Whether we're very young or just a bit older, sleep plays an important role in our physical health.
I'm sure you know that sleep is involved in the healing and repair of our heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of such awful things as heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.
Sleep helps our brains to work properly. While we're sleeping, our brain is preparing for the next day. It's forming new pathways to help us to learn and remember information. Pretty important really ...
Over Christmas I had a big shock. So did my family! Whilst resting in Tauranga Hospital while the doctors tried to deal with my heart, which was unexpectedly fluttering between 100-150 bpm, I arrested and caused a bit of a stir. Only a short 60 seconds later, the cardiologist told me that they would install a pacemaker and a few days later, they let me fly back to Wellington.
I was reassured that I couldn't arrest again - ever - but didn't feel great. I couldn't sleep and felt 'assaulted' whenever I was resting during the day - which seemed to need to happen far too often. And I felt tired all the time. And every little thing I did, provided I could raise the enthusiasm to do it in the first place, was exhausting. I felt instant sympathy for those of my friends who tell me that they sleep poorly, don't get enough sleep, wake early in the mornings, have disturbed nights, etc.
But was I ready to let my brain believe that this was the way it was going to be from now on? That I'd reached the realm of the 'elderly'? That I'd start to enjoy sitting in my chair by the window, watching the world pass by, with a resigned look on my face? That I'd made my contribution to the universe and had nothing more to give? Surely not!
But help was at hand. After five unhappy weeks I went for a check-up with a Pacemaker Technician at Wellington Hospital. What a great experience. She told me that everything was working well and that my Pacemaker was 'kicking in' 33% of the time. I was completely astonished but suddenly realised that this was the feeling of being 'assaulted' that had been going on! I asked what the setting was and she told me 60bpm. When I told her that was pretty high for my resting heart, she offered to 'turn it down' to 50bpm, and she did.
That night I slept for seven hours. I couldn't believe how I felt the next day. And, on the whole, ever since. My thoughts are back on track. Energy has returned and so has enthusiasm. Fitness still has a way to go!
So, if you're someone who suffers from sleep deprivation, whether it's caused by pain, stress, discomfort, worry, or whatever else, I do urge you to get some help from a professional to find the root cause and see what can be done to improve the situation so that you can get the sleep your body really, really needs.