the direct cause of most of our ailments. I think he meant many things we suffer from are made worse by not getting adequate sleep.
We may wear our immune system down with lack of sleep and then be more susceptible to contracting the cold or flu that is going around the office. Or we may already have a cold and our lack of sleep makes it linger on that much longer. Or we may have a chronic condition that we have to live with and manage and lack of sleep makes it that much more difficult to deal with.
I originally started to study with an Alexander teacher in 1995 because I had been suffering from chronic neck, shoulder and upper back pain for about 6 years. Although I was diagnosed with a condition related to Fibromyalgia, a lot of the pain was due to postural and tension issues—things that I could affect positively through learning and applying the skills of the Alexander Technique.
The Alexander Technique helped and continues to help me a great deal. What is also very important though is that I get adequate sleep. Because if I do not get adequate sleep over a period of time, my posture suffers, excess tension creeps in and I can slip into a pain cycle.
When you are tired your muscles don’t work as well to hold you up and you literally droop. That drooping pulls you out of shape and stresses your body. When you droop it affects your ability to breathe efficiently. When we don’t breathe efficiently you don’t get as much oxygen to your cells as otherwise. And you need adequate oxygen to fuel all the systems of your body.
Over the years some people have tried to convince me that you can train yourself to need less sleep. I have not found that to be the case with myself. I need between 8 ½ and 9 hours of sleep a night. I know that because if I let myself sleep without an alarm clock for a week or two I almost without fail wake up after 8 ½ or 9 hours.
I have chosen to make sleep one of my top priorities. Because I don’t like it when I am in pain and I know that lack of sleep contributes to pain for me.
Making sleep a top priority for me means…
- I do not stay up late to get one more thing done on my to do list.
- I listen to my body. When it is tired I don’t continue reading or watching that TV program for another ½ hour. I turn off the light and shut my eyes.
- I don’t answer the phone after 9 o’clock.
And it means I wake up at an advantage and not a disadvantage when it comes to working on my posture.
Photo courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net