The sleep deprived world

Sleep is crucial. Without it, we are mere shells of ourselves, most of us having experiences of feeling like a ‘zombie’ when sleep deprived. And yet within society we have all manner of activities, sports training, school functions and social gatherings that keep its attendees up well beyond children’s (and adults) bed times, making feeling tired acceptable and a normal part of life.

In Guantanamo Bay detention camp, a US Military Prison, ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’[1] have been used, where prisoners are deprived of sleep by being woken every two hours or more frequently, and or not allowed any prolonged period of sleep. The aim is to render the prisoner confused, controllable and pliable, unable to think straight. We recognise this as torture.

Science also confirms that when we have been awake for 17 hours, driving is impaired just as much as it would be when driving drunk at a level of 0.05.[2]

We know sleep deprivation impairs us, no matter our age.

Coming closer to home, remember what it was like to have an overtired baby who wasn’t sleeping? It felt like torture – for both parent and bub. Parents go to extraordinary lengths to get their babies to sleep and keep it that way, driving around the streets in the middle of the night and sitting for hours in their parked cars outside the home in fear of moving and waking a sleeping baby. It’s also totally acceptable and quite agreeable for parents to decline social events because it’s their child’s naptime, further testament to the known significance and value of sleep.

Mums are told at the hospital after giving birth to ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ in an attempt to ensure mums get their quota of sleep. We have literally millions of tips, advice and solutions in the way of reference books, courses, workshops, webinars, forums and parenting groups by the thousands that offer support to help babies sleep. I doubt there would be a parent or carer who hasn’t at some stage researched ‘ways to get a baby to sleep’. We can’t say we don’t know how important sleep is.

But somewhere, somehow, as children grow from baby into toddler, into school-age, into teens and young adults, the value we place on sleep is diminished. Activities get precedence, with soccer training, tennis competitions, dance performances, homework, Girl Guides/community groups, sleepovers and dinner parties made more important than sleep, the further the person gets from wearing a nappy.

Lack of sleep becomes a slow degradation on a child’s wellbeing, parents believing just one late night here and there won’t hurt. But what if it does? What if the phrase, ‘Give an inch and they’ll take a mile’ is perfectly apt for these one-offs?

I know how I feel after a late night. I’m groggy (even after having no alcohol), hungry for sugary foods, short tempered and easily irritated. We witness this in our children too. And we know they are more prone to falling over or injury when they are sleep deprived. But why do we put up with it? Why don’t we make sleep for our children a non-negotiable thing, working life in around our sleep, like we do with the babies?

Equally, why do the adults not also make sleep non-negotiable? Of course we occasionally do, making way for ‘an early night’; but it’s not the norm. However we allow ‘life’ – socialising, working, television, Netflix, and general distraction – to relegate deep healing sleep to second place, forever in catch up mode.

Unfortunately life or society is not set up to make this easy or to even allow this. My daughter’s Scout group changed its meeting times to later in the evening to accommodate parents working late – it meant the kids were running around playing games long after dark, finding it hard to then wind down, and ended up getting to bed close to ten o’clock. Another time, my daughter was part of a singing and dance production where some 1500 school children took part. The performances were spread over three days, finishing well into the three nights, with a drive home, teeth brushing and pyjama routine still to come etc. Crawling into bed half dead, she complained of a headache and nausea.

For some families, late nights might be a daily normal, and if they are, I wonder how the whole family compensates for the torturous lack of quality sleep. Aside from labelling themselves as ‘night owls’, diets high in caffeine, breakfasts of pancakes and sugary cereals, or even lots of ‘healthy’ fruit are needed.

With so much available to take us away from a great sleep, let’s explore what it is about sleep that makes it so critical. I’ve experienced enough of the world to see that so often when something is truly good for the body, there are forces or obstacles that come in to sabotage those health-full, and you could say life-giving, behaviours.

So what happens during the hours we sleep? Is it the body, the so-called ‘meat suit’ we are in – our organs, blood, muscles etc – that is the beneficiary of the rest, or is there more to it? While our body lies there in a semi shut down mode, ‘we’ feel no longer there with it. The hours we are asleep cannot be accounted for; it might seem we are just not ‘anywhere’.

Well, in revelation, the opportunity available during sleep is to be with our Soul. We can be with our Soul 24/7 of course, but when we sleep, we ‘bypass’ forces that keep us disconnected.

‘We’ – being the Being that is en-housed in the human form – get to re-join with the original light that it was created in and by. In essence, ‘we’ go home, into the spaciousness of the womb of the universe, with God. Sleep gives us the opportunity to connect to the deeper parts of ourselves – the Soul, God and our multi-dimensionality – our essence. We don’t in truth ‘go anywhere’, but we are everywhere. In that re-location with our divine origin, the Being is stupendously nourished.

When we take up the offer, the body and Soul work in harmony to clear the body so that it is more responsive to the communications from the Soul during our waking hours. We reap the benefits on a physical level of having the Soul working – specifically between 9pm and 1am – to clear what we have taken on during the day; things like emotions that are not part of who we are. This is why we can feel so lovely after an early bedtime and subsequent good clean out.

In this day and age with the intense and toxic way so many live, this clean out has become crucial, although the real benefits to the human being aren’t in the clean out but in the connection with the Soul.

And so, given this new awareness, is it now time for society to make the call to a more sleep friendly structure for all of us?

Young children naturally wake early, full of life and love, ready and raring to go (if they’ve had a good nights sleep). Feeling tired is nowhere near normal for them. The same could be the norm for teens and adults if allowed.

Can you imagine a society that modelled itself on the sleep cycles of children and dare I say, of an adult still in touch with their natural rhythms? Schools starting at say 7am, finishing at 1pm. Offices and shops opening early too (this is already happening in my community, with small businesses such as the local barbershop opening at 6am), utilizing the sun’s light (of course the extremes of latitude excluded), and closing before dinnertime, allowing communities to get together for playtime, activities, early dinners and bedtimes by 9pm. Would coffee carts on school playgrounds still be needed?

What we demand, we get supplied. And so, if parents no longer signed up for sports or activities or work hours or work functions that interfered with a child’s (and indeed whole family’s) early bedtime, those ventures would be gently phased out. It wouldn’t take long for community groups, schools, and businesses to catch on to what was being demanded by parents.

And the by-product? We grow a community of deeply nourished individuals who are living themselves, in the joy-full expansiveness of who they truly are, having spent each night back home, not needing ‘vices’ to get through their days. Without the sleep deprived children and adults, imagine then the knock-on effects on our multibillion dollar health systems ... now there’s a can of worms.


  • [1]

    ICRC Report on the Treatment of Fourteen "High Value Detainees" in CIA Custody by the International Committee of the Red Cross pp43, February 2007.

  • [2]

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Healthy livingParentingSleepSoulWell-being

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