The Importance of Rest: Mental Health Awareness Week

A Danielle Steel interview made the rounds last week. In this interview she claimed to work twenty-two hours a day. Now, I have serious doubts about the truth of this to be honest, but what got me was the amount of people applauding her for her ‘work ethic’.

Hmm.

Two hours of sleep (presuming she isn’t showering or eating at all) is not ‘hard working’ it’s abso-bloody-lutely ridiculous. We’re not penguins. In fact, the nazis used sleep deprivation like this as a method of torture for goodness sake. Anyone claiming to function on only two hours of sleep every night for years is bullshitting you or in desperate need of medical attention.

We’ve all heard people bragging about not needing sleep—the ones who claim to be utterly fine and dandy on three hours of shut eye a night. Again, unless it’s a one off, I’m of the belief they are just flat out lying. If they’re not there’s a whole host of issues that’ll be happening inside their bodies.

Sleep doesn’t just make us feel less tired. It is the state in which we heal—both physically and mentally. Precisely the reason doctors tell you to get plenty of rest when you’re sick or injured. Your cells do their restoring business, your body detoxes (yes, it does that naturally, you don’t need green juice!), and your brain processes all the information it’s been given through the day.

Sleep, unsurprisingly, can also have a huge impact on our mental health. Sleep deprivation can (at least speaking from personal experience) lower concentration, response times, and brain function in general—which’ll lead to fluctuating hormones. I always feel much more anxious if I’ve not had my full eight hours, and I end up getting properly down in the dumps. My negative thought loop spirals out of control.

Yet, despite the good sleep does for us, the daily pressures of society portray sleep as time wasting. Time you aren’t able to get your list of jobs done or consume entertainment and social media. I’ve lost count of the amount of people who’ve told me they wish they didn’t need sleep but could just continue working instead. Yikes.

Sleep and rest should be the most important part of our day, not another chore!

Now, obviously, when talking about sleep deprivation and rest I should mention the people who are unable to sleep. The insomniacs, the busy people, the parents, the shift workers, the list in our modern society goes on and on. Sleep is so undervalued by pretty much everyone (as proven by the many beauty adverts, showing products that make you look like you had a full night’s sleep…erm, what?). I once read (in Psychology class, but I cannot for the life of me remember who wrote this) that nightshift workers are proven to die earlier than non-nightshift workers due to the lack of sleep and routine.

Well, shit.

No wonder our mental health is down in the gutter when we’re tired.

There are, as you’ll probably know by now, a few different ways to ensure our best chances of sleep. Turning off screens an hour before bed (she says hypocritically typing at 11pm), charging electronics in a separate room, ensuring our rooms are dark and quiet, avoiding caffeine in the afternoons/ evenings (this includes sugar and a lot of teas!), spraying your pillow with lavender, having a comfortable bed, etc. etc. etc. Even lying down in a dark room, if you’re unable to sleep, can help your body and mind heal. It’s not lazy to rest.

I travelled to Australia a few years ago, and bar two stretches of half an hour where I nodded off into an extremely light sleep, I was awake for the entire thirty hour journey plus a full day after I arrived (I arrived at six in the morning). It was physically painful. I distinctly remember waiting for my connecting flight and wanting to cry because I was so damn tired. I felt sick and literally swayed on my feet. I was also hungry, and cold, and by the end of the day was falling asleep standing up.

Sleep deprivation really is torture.

So, all this to say, look after your body and your mind. Go to bed!! (Except parents, you guys do not sell the experience of having kids, because from here it sounds like tired hell!)

 

[This topic, although I think I drifted a lot from what she actually meant me to talk about, was requested by my sleepy friend Gaynor over at Paperbacks and Pinot. Please check out her blog, it’s a good one and she’s really tired so give her some love!]

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