Sleep, Part I
Empirical science teaches the average person requires anywhere from 6 to 9 hours of sleep a night. That’s a pretty large range. According to The National Sleep Foundation,
There is no "magic number." Not only do different age groups need different amounts of sleep, but sleep needs are also individual. Just like any other characteristics you are born with, the amount of sleep you need to function best may be different for you than for someone who is of the same age and gender. While you may be at your absolute best sleeping seven hours a night, someone else may clearly need nine hours to have a happy, productive life. In fact, a 2005 study confirmed the fact that sleep needs vary across populations, and the study calls for further research to identify traits within genes that may provide a "map" to explain how sleep needs differ among individuals.
A key take-away from the above is as follows: "sleep needs vary across populations." Except in certain contexts (like, say, in a monastery or military barracks), I consider it unfair for anyone to dictate how much sleep is the right (or "Christ-like") amount or to dictate when a particular person should go to sleep at night or wake up in the morning. Holistic practice (where sleep is concerned) has, I think, very little to do with sleeping too much; I think it has everything to do with disciplining ourselves to conform to the circadian rhythms each of us carry within our genes and living environments. Here in the west, it's not that we sleep too much, it's that we don’t sleep enough or, rather, not enough consistently and at the same time each day. Studies have demonstrated that the average person sleeps nearly 1.5 hours less than the average person did in 1950. Statistics like that can lead one to conclude that a significant portion of our population is probably sleep-deprived.
Sleep is critical to our survival. Some genes are activated only when we sleep. When you sleep, your body restores itself, and your brain replenishes the chemicals your body needs to rebuild what was torn-down or damaged during the day. In addition, when you sleep, your brain works to consolidate memories by emphasizing important ones and by moving to the back burner those that aren't. Do you know your ability to come up with novel solutions to complex problems is bolstered by sleep? Empirical, cognitive tests have demonstrated that getting regular, adequate sleep will give you nearly a three-fold advantage in problem solving over those who are sleep deprived. Adequate sleep increases your ability to concentrate and make decisions; it also boosts your creativity, your social skills, and your physical and mental health. In fact, getting sufficient, quality sleep will help you lose weight naturally. Conversely, sleep deprivation creates great stress, negatively affects your moods, and makes you more prone to situational anger. It also exacerbates impulsivity and increases significantly your likelihood of becoming overweight or developing an addiction to substances like caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol.
I write the above to emphasize that getting consistent, adequate sleep is critical to our living happy, productive lives. Sleep is neither a luxury nor an indulgence; it's a necessity.
More (Part II) on this subject next week!
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Mondays: Meditative Prayer
Wednesdays: Holistic Discipline
Fridays: Martial Arts Practice