You get less sleep than
you need over a period of time; you begin to accumulate a sleep debt. If you
lose one hour of sleep each night for a week, you end up with a sleep debt of
Whether it's because of
a sick child, noisy neighbors, a snoring bed partner, body pain, pressures at
work, we all have times when a small sleep debt builds. Usually, two or three
good nights of sleep completely restores us.
For many of us, however,
sleep debt is an ongoing issue that may stay unresolved for years. It just accumulates
and becomes a chronic burden that we become resigned to living with, just more
"rust of life" with which to cope. Over time, sleep debt produces significant
Researchers have discovered
that when competitive cyclists are deprived of only three hours of sleep, their
performance appeared normal but their bodies were forced to work much harder
and they became fatigued much quicker. With a sleep debt of only eight hours,
their work time to reach total exhaustion was reduced by about 11%.
As sleep debt builds, the
impact starts to become apparent. People begin to lose their sense of humor.
They become progressively more irritable, unsociable and depressed. They begin
to feel overwhelmed and become indecisive. They often become demotivated and
careless about their work. There is general slowing of mental processes. Studies
done on radar operators have shown that the ability to keep attentive to the
task at hand is reduced in direct proportion to the extent of the sleep debt.
Short-term memory strongly suffers as does problem solving and creative thinking.
In other words, if you are
part of the minions of sleep-deprived people in this country (between six and
ten million), your performance at work, your relationships with others, and
your own joie de vivre are being severely compromised.
The common problems of sleep
- sleep-onset insomnia, light sleep, frequent or early morning awakening, racing
mind, restlessness, nightmares, etc. - are all highly responsive to the regular
practice of the "relaxation response".
One client of mine woke
up every hour, every night, for eighteen years. She tried remedial treatment
at two hospital sleep clinics but the problem remained. She came to the relaxation
with a high degree of skepticism. After all, if the doctors with all the equipment
couldn't help, how could just minutes of simple relaxation practice make a difference?
To her astonishment, after
investing in just a few hours of professional training and roughly 30 minutes
of relaxation practice before sleep (usually with a tape), in less than one
month she was sleeping soundly through the entire night without awakening even
once. Her face changed. She looked ten years younger. She had energy to burn
and, for the first time in years, she felt vital and alive again.
Like thousands of people
whom I have taught, she developed the ability to release the tensions from her
body and better focus and quiet her mind. This took her past (or through) the
impediments, which for decades blocked her from natural, restful and revitalizing
If you (or the people around
you) aren't able to function to full potential because of insufficient quality
sleep, I invite you to learn the art and science of deep relaxation. If reams
of scientific research and countless testimonials aren't enough to convince
you, then let the experience of the relaxation response directly prove to you
that there is a natural way to overcome sleeplessness.