The Importance of Sleep

Yesterday was Labor Day. A victory for workers in the mid-late 19th century. The argument for the eight-hour day was based on the need for each person to have eight hours labor, eight hours recreation and eight hours rest.

I'd argue life might be a little different in the 21st century in relation to the eight hours of labor and recreation, but the fact remains we need our eight hours sleep. Many of us are fighting for any time we can steal, and it usually comes from our sleep time. Some of us can't sleep or have disturbed sleep so we don't get a full quota in, and the side affects show.

I heard about a rare sleeping disorder that means the person can't sleep at all, and that within 12-18 months of the first symptom the person dies. I don't want to draw 'lay person' correlations, but to me that suggests lack of sleep kills. We know that when we don't sleep the next day we have impaired attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving. In short, we're not a nice person to be around. We are sluggish and foggy so the chances of accidents and injuries are higher. There is also correlation between insomnia and a range of heart diseases, diabetes and stroke.

I know all of this, but for me the worst thing about sleep deprivation is that I feel awful, and sadness is just around the corner.

Our bodies need sleep to restore and rejuvenate, to grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones. This probably comes as no surprise to anyone. What might come as a surprise is that sleep helps us solidify and consolidate memories:

'As we go about our day, our brains take in an incredible amount of information. Rather than being directly logged and recorded, however, these facts and experiences first need to be processed and stored; and many of these steps happen while we sleep. Overnight, bits and pieces of information are transferred from more tentative, short-term memory to stronger, long-term memory—a process called "consolidation." Researchers have also shown that after people sleep, they tend to retain information and perform better on memory tasks.' (

So why am I talking about sleep?

Yesterday, I was blogging about reaching out for support and strengthening your capacity. A part of strengthening capacity is keeping yourself healthy. I couldn't stop pondering this for the day. When you have a child with a disability there are more things going on, there are more stressors, and in some cases there may be the necessity to get up through the night to attend to your child, meaning your sleep is disturbed.

I know I have heard many parents say they don't have time for sleep, they can't get to sleep or they wake up around the witching hours of 2-4am. I also know many of these parent accept this is how it is, or tell me they only need a couple of hours sleep. Don't lie to yourself, you need sleep.

Going back to yesterday's blog, I said there is a lot of thinking and processing of information associated with being the parent of a child with a disability. Your child's world requires you to concentrate, process new types of information and make decisions. The best time to do this is when you are asleep.

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