I am researching sleep this week as part of a project contract. I finished Dr. Rubin Naiman’s book Healing Night and it really got me thinking about the hazards of our dream-deprived (REM state) sleep habits.
Recent CDC reports indicate that over a third of U.S. adults receive less than the 7 hour minimum recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. As a matter of fact, that range is actually more like 7-9 hours and is highly individualized. So I suspect probably over half of the population is not regularly receiving a necessary component of a healthy life.
Unfortunately, much of the science focuses on quantity and not always on quality of sleep that people are receiving. I get it. I like numbers. I actually track the sleep I receive every night in an attempt to understand what influences and affects it. Generally I know I want more of it, and feel fabulous when I get at least 8 hours.
But quality matters too, and when we do not receive enough deep sleep, which allows us to get into the REM (rapid eye movement or dream) state of sleep at least a 2-3 times in a night, we become dream-deprived. This is a state that can lead to depression when prolonged and also has links to cancer.
Further, it can interfere with our creativity and vitality in life. Ironically enough we have myriad entertainment options outside us, “Dream Works” and other sources of artificial dreams that we indulge in to escape our lives.
I started to wonder:
Would we need to escape our lives if we felt refreshed and allowed for our proper “dream time” at night? Would we need to rely on external entertainment if we felt our creativity were not drained from sleepiness and fatigue?
To me it is a troubling proposition, but all too often a reality if we feel our lives are over-scheduled and that we must sacrifice some sleep in order to attend to our “to do” lists. My advice: get your sleep if you can. Do not sacrifice your precious dream time, or outsource it to the entertainment sources. It is all yours, it is necessary and it is sacred.
I shall write more about the topic this week. It is on my mind, and I am an even stronger believer after doing more research. I hope to convince you as well if you are not there yet.
The night of the election I stayed up until the 1 a.m. captivated by the drama of election returns, of the great sweep of the Democrats into the House of Representatives. After hanging out with some like-minded local political volunteers and neighbors, I came home feeling optimistic, happy and excited.
Turning the t.v. off was hard, but I reasoned that more would be known in the morning, and sleep was a better use of my time than speculation. In the morning, I spent time listening to my public radio station, reading news stories and absorbing the social media feed from my friends. I commented, considered the implications of the results and attempted to connect the dots.
After about 2.5 hours of that, my body and synapses were already feeling burned and tired. I opted to attend my favorite Wednesday Zumba class. It is a great way to dance it all out, and to get out of my head and back into my body. Ahh!
Since I had an interview in the afternoon for an Upwork contract, an opportunity to do some writing and research for a bio-pharmaceutical company, I did not turn the radio back on when I returned home. Instead, I showered, had some lunch, got quiet and prepared my questions for the interview.
In the process, I was captivated by the research I was doing and felt a sense of flow emerging. I had no feeling of “FOMO” by staying off of social media. The storm of opinions will continue to brew while I get my work done, I told myself.
I figured I would return to it in the evening, flip the radio on and begin consuming the drama once again. But something in my body said “no, not right now.” I opted to run an errand, go to the grocery store and take care of the mundane habits to which we all must tend.
I listened to another chapter of an Ann Patchett book which I’d downloaded on Audible over the weekend as a “treat” to myself for those times when I want a break from work.
I considered my unwillingness to listen to the talking heads. I meditated. I wrote in my journal. I took my own advice from yesterday. I felt peaceful and centered.
There is a theatrical aspect of politics which lends itself to using these stories as a form of entertainment. It is a serious endeavor, to be sure, but it is also drama. I have no wish to hear the president’s voice. I had already heard a bit on the car ride on the way home from Zumba, so promptly turned it off. He is not a good actor at all. Seriously.
Normally I love analyzing the semiotics and messaging of campaign language and considering the meaning behind the results. I expect I will return to that sometime.
For now, the dust will settle and I will turn away from it for a bit. With my new work contract starting, I am excited to make some “real monies” again as I joked to my husband. I shall savor that, and enjoy every moment of it.
I was reflecting last Friday while having a late lunch with my colleagues in Guadalajara that eating has become entertainment in our culture. I considered the effects of viewing food as entertainment rather than fuel for our body, and the changes I have undergone in the past couple years regarding my own eating.
There is a social component to food in most cultures. We eat together as a sign of belonging, and invite others to eat with us or “go for a coffee” (especially in Latino culture) as a chance to connect. When I visited Jordan many years ago, I was told that to refuse food offered in someone’s home was to insult them, and so I felt an obligation to eat something each time we visited.
It reminded me of the pressure I felt to clean my plate as I was growing up. I now can leave food on my plate when I am no longer hungry, and I have let go of the guilt of “wasting” that food. I think it was Martha Beck that pointed out that food is wasted whether we “throw it on” the body or throw it away when we are not hungry. But the former will lead to further suffering by causing unnecessary and unhealthy weight gain.
When we go to fancy restaurants, we go not only for the quality of the food, we go for the theater, for the presentation. I recalled a restaurant in Miami where I went with colleagues called Barton G, where the food was presented in a fun, artful and surprising ways. There were Sumurai swords sticking out of the dishes, or there was a “treasure chest” filled with gold doubloons, ice cream, chocolates, etc.
We went to that place twice, in fact. The first time, I was amazed and delighted by all of the food creations, and I really did not think too much about the taste of the food. The second time, when I was looking to do something food & engaging with the team, I also enjoyed the presentation. But I noticed the food was not actually that good. The fish was a little dry, and the vegetables were overcooked. The team enjoyed the theater of it, but I had seen through the veneer.
I realize when I am on vacation part of the delight is trying out new restaurants, and maybe trying food I have never eaten. Or the joy the Mexicanos had in talking about what is truly “picante” or spicy and the different regions of the country where people tolerate the heat more than others. There was pride in being able to eat spicy food, in expressing enjoyment of their favorite cuisines in dishes.
While I partake in that joy at times, I also recognize that we create situations where there is over-desire for food. Any time we eat more than our bodies need for fuel, or we feel pressured to try a dessert just because everyone else is eating it, we dishonor our own bodies to make others happy. It is interesting to note that we never seem pick on people who are shoveling down every bit of food they can. We instead pressure others to just have a bite, or not to spoil the fun by abstaining.
Just writing about this reminds me of all the times I have been uncomfortably persuaded to do this, and how hard it was to resist their persuasion. Whether it was for wine or a piece of dessert, at the time when I was refraining from these items, I later realized it was not about me. In my own mind, I had a story that I was insulting them by turning it down. But they could choose to interpret my behavior in whatever way they wanted, and that was not my responsibility to manage.
But the powerful realization that wine and sugary desserts were actually hurting my well-being, robbing me of sleep and causing me to gain weight stood in contrast to their persuasion. In honoring myself and my body’s own needs, I could still enjoy the meal with them, and focus on the interactions with people, and letting the food be fuel, not the entertainment. I still struggle to let go of the feeling of wanting to fit in, and not wanting to be “too different” from these colleagues.
It gets easier though, this act of honoring our own needs and realizing in the long run that if I do not care for myself, these relationships will not have integrity anyway. By doing things that I do not want to do in an effort to “make others comfortable” I deny what I know to be true. Also, getting in touch and accepting my own discomfort at not always fitting in, and being okay with that feeling, has been incredibly freeing as well. It goes totally against our culture of eating as entertainment. And I am all right with that.
What are your experiences with food and eating as entertainment? What strategies have you used to honor your own needs and desires, while in the face of pressure? I am curious to know.