When my Mum died I didn’t sleep for months.
I tried, but the sleep just would never, come. I would cheat myself thinking squeezing an afternoon nap would be okay. But, in hindsight, it really wasn’t, as it just disrupts your sleep cycle. It led to a very strange lifestyle whereby I was watching television at strange times, desperately hoping that I would nod off.
It was not until I went to two years ago that I realised how important getting enough sleep is. I had flown overnight from Singapore, where I had promised myself I would bank up sleep on my last night to ensure I would be awake to sight-see but as the dawn rose over Sydney Harbour and the plane came into land, I realised there was no such thing as being able to build the zzs up. I remember checking into my hotel and hoping the room was ready as there was no exhaustion like it. Thankfully it was and to settle into bed was heavenly. It did not help that I called a friend to tell her I had landed and she was watching Coronation Street as Sydney residents were heading to work. Knowing, I was Set To Do Oz in a very short amount of time, I was very happy to collapse under the duvet. I remember tossing and turning, noticing the morning sun fade into the afternoon light and then waking in the dark and as the street lights shone into my room. Pulling myself out of my slumber, I took myself down to the hotel restaurant for a meal, but I still was able to sleep through the night waking up refreshed for a day visiting Sydney’s must-sees.
Since my Australian adventure I have found keeping a sleep routine is so important to me. It was partly down to my body-clock being out of kilter extensively afterwards and I was again watching television in the early hours. As much as the non-sleeping was because of much better circumstances, it reminded me of the difficult days in grief and shock at my Mum’s passing. Upset by the reminders, I disciplined myself to not putting on the television and getting into a sleep pattern which I follow now. I know that if I am exhausted my thought processes are erratic and as much as I have come to accept my Mum’s death, at certain times of the year it can still be difficult. I need to remain focussed and a good amount of sleep can help me deal with my emotions.
Now, I try to be in bed by 11 pm and I rise by 7 am. I never used to be an early morning person, but I love this time of day where I know the world is sleepy and just getting up. I flick on the kettle, check any emails that may have come in overnight and get myself psychologically ready for the day ahead.
Looking back at the troubled mindset I had during the shock grief process, it influenced my daily routine. It is also important to note that our brains play a key part in how our lifestyles physically unravel.
For instance, for over a year I would wake at 4 am every night and I would then be flicking through the channels for something to watch. At this point it was not in dealing with emotional issues, more that 4 am is not the nicest time to be wide awake. It does show how the brain can compute rituals into our lifestyles and becomes a regular protocol to wake up at this time of day.
The negative effect of this was my sleep supply was far from a good quality. And, it would take me longer to process issues that needed to be addressed.
This is no surprise as the brain is working all the time for us, even when you don’t know it is.
For instance, when you sleep memories are stored in the Temporal Lobe. This means your brain is working out what were the important memories from the day and storing them away as well as applying what needs to be done tomorrow from this inputted information. However, sleep deprivation can lead to the the Temporal Lobe being the first cranial area to be affected; this can cause local neurons to slow down and a repercussion of this is that memories may not be fluid.
This explains why I was feeling tired and why I was struggling to cope cognitively. Believe me! When I say you need sleep to function, you really do. That is why for the rest of March Direct Action will be looking at ways to help us all get better sleep. Problems sleeping are not just related to serious issues such as grief: according to The National Sleep Council seventy per cent of us don’t get enough sleep. So, as part of SleepAction, I will be looking into the science of sleep; strategies to get a good night’s sleep and it all kicks off NOW with Chris’s 10 Minute Challenge.