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30 Days of Rest: Day 16

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Light Bulb Moment

I knew that sleep was important to me. I mean, really, it is culturally not acceptable to set aside 30 days to rest without the validation of a major illness or severe depression. But, I know myself, without rest, I feel noxious, anxious, angry, and start to develop cold-like symptoms. My brain stops working and nothing sounds like fun except sleep. I am no good to anyone without good rest.

I thought it was just me! 

“Within the first 24 hours of sleep deprivation, the blood pressure stuarts to increase.  Not long afterward, the metabolism levels go haywire, giving a person an uncontrollable craving for carbohydrates.  The body temperature drops and the immune system gets weaker.  If this goes on for too long, there is a good chance that the mind will turn against itself, making a person experience visions and hear phantom sounds akin to a bad acid trip. At the same time the ability to make simple decisions to recall obvious facts drops off severely.  It is a bizarre downward spiral that is all the more peculiar because it can be stopped completely, and all of it’s effects will vanish, simply by sleeping for a couple of hours.” (From Dreamland by David K. Randall)

A couple of hours of sleep and, viola, like magic our body begins to heal and regulate itself. From what I can understand so far, as a result of artificial light during dark hours, our brain begins to override our bodies natural rhythms. Our brain thinks it is time to be awake and our bodies are ignored.

Another study that is rocking my world is this one from 2009: “Researches in Israel used satellite photos to chart the level of electric light at night in 147 communities. Then, they placed satellite photos over maps that showed the distribution of breast cancer cases. Even after controlling for population density, affluence, and other factors that can influence health, there was a significant correlation between exposure to artificial light at night and the number of women who developed the disease. If a woman lived in a place where it was bright enough outside to read a book at midnight, she had a 73% higher risk of developing breast cancer than a peer who lived in a neighborhood that remained dark after the sun went down.  Researchers think that the increased risk is a result of lower levels of melatonin, which may affect the body’s production of estrogen” (Randall).

Sleep isn’t a luxury. Sleep isn’t what lazy people do. Sleep isn’t for those with no ambition.

In fact, according to the research, sleep is more vital to health than nutrition or even genetic make-up.

There are so many pieces of information I still can’t process, like our natural rhythm to sleep in two separate shifts, called the first and second sleep. But for now, I’m off to get some sleep masks and hang several panels of light blocking curtains.

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