To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Update and Bump:

Okay, a week after publishing this, I got one of James Clear’s periodical emailings. He writes some great stuff, and you should sign up for his newletter. Anyway, he went into great depth on sleep and sleep deprivation. It’s on his site here, go give it a read.

Okay, two questions. First, why am I quoting Hamlet? Second, since I’m a yoga guy, what has that got to do with yoga?

First, why not? Even a yoga loving, hockey playing engineer can appreciate the classics. Just don’t get me going on Mozart vs Beethoven.

Second, previously I wrote about stress, and the fact that one of the many ill effects of stress is poor sleep. We all have the occasional lousy night’s sleep, but consistently poor sleep quickly leads to sleep deprivation, which brings with it a laundry list of badness:

  • Cognitive decline.
  • Mood swings.
  • Lowered immune response.
  • Weight gain.
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
  • Lowered sex drive.
  • Poorer co-ordination and balance, leading to increased falls and accidents.

In short, sleep deprivation makes you fat, moody, stupid, clumsy, accident prone, sick and kills your sex drive. For more, check out this article on Webmd.

So, what to do about it, and where does yoga come in? Well, the first pass answer is, get more sleep. But how to get more sleep is highly dependent on why you’re missing sleep. If you’re like me, the root of your sleep deprivation is either the Hockey Night in Canada Saturday night double header, or stress.

If it’s the late hockey games, I can’t help you. But if it’s stress that’s keeping you up then the answer to lousy sleep is to destress. Remember, two of the most powerful stress busters are vigorous exercise and meditation. THAT is where yoga comes in.

In combining strenuous exercise with meditation, a regular yoga practice will aid in breaking down the cortisol in your system, reducing the ill effects of stress. As an added bonus, in addition to breaking down the stress hormone, vigorous exercise will leave you tired, and the meditation will leave you clear headed. And you know what being tired and clear headed leads to? Sleep.

Stress and sleep deprivation are intertwined. Many of the ill effects of sleep deprivation are also tied to stress. If you’re stressed and sleep deprived, is the extra 10 lbs around your middle from one, or the other? I don’t suppose it matters. Each causes the other, so getting stressed spoils your sleep, which gets you stressed and you’re into a vicious cycle. Fortunately, reducing stress is a big step to fixing sleep, and fixing sleep is a big step to reducing stress, which puts you into a virtuous cycle of lowered stress, improved sleep and all the benefits that come with both.

In the end, fat, grumpy, stupid, clumsy, accident prone, sick and sexless is no way to go through life. Get to yoga, and for the sake of whatever you hold most dear, get some sleep.