I am old enough to remember Walter Cronkite closing his nightly CBS news broadcast each night with “…and that’s the way it is”. Those were difficult times as the Viet Nam war raged on with no end in sight, and social unrest seemed everywhere. In the US we were awakening from the slumber of the ’50’s to a harsh reality.
But there was a feeling of comfort from the finality of Uncle Walter’s pronouncement each night that made the collective suffering seem a little better.
One benefit to mindfulness is the ability see things as they really are, not as we think they are or would like for them to be. This does not mean that we have to passively accept reality but it does mean that we can’t kid ourselves about the way things are. For example we become used to seeing obese people all around us and may even not see ourselves as obese even when we are. Sometimes this comes down with a thud when we see a candid picture of ourselves and think, if only for a moment, “who is that fat person?”. This sudden shift in awareness is a gift once we get over the initial shock and often is the first step in meaningful change.
Like obesity, sleep deprivation is another area where we are, as a society, guilty of a degree of self delusion. We are increasingly sleep deprived. Surveys show that we get 15% less sleep now than 20 years ago. The sleep we get is often fragmented by poor sleep habits such as sleeping with a TV on and by medical problems linked to obesity such as sleep apnea.
Please take a few moments to view this excellent documentary by Lesley Stahl and CBS 60 minutes. In it she interviews some of the leading sleep researchers in the world on th effects of sleep deprivation on our health.
In fact the relationship between sleep and obesity is an intimate one. Just as high fructose corn syrup induces metabolic dysfunction even in non obese individuals, predisposing to obesity and the development of diabetes, so does inadequate and poor quality sleep.5 nights of partial sleep deprivation induce metabolic changes that are the same as in the “pre-diabetic” state.
Furthermore, sleep deprivation results in excessive activation of the limbic system to strong emotional stimuli. It’s no accident that we all become irritable when we don’t get enough sleep or that our judgement is not as good.
Rather than heedlessly living like sleep doesn’t matter and paying the price in terms of safety, health and full enjoyment of life let’s accept as “the way it is” that we have evolved on this planet with an immutable need to sleep! Be mindful, see things as they really are. You may reduce your suffering in many ways.
Thanks for reading,