My daughter missed a nap yesterday. It seemed innocent enough. I walked out to do some errands with her in the pushchair thinking that she’d fall asleep for a good nap. She slept about 30 minutes and then while I was in a shop started that tell-tale wiggling that told me she’d woken up. Well, that was it, the sum total of her naps for the afternoon. We dropped by the park to wander about in the grass barefoot a bit so she could get some practice putting one foot in front of the
other. She’s so proud and happy with herself right now if she’s holding onto something, in this case my leg, with only one hand and taking steps. It’s brilliant! What a huge smile!
Well, that was lovely and some good father daughter time, but carrying on with the errands a little while later, she still didn’t go back to sleep. Snack time came, an avocado was devoured and the pre-dinner naptime rolled around and yawn she might, she would not go to sleep! By the end of dinner time, she was inconsolable. She decided she was just going to fill her mouth with food and not bother swallowing, squish and throw things she’d normally devour and shout and cry; all very unlike her at dinner time. Bath time was a write-off, she wanted out as soon as she was in and even her favourite turtle was no consolation.
I’m sure we’ve all been there, even with our selves when we’re just too tired to cope and haven’t gotten enough sleep. We’re kind of playing at the edges of sanity,
Folklore is full of the wisdom of having a good nights sleep, but the full-on-rush of the modern world definitely subscribes to the ‘sleep when you’re dead’ school of thought. Well, it seems not paying attention to sleep may actually hasten the day of our demise.
There are still uncertainties about what exactly is happening during sleep, but it’s clear it enables improved physical performance. Lack of quality sleep seems to increase chronic inflammation, which may be why sleep apnea is so closely linked to CVD. As someone with celiac, I can definitely notice when my sleep isn’t up to par, I have much poorer digestion and energy. I just feel lethargic with no get up and go. I know that’s probably similar for everyone, but most of us aren’t actually getting enough quality sleep. We’re functioning, but probably unknowingly at a reduced capacity. Sprinting with a backpack full of mountaineering gear in massive boots. Sure we’re getting it done, but at what cost and how well.
Of course that goes the same for emotional well-being with all that that entails, but we can kind of keep it together if we really focus. Even sleep deprived, we can function, but there’s no way we can do our best.
Work efficacy and creativity
Countless studies confirm the devastating effect sleep deprivation plays on our ability to function at a high level, analytically, intelligently. This is where our edge is, or in the case of the sleep deprived, isn’t.
I remember noticing a few months after E-chan was born and had started on a sleep regression. Memory wasn’t as good, when coming up with ideas there were only obvious ones, I struggled to listen to people and really understand what they were getting at and the wider implications. At work, unless I was teaching, standing up and making rounds in the classroom, I would find myself just not very alert. The periods of time I was able to do something with focus were just nowhere near normal, or even at a level necessary to do great work. I wasn’t able to think synthetically, creatively. Normally, the ideas I have for anything and everything are an interminable stream of solutions, but that river was still, the babble silent. I felt dumb.
My friend Dan corroborated my suspicions that new fathers get a bit dimmer over a pint of lovely Orchard Pig ginger and chili cider at a local watering hole on my first night out since E-chan arrived. “It’s probably not permanent, but dads do end up with lower IQs than they had before”. Great.
Well, things have definitely improved since then. E-chan is sleeping through the night, and my constant stream of ideas has returned. I’m definitely sleeping better now and I’m getting a lot more done as a result! And since I am sleeping more and better now thanks to some intentional improvements to sleep hygiene, I definitely noticed the effects of the wretched night on the plane coming back from Canada this summer. That was not a level of functionality I’d like to spend much time in.
All in all, sleep is pretty important for our wellbeing and performance. We owe it to our loved ones as well as our clients and customers, heck the rest of the world, to get enough good sleep to be able to be the best we can be.
What do you do to get the best sleep you can? I’d love to hear what you do! Please comment and share your tips and experiences with sleep.