Sleep is an oft-overlooked practice if you are to stay clear, focused, and effective while navigating divorce.
Rather than it being a retreat from responsibility, sleep is a necessity in order to be responsible and responsive during and post divorce. While unusual amounts of time spent in sleep can indicate depression, there are times when desiring to sleep many more hours than usual is the bodies way of protecting and preserving your brain power for the long and involved road ahead.
When confronted with any unfamiliar task the brain will begin to organize the information available (new and from memory) into innovative fresh patterns to enable you to address the new task.
When there are multiple tasks dropped on the doorstep of your mind, like what initially happens with divorce and then again as you begin contemplating life post divorce, the mind short circuits. The energy demanded for organizing your experiences into new patterns to meet the new demands overwhelms your individual brain cells. Your brain cells actually demand increased rest in order to be effective. They do so by going to sleep. They’ll do this inefficiently while you are awake (can’t think clearly lately or remember anything?) or very efficiently while you are asleep.
Sleep has been shown to increase your brains ability to grow and link the different biological resources at it’s disposal to work for you, a process called ‘integration’. Your physical and mental well-being and ability to function effectively is dependent upon internal communication between all of your biological systems. Your brain is communication central and allows the productive flow of shared energy and information from within and outside of your body.
An example of this is hearing your attorney explain the laws about spousal support (logical information) while you are processing your anger and grief at the dissolution of your marriage (emotional information) and beginning to understanding that your income will be 50% less than it is now rather shortly (logical and emotional information). Without sufficient sleep you’ll have a snowballs chance in Hell of integrating this intense flow of information and energy in a way that will support you through.
There is always a through.
The question is not if but when. How long it takes is up to you, not the courts or your spouse or anyone or anything in your life. Giving yourself support through life practices like making sure you get sufficient sleep and surrounding yourself with people who can be present to what you are going through, who show you compassion instead of judging you, who become a supportive ‘we’ when you are together, and who you know you can trust to be honest and clear with you are all important. Yet without that first ingredient, SUFFICIENT SLEEP, it will be extremely difficult if not impossible to follow through on the other practices.
According to the United States National Sleep Foundation the amount of sleep an average adult needs for optimal functioning is seven (7) hours per day. During times of emotional or physical distress, like while navigating divorce or recovering from an accident or illness, considerably more sleep is required. Please note that the operating term here is “required”, not “recommended”.
“Though scientists are still learning about the concept of basal sleep need, one thing sleep research certainly has shown is that sleeping too little can not only inhibit your productivity and ability to remember and consolidate information, but lack of sleep can also lead to serious health consequences and jeopardize your safety and the safety of individuals around you.”
Insufficient sleep increases the risks of:
- drowsy driving
- obesity due to increased appetite directly related to sleep deprivation
- Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems
- Increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse
- Decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information
Not allowing yourself the sleep you need is dangerous to both your health and well-being and that of everyone around you. Can you really afford to neglect your sleep needs? How will you create a life you love without your full complement of resources or worse, while degrading the resources available to you?
Not if but when you recognize that getting enough sleep is foundational to navigating not only divorce but your post divorce life as well the following recommendations are worth experimenting with for you and, if you are a parent, your children:
- Establish consistent sleep and wake schedules, even on weekends
- Create a regular, relaxing bedtime routine such as soaking in a hot bath or listening to soothing music – begin an hour or more before the time you expect to fall asleep
- Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable and cool
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows
- Use your bedroom only for sleep (and sex). “Sleep stealers” like watching TV, using a computer or reading in bed are to be kept out of the bedroom, at least for now.
- Finish eating at least 2-3 hours before your regular bedtime
- Get some form of cardio vascular exercise regularly (min. of 30 minutes. 3x week)
- If falling to sleep or remaining asleep is an issue, avoid caffeine completely, limit any alcohol intake to four hours prior to bedtime, and give up smoking
Getting sufficient sleep is both and urgent and important, never more so than when you are facing unfamiliar and unwanted situations. Make sleep a top priority. Schedule sleep like any other necessary daily activity. Include it as the first item on your “to-do list” and cross it off when you wake in the morning. Getting sufficient sleep is a major accomplishment. Make it the thing you accomplish first, with everything else happening only after you get the sleep you and your body needs! Congratulate yourself when you put sleep first.
Published with permission from Journey Beyond Divorce (https://journey-beyond-divorce.com)
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