T-minus 1.5 days and counting! While I wish I was talking about my upcoming trip to Kona, Hawai’i (which is happening in t-minus 52 days-give or take a few depending on when this blog is published), I’m actually talking about Daylight Savings, which this year is happening on Sunday, 12 March 2017 at 2:00 am.
Now, please don’t ask me about the science behind DST. All I know is what I learned from a quick Google search: that “DST normally adds 1 hour to standard time with the purpose of making better use of daylight and conserving energy. This means that the sunrise and sunset are one hour later, on the clock, than the day before” (www.timeanddate.com). In slightly more English, busy-human terms, we now have an extra hour of daylight to cram stuff into our already busy, crazy, hectic, lust-for-adventure-balanced-with-to-do list-filled lives.
We now have an extra hour of daylight to cram stuff into our already busy, crazy, hectic, lust-for-adventure-balanced-with-to-do list-filled lives.
Which leaves me to the whole point of this blog: Sleep. I get it. It’s summer (almost). Summer! Time for bbqs, midnight pool parties, campouts in the backyard, romantic midnight sunsets atop mountains. It’s also time for one more hour to get more things “done.” All of these activities make up the beauty and fun of life, but they also have some downsides that, if continued night after night after night, have some longer-term, severe consequences for your mental and physical health. Least of all, missing summer.
Here’s the deal about sleep. Before I get started, let me say I know that the concept of required hours of sleep is controversial-everyone is different and has different needs, and I know that even though I am about to speak in generalities, there are always exceptions. In the beginning. After my dad died in 1996, my mom bought a bakery to support her family. For the next 20 years, she slept no more than 5-6 nights a week; not only did she have a bakery, but she had a farm. This required her to wake up at 4 every morning, so she had time to feed her animals before going to work. For the first 10 years she was fine. My brother and I would help out where we could, but the reality is that I was selfish and young back then and had no idea my mom wasn’t Super Woman. I saw her doing it all, with little food and littler sleep. And all was fine with the world. I would say I started noticing a difference about five years ago. Yes, she is older, but I started noticing her memory was weakening, she started eating differently, and as such her body started changing. Little things only a daughter would notice. She wasn’t as happy, she was sick more often, and quite frankly she exuded emptiness, a lack. She is still not sleeping more than 6 hours a night except maybe on the weekends (except on the weekends she stays up later playing with her horses so sleeping in doesn’t really give her any extra hours in the long run). She is unhappy. I fully believe her body is lacking necessary sleep, and has been for so long that the habit will be extremely difficult to change and require much diligence, a hard task when unhappy.
So here’s the thing about sleep: You can only go so long without it and not lose parts of yourself.
And when I say in the long run I’m really saying 1 night, maybe 2, unless you’re a high school or college student in love or having made the winning touchdown or goal or basket or run or whatever-I mean, really, who can sleep at all after the first kiss or finishing win? And who would want to? There is a ton of science behind this reality, that lack of sleep changes you, but this is not that kind of post, though I will finish the blog post with a few links for those science geeks among us to check out. This is a blog of personal stories and sharing of personal experiences.
Speaking of, here’s my own personal experience. 2016 was a year I forewent sleep, for various reasons I thought were reasonable: I was a second-year teacher in love with partner dancing, which meant I never had anything done except my footwork. And even then, that was often lacking. I gained about 15 pounds because all I ate to keep me going late at night was sugar (which is a common side-effect of not getting enough sleep), my skin headed back to high-school level acne, I forgot EVERYTHING all the time, I had no energy and laid around after work, I got in fights with many family members because my patience was an all-time low, I eventually stopped dancing at all, and on top of all that, I struggled with depression-but who wouldn’t get depressed with so much going wrong in my life?
Then summer hit. I went back home to help my mom with the farm. Still woke up at 5 every morning, but I was turning off my lights at 9:30-10:00 five to six nights a week. This was mostly out of exhaustion as anyone who lives on a farm knows that farm life is…exhausting. Something amazing happened. I wasn’t even working out but I was losing weight. My skin started to clear up. I didn’t need as much coffee during the day. And the douzy? I was smiling more. This past summer single-…summerdly taught me the absolute necessity of sleep. I cannot say I sleep 7+ nights ever night, especially in the summer. Who does? There are bbqs, midnight pool parties, backyard campouts that need attending to. I can say that I want to enjoy my summer as best as I can, and I know, now, that the best way to enjoy the beauty of summer, is to sleep through 6-7+ hours of it, 4-5 nights a week.