During this prolonged siege of COVID-19, every facet of our lifestyle and daily activity has been called into question or challenged in some way. Sleep has been a casualty of these extraordinary times. It is obvious that insufficient sleep, night after night, will cripple our daytime focus, energy levels and mental clarity. We are all familiar with the feelings of surgency and buoyancy that derive from a solid night’s slumber. We are better prepared for the rigors of the day. Our stress tolerance is greater, and we are less likely to be irked by trifling matters. For those in practice,
To sleep during the day, perchance to restore clarity of mind? This is a subject of ongoing scientific research. Napping is viewed by many as a compensatory restorative process due to poor sleep the night before or for mitigating daytime somnolence. Studies have demonstrated that partial acute or chronic sleep deprivation at night leads to errors in thinking, mathematical calculations and erosion of working memory – the ability to hold information on our mental screen and act upon it.
It’s the time of year in the Northern Hemisphere when daylight length and sun angle relative to the horizon shrink to their lowest levels of the year, and the darkness of night descends in the late afternoon hours. And with that comes the mental doldrums of winter Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Individuals vulnerable to seasonal effects may experience anxiety, sadness, sleep problems, loss of focus, mental fog, weight gain and loss of energy or drive. Suicidal thinking is always a factor to consider when significant depression sets in. Body image can take a hit as there may be a
The COVID-19 crisis has created misery, suffering and hardship on a global scale. If there is any silver lining, it might be the renewed appreciation of our fundamental linkage with the physical environment and what that means not just for survival, but for resilience as a species. I write on sleep topics and human behavior and emphasize our basic, culturally universal homeostatic and circadian rhythms linked to the solar day/night.
My prior blog discussed the insidious but solvable problem of chronic sleep loss. Now we look at how to establish a rapport with our sleep nature. First, we need to examine our attitude about sleep. Are we guided by prevailing Western cultural signals that sleep is down, unproductive time? Do we fret over losing our advantage or position? Our material, consumptive society bombards us with messages to excel in school, establish a profession, find that perfect employment, toil longer hours, or seek new horizons or challenges. Constant performance pressure and dodging threats activate the fight, flight or freeze responses and