Ah, sleep. The mysterious gem which is only a reality in the minds of infants. That long, sought after dream which you know exists somewhere, just nowhere near you. Let’s discuss the elusiveness of this fantasy we call rest, and figure out why many times, we’re just too tired to care.
If sleep deprivation studies have shown us anything, it is that we have to sleep in order to function in a rational way. A majority of people experience microsleeps, where the person actually falls asleep for seconds at a time during periods of wakefulness. Sleep deprivation can cause shifts in mood, perceptual disturbances, reaction time, cognitive abilities, and motor function – and that’s just the beginning of what could happen after missing only one night of sleep.
So what about those people who just don’t get enough sleep? The symptoms are very much like missing an entire night – impaired motor function (evident by the ridiculous number of accidents caused by people falling asleep at the wheel); an increased urge or desire for sleep; impairments in concentration, memory and reaction time as well as risk assessment. Negative moods can become volatile and rational decision making becomes quite a feat.
Biologically speaking, we put our bodies through the ringer and back again. Hormonal and metabolic disruptions begin, including damaging changes with stress hormones. We become more susceptible to colds and viruses because we have weakened our immune systems. And then there are the big ones – heart attacks or failure, strokes, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Got your attention now?
So why don’t people sleep? As I sit here writing this article, I’m also thinking of my work which needs done for my doctorate program, making a lesson plan for my own students, getting the house clean, feeding, bathing, and in general taking care of three young children and two dogs, what to make for dinner for my husband and I when he gets home from work, and wondering the last time I ate. Oh yeah, and also how I’m going to stay awake long enough to get it all done.
I’ve found a slice of peace in the hectic world in which we all live. It’s called “Not Caring.” Seriously, it’s the one thing we are all able to do (within reason of course). The fact is, we have no right or ability to attempt to take care of others when we can’t take care of ourselves. So, I gave up. I don’t care if the dishes aren’t done tonight, I’d rather take that 30 minutes and just close my eyes. I don’t have an assignment due tonight – check that one off to the Not Caring Center. I don’t have to teach again until Friday – straight to the Not Caring Center. Work at the jails taken care of? Yes? Fantastic – off to Not Caring Land.
Sometimes when we are too tired to care, the only thing we need to do is stop caring. Of course I’m not suggesting you not feed your children or anything else which is dangerous to yourself or others – I’m talking about those little things that really can wait in the grand scheme of things. The most difficult part is figuring out which things those are. We keep ourselves so busy and involved in this fast paced, racing-towards-light-speed life that we forget to just stop. Just stop once. Sit down. Grab a book, or better yet a pillow, and remember that it’s ok to not care. It’s not like the work is going anywhere, right?
I got a whopping 3 hours of sleep last night, by my own fault. I just have too much which needs done and not enough time in which to do it. My ADHD kicks in when my Adderall has worn off and I’m a mile a minute, jumping from task to task but never actually getting anything done. If I can step back and send those minimal tasks to the Not Caring Center, then so can you. Try it one night and see how you feel. You might actually be able to sleep for once.
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