Tag Archives: Sleep

Sleep Matters

One of the easiest and most effective things a person can do to help recover from illness or distress, is sleep. When we sleep, our bodies are better able to heal, and so are our minds. A shortage of sleep aggravates many conditions, putting extra strain on our systems. There is no over the counter medicine that compares with it.

If you can’t manage to sleep, then lying down in a warm, comfortable place without too much light or noise, is highly beneficial. When I’ve been too distressed to unwind, too plagued by troubled thoughts, I’ve found that music, being read to, or just having the radio on helps take my mind of things and enables rest.

It’s a form of healing we don’t take seriously enough – hospitals with their continual noise and lights are very hard places for a person to rest in. There are increasing numbers of medications out there to help you suppress the symptoms and get on with a regular working day, rather than resting to get over a mild complaint. We use stimulants – especially caffeine, to keep us awake when exhaustion threatens.

I’ve hears too many tales already from folk who find themselves unable to get enough sleep – usually thanks to a combination of work and home pressures. Everyone needs a decent amount of sleep every night to maintain a decent level of mental and physical health. Last time we discussed sleep on this blog, a number of folks self identified as not having lives that permitted them enough rest normally, much less when they are ill 

Under international law, sleep deprivation counts as torture.

If you are being EXPECTED to do without sleep, please go back and read that above statement again. Sleep is a basic human right and necessity, following on after air, water and food. It’s not a luxury, or a thing you can afford to do without.


There are lots of theories about what dreaming is, including ideas of white noise, in house entertainment during rest, part of the learning process, filing of memories, that it is random and meaningless, that it is a portal to the unconscious, and that it is divine. We don’t really know. However, dreams can have a lot of influence on mood and waking life, nightmares especially so. I think the desire to make sense of things is an intrinsic part of the human state. When something is horrible, knowing why gives us back a feeling of control, a way of coping.

I’ve been prone to nightmares since childhood. I don’t get them all the time, but every now and then something monstrously dark rears up to frighten me. Nightmares that leave me huddled in the darkness, sweating, heart racing, too afraid to go back to sleep. I’ve had a few of those lately. The desire to make sense of them is very strong. What do they mean? Where do they come from? Why are they happening?

My belief is that dreams are your brain doing stuff – that might be sorting and unpacking, going over things recently learned, or fishing up murk from the unconscious depths. Different dreams appear to be different things. Sometimes my nightmares are so dark and disturbing that it really makes me wonder about me. I’ll spare you the details.

What possible use do nightmares serve? Waking in terror and not being able to settle afterwards doesn’t seem immediately helpful. But, if there is fear being held within, and not expressed, then it’s one way for mind and soul to let go. I wonder if nightmares are a way of venting distress and anxiety when other, more helpful channels don’t appear to be viable. It’s very Freudian – the idea that repressed feelings come out by other means, but none the less, I think it may be relevant here. Where possible, it’s better to deal with emotions and experiences as they happen, but it’s not always viable. As with grief – sometimes keeping things together for everyone else delays the grief process, and it comes out in other ways.

Are nightmares just a warning that we need to take some issue more seriously? Or do they help? Is the fear evoked by bad dreams cathartic? Does it help our brains to work through difficulties? My feeling is that they can help, in an odd sort of way, but they aren’t the easiest things to work with. Sometimes it’s very hard to make sense of emotions, and the processes of grief and pain are complicated, confusing things. Nightmares are a way of articulating that to ourselves.

What it boils down to is a fairly pragmatic decision on my part. If I relate to my nightmares as yet another problem for me to contend with, it adds to the burden. If I assume that they are in some way part of a healing process, allowing my mind to vent, then I do not have to be troubled by them occuring. If I imagine they are helping, not harming, then I reduce their scope for harming me in waking moments. I’m not probing them looking for deeper psychological meaning, or imagining that they are dire portents – I could – but what would that achieve? It would only make me more unhappy. So I shall imagine they are useful, and in so doing, hopefully render them so.

39 Days of Prayer – Day 24

Day 24 – An Evening Prayer for Insight


You who are the All and the Void

Thank you for wrapping your essence around me as I sleep, and keeping me from harm.

And as I rest, may the pieces of my energy

that  I have knowingly and unknowingly separated from my body and spirit

come home to me.

In my slumber I am revived, made whole and complete,

ready to accept the wisdom and insight you provide me in dreams.

I embrace and hold you to me, Goddess/God

And I am grateful for your protection and instruction.

Blessed be.

The Power of Sleep

Are you tired? While it’s new mums who suffer most from sleep deprivation, getting less than you need at any life stage isn’t good. Starting the day tired and depleted makes it so much harder to deal with whatever comes up.

Sleep is essential for health, and yet is so easily neglected because someone else needs us to do with less. New mums with restless babies get the worst of it, especially if they try to go back to work, and keep the house in order. There aren’t enough hours in the day, and sleep is the thing we sacrifice.

I’ve watched female friends with high powered jobs, work ever longer hours, more tired by the day and not daring to stop.

The thing is, if we are tired, we are less effective, less able, less efficient. Rested and well, we can get the job done. But how do you take the time out to rest and recharge the batteries when you know that everything will just pile up while you aren’t attending to it, so you have to run twice as hard to catch up?

Demand that everyone does their fair share.

Everyone works.

Everyone plays.

Everyone gets enough time to sleep.

Remember, under international law, depriving a person of sleep is a form of torture. Don’t do that to yourself, and do not let others put you in positions where you feel you should tolerate it. Sleep is essential for mental and physical wellbeing. It’s not a luxury. Sleep heals and refreshes. We need it. Typically, women need about an hour more than men.

If you are struggling, then making sure you get enough sleep is a good way of helping yourself. Don’t turn to drugs or alcohol if you can help it. Demand a quiet, comfortable space, and enough time. It is your right.

I know these things, because I learned them the hard way. Having a good, quiet place to sleep has radically improved my quality of life. I experience less pain, less depression, I am getting more work done, I feel better in myself. Sleep is essential.