22 January

Sleep. It can be a touchy subject. Insomnia, late nights, essay crises, alarm clocks, early starts. Just writing that list made me a bit twitchy. We all know that a good night’s sleep is essential to good health. I know I can tell the difference in the morning if I have slept well, and so can everyone around me.

So are you getting enough sleep and is it of sufficient quality? Until recently I was able to stay up late and still function reasonably well the next day. Every now and then I had to have a good long sleep to catch up and then I got back into the late night early morning routine again.

I managed, but managing was just about all I was doing. I had frequent headaches, I suffered non specific aches and pains and generally did not feel on top form. A few weeks ago I was sitting watching television and knitting and suddenly felt incredibly tired. Rather than fight it I made myself a cup of red bush tea and went to bed at about 9.30. I read for about ten minutes but was so weary I turned out the light and went straight to sleep.

The following night I found myself becoming weary at about the same time and repeated the process. I woke up before my alarm clock and was refreshed and felt good. I realised that I had always started to get tired around 9.00pm but it had seemed “too early” to go to bed so I had stayed up, got through the “weary zone” and finally hit the sack at gone midnight when I finally became tired again. Strangely enough I rarely slept well and frequently woke up more exhausted than when I had gone to bed.

Once I started listening to my body clock my body and mind responded with a “Yipee!” and bounced back to good health remarkably fast. Having suffered from depression and insomnia I know that if you have other issues affecting your sleep this is not going to be a universal panacea but it will help.

If your body hurts it is telling you that something is wrong. If your body is tired it is telling you that you need to rest.   If you get weary mid afternoon and can take a nap, then do. For many people that may not be an option but that doesn’t mean you have to stay awake until bedtime, get in the habit of closing your eyes and resting over your lunch break rather than trying to squeeze in some shopping or drinking coffee and gossiping. Rather than pouring another coffee for a mid afternoon break, go outside and walk around the block, get some fresh air, a brisk walk outside can be as refreshing as a cat nap.

Then go to bed when your body says I’m tired, the trick is to be listening. I think you will find it says “take me to bed” a lot earlier than you expected it to.