By Loraine Debnam
We are coming to the end of spring time in Alberta. We wait for so many months for it to come and then it’s over in a blur.
It’s always the busiest season of the calendar. There are so many things happening — calving and foaling, spring cleaning, garden planting, yard work and fieldwork, mending fences and removing dead branches. There are not enough hours in the day. So, we turn the clocks ahead to give us a longer day and then there are not enough hours in the night. It takes the body several weeks to regulate its circadian rhythms after the time change happens.
Most of us don’t get an adequate number of hours of sleep as it is. We get by on the minimum and when stress or illness hits, we have no reserves to fall back on. Lack of sleep affects not only our ability to think clearly, but also our hearing and vision.
Sleep researcher Stanley Coran has reported Canadians have a seven per cent increase in traffic accidents in the spring and a corresponding seven per cent decrease in the fall when we get that extra hour of sleep.
Even more significantly, the data also indicates the accident rate is highest on Friday mornings when we are the most tired and the lowest on Sunday mornings when we have had more rest the night before. It’s a little unsettling to think we are all so short of rest and sleep that one single hour would make that much difference in our attention span and good judgment.
Sleep restores energy to the body, especially the brain and the nervous system. For myself, I know sleep and rest matter. Relaxation and rest help the body shed tensions and pain and remain robust. Anyone who deals with a chronic problem like Rheumatoid arthritis becomes painfully aware of ignoring proper attention to rest.
Long-term studies of patients with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome link sleep disturbances directly to some of the most severe symptoms of these illnesses. Coran’s research also the IQ is decreased by two points for every hour your body is deprived of sleep. I don’t know about you, but I cannot afford to lose too many points on my IQ score.
I wonder if, as a society, we just don’t value rest and play enough. As a nation, our sleep time has decreased dramatically in the past 50 years and many are lucky to get even seven hours on any given night,
Time is money and we want more, more, more. Everything is growing and changing and we have to keep up. We don’t think contemplation is as important as consumption. We see overwork as dedication and play as wasting time. The harder we go, the less capacity we have to feel — the less capacity we have to feel, the less we have to be guilty about.
In the end, we divorce ourselves from our emotions and senses. The bottom line is the less time we have for our inner selves, the less time we have for others — and that starts the cycle all over again.
We have all learned more than we want to know about high cholesterol, low fat, high fibre, and probiotics, yet many of us ignore the very basic need our body has for rest and sleep.
William Collinge Ph.D., who is the author of “Subtle Energy,” said “the wise timing of rest and sleep may be the most important thing you can do for sustaining your vital energy.”