Sleep as Self-Care + Changing Seasons
Can you believe Daylight Savings Time ended a week ago already? I took advantage of that extra hour to do some fall cleaning and also get some good sleep. And the more I read about sleep, the more important I realize it is. Rest is our foundation.
The change of seasons is the perfect time to reflect on this. We can’t have the beauty of fall, spring and summer without the rest provided by winter. It makes sense that Halloween and the Day of the Dead are celebrated at this time of year. Nature itself is in that liminal space between life and death and we can’t help but feel that change too.
It’s still fall. But with the start of November and so little sunlight, it feels like we are in the winter season. And after my year of examining the seasons, I’m doing my best to shed resistance and fall into winter gracefully.
Peak fall has the ground carpeted with red, orange and so much gold. They shimmer in the sunlight. The trees and ground look magical and otherworldly. Nature is preparing us for winter with an extra burst of beauty.
This time of year provides a cue for rest and turning inward. Many animals are hibernating or at least preparing for it. Since we humans are part of nature as well, we can think about how our lives might adjust with the cold weather.
It’s a time for the comfort of warm blankets, hot drinks and candle light. For me, these colder months are also about coziness. Danish culture calls it hygge, and I am all for it. I can’t fight the weather, so I’ll try and appreciate the best of what it brings.
This winter break is something we can cultivate within ourselves. Each day is like a mini-year, where our sleep is the winter. Resting for the renewal of spring and summer during the busiest parts of our day. The end of the day, before we sleep again, is autumn.
Recent research says that deep sleep may rid the brain of toxins that lead to Alzheimer’s. Sleep disruption and deprivation is bad for our health. Yet, it seems like getting enough sleep is a major problem for many if not most people. Sleep scientist Matthew Walker gives some insight.
“We have stigmatised sleep with the label of laziness. We want to seem busy, and one way we express that is by proclaiming how little sleep we’re getting. It’s a badge of honour. When I give lectures, people will wait behind until there is no one around and then tell me quietly: ‘I seem to be one of those people who need eight or nine hours’ sleep.’ It’s embarrassing to say it in public. They would rather wait 45 minutes for the confessional. They’re convinced that they’re abnormal, and why wouldn’t they be? We chastise people for sleeping what are, after all, only sufficient amounts. We think of them as slothful. No one would look at an infant baby asleep, and say ‘What a lazy baby!’ We know sleeping is non-negotiable for a baby. But that notion is quickly abandoned [as we grow up]. Humans are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent reason.” In case you’re wondering, the number of people who can survive on five hours of sleep or less without any impairment, expressed as a percent of the population and rounded to a whole number, is zero.
Those people, who tell us that they do fine with hardly any sleep. They are lying. To themselves. And to the rest of us. They are risking their health. If they are driving or doing something similar, they may be risking the lives of others as well.
We need sleep. We need rest. We need winter. One of the best ways to take care of ourselves is so basic. This self-care is literally to do nothing. So this season, it’s time to make a change.