"O sleep, O gentle sleep, Nature's soft nurse" —Shakespeare
I. Adults Don't Sleep Enough
I recall once watching A Nightmare on Elm Street with my college roommate. As Freddy Krueger terrorized victims in their sleep, even managing to spook us a bit, my old roomie made a random remark that stuck with me.
“Hey,” he blurted, “a night filled with nightmares is waaaay better than a sleepless one!”
I never forgot that.
Countless scientific studies indicate why sleep has long been considered the most important part of a person's day. According to research from Harvard, lack of sufficient sleep led to poor mood, lack of motivation and a decrease in overall judgment.
Despite the importance of getting some good ol’ shut-eye, according to the CDC—1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep.
"Not getting enough sleep" is equivalent to not fully charging the phone battery, despite knowing beforehand there will be no access to a phone charger while taking a road trip.
Given the importance of sleep, how incredible is it that newborns—though unable to walk or talk—naturally master the art of sleeping like a baby?
We adults, on the other hand, struggle mightily to perform perhaps the simplest task of all.
But . . . why?
II. Life's Currency: Energy
Around campuses, college students routinely wear "E = mc2" t-shirts.
Around suburban homes, soccer moms sip the morning's coffee from their favorite "E = mc2" mugs. And so, true to form, history's most famous equation is also its simplest. After all, E = mc2 essentially means this:
Everything in the universe — from Aardvark to Zucchini — essentially runs on energy. This explains why in physics, energy is synonymous with power and work.
Because "sleep is the cousin of death," said Shakespeare, perhaps I'll go so far as to add—each morning we awake leaves an aftertaste of birth and each night we sleep gives a foretaste of death.
Apparently we're all born free and then taxed to death! And there may be no greater tax than Nature's "Sleep Tax Bill."
Sleep is merely the interest we pay for the loan called "life." When the Grim Reaper finally shows up, the debt is cleared. Perhaps the trick, then, merely calls for regularly paying off that loan with sleep—a partial form of death—in hopes of continually hiking up the interest rate along with postponing the clearing of the debt.
In short, so long as we can routinely pay off roughly 33 percent of the daily allotted sands in our 24 hourglasses in the form of sleep—better known as 8 hours—the longer we get to live.
III. Sleeping Like a Baby Merely Requires Common Sense
If by chance you've ever noticed, the only thing we can do for eight hours a day—day after day— is two things: Work and Rest.
A lady can't eat for eight hours a day, no matter how much she loves food. A man can't have sex for eight hours a day, no matter how potent his libido. But both parties can work for eight hours a day; and then, sleep for eight hours a day.
Common sense suggests Nature designed us chiefly to work—to exhaust our fuel—and then rest, for the sake of refueling. Work and then rest . . . work and then rest. Remember, in this life—it's all about energy.
Because everything is energy, what happens when we, say, don't use up the fuel at the end of the day? Lying in bed unable to sleep or "counting sheep to fall asleep" stem from having too much fuel left over at the end of the day.
Each piece of food we eat is a form of energy. If that energy isn't burned off by the day's end, not only will those excessive calories transform into fat—on the body—but it'll also hinder sleep during the day of consumption. In short, our bodies are like chimneys on a freezing morning: they were designed to burn up the fuel.
IV. The Takeaway
Newborns sleep so deeply and so much because, well, to put it simply—they lack the energy required to stay awake. Not only do newborns have small stomachs, which fill quickly and therefore restrict the intake of an energy source, but their bodies also burn up tons of energy during growth spurts.
If ever you need proof regarding the correlation between limited energy and sleep, merely fast for an entire day. Notice how your body essentially craves rest, due to lacking an energy source. Again, sleep is all about energy.
To put it simply: 1 in 3 adults struggle with sleeping because most adults attempt to rest without first working off the required energy. Sleep is a result, not a goal.
If by chance you've ever pulled an all-nighter, notice how the human body—long called the "greatest machine" of all—functions similarly to a smartphone when the battery dies: the machine shuts down on the user. And just as the phone is "smart," the same holds for the body, although when it comes to properly resting the machine—not everybody is smart, but every body is smart.
Here lies the key to sleeping like a baby. ...
"I want to be thoroughly used up when I die," said Bernard Shaw, "for the harder I work—the more I live."
In short, because each day is a lifetime, if by each day's end you find yourself feeling "used up" from having worked 8-10 long hours coupled with having exercised, say, an additional hour coupled with having, say, burned up fuel reading and thinking for another hour or so, well, by the time your head touches the pillow each night:
You will have become the adult who's relearned how to sleep like a baby!
- Bonus tip: If by chance you're afflicted with an actual sleep disorder, such as insomnia, see a doctor. If not, which is most likely the case, and you merely need to reset your body clock (circadian rhythm), see supplementation with melatonin (a natural hormone).
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