This is part 2 to the last post on 5 Obstacles to Deep Sleep. There are 5 more very obvious obstacles to deep sleep that I forgot to mention. These 5 are not as bothersome to me these days as the first 5 mentioned, nonetheless they still come up from time to time.
When it’s too hot or too cold my body can’t relax deep enough to reach those restoring cycles of sleep. For me a temperature ranging between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit is manageable. When it’s 30 below outside and the house heater just won’t do, I’m layered up with blankets and clothes and it’s still too cold, sleep is disturbed. Only a handful of days like that come up in one winter. There have been hot nights in the summer where we don’t want to admit we need the air conditioner and the fan is just fine, till we decide enough is enough. This temperature obstacle creeps up when traveling as well. I travel to India from time to time where sometimes there’s no option of a fan and so no choice but to simmer in my own sweat all night.
There was a time when sleeping with an orange strip of street light peering through my bedroom curtains edges was not a big deal, until I had light-blocking curtains that is. The difference in my sleep was a big deal. I don’t have that problem now but my son occasionally needs a night light or hubby will be working through the night in the next room and the light stream through the door frame. That’s where eye covers are my friend.
Light pollution has cumulative negative effects on our health in the long run. A dim light coming from outside our window or our electronics may not seem a problem because sleep manages to happen. In the long run though it prevents the brain from getting into the deeper sleep cycles that are the most reparative. Check out what the International Dark Sky Association has to say about how the absence of darkness, at night, adversely affects our health.
Today I only have the occasional disturbance of wolves or coyotes howling by my yard but I used to live in the city where I’d hear a few ambulances every night. When visiting Delhi or Mexico City I’ve slept to the sound of cars honking, barking street dogs and people talking all night long. I’ve also shared a room with loved ones that snore.
I thought I’m flexible enough to adapt to anything. After all mind over matter right? To a certain extent that worked. This background noise though, keeps the body in subtle a state of alarm. There is primitive programming in our cells that responds to noise as a threat. It receives this stimulation as a signal that it isn’t safe to completely let go of all it’s defenses and drift off safely into sleep. I thought my mind over matter philosophy was working just fine for me until we moved to my current rural area.
The first month we moved here, I consistently woke up with puffy eyes. I slept at a level of depth I hadn’t experienced before, co-sleeping and all. I woke up feeling like my body was made of sandbags. Like it had sunken into the bed. Looking back it makes sense that my body was compensating for having slept light for so many years. It was saying “Finally! I can completely let go” . This isn’t just my hunch, the World Health Organization has proven it in a study. The study goes as far as to say that noise pollution contributes to cardiovascular disease
When I fall off the wagon on my exercise routine, the first place I feel it is in my sleep. Exercise helps my body feel adequately tired at the end of the day to be able to rest deeply. It different than having been on my feet all day and having my feet ache. Here is a study by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine that proves just this.
This one is not so much a problem anymore as I’ve made habits that have me eat earlier yet it does creep up at times at social gatherings. Not only am I getting home late but many times stuffed from eating all the goodies I don’t let myself have access to on a daily basis. Lying down with a full stomach doesn’t lend itself to good deep sleep.
Getting and Staying in Rhythm
Deep sleep is key in setting our circadian rhythm, that thing that controls the switch in our genes to turn on and off at the right times and keeps all our gears humming along. In our modern world many of us look for fancy things to live better and miss the most basic fundamentals of our human functioning. A great website I found called Sleep.org has a helpful article on our circadian rhythms. Here is a great TED talk on it as well.
What Flowing Days Look Like
I have yet, even with all I know that helps my sleep life, to sleep deeply every night for 2 weeks straight. One or a few of the things mentioned come together to disrupt my optimal schedule. Sometimes I can feel the momentum building as I’ve managed to get 8 consecutive days of great sleep. I wake up without alarm like I have a rocket under me and I get an awesome amount done happily without a hitch. I play with my son, get food on the table, harvest, weed and water the garden, volunteer, get my own self care done, give my home its daily TLC maybe even make a little art and I move from one activity to the next fully present and happily giving it all I got. Life hums along. That is flow to me.
The Monkey Wrench
Then we’re invited to see friends we haven’t seen in awhile, my son has a nightmare, the pack of wolves decide to make my yard their howling party site, the air-conditioner was just a little too cold etc. All this happens on consecutive nights and before I know it this string of slightly less than peppy days tip my scales out of flow. I wake up without that rocket and instead of shooting out of bed I quietly stumble out.
Finding Flow in Everyday Life
It is a delicate balance to give everything important it’s due attention in the living of a whole life. I’m not an athlete with all my energy and resources aimed at the perfection of that one move or reaching that finish line a few seconds faster. My energy is going to the making of a satisfying life filled with a marriage, kids, food, friends, time for reflection and service.
This balance is an ongoing project with no finish line.
Sleep is a big topic for me as I also have struggled with the hamster-wheel of the productivity paradigm that is so prevalent in American mainstream culture.
I will talk more about what has helped me tame that beast in the next post. Until next time what is your sleep life like? What are your obstacles and what has helped you manage them?
If this post was helpful to you don’t forget to to like and comment. Until next time!