I had a sleep disorder for years….and I had no idea. I would go to bed at night, and just not sleep. Laying, waiting for the sandman to come and visit me.
As a child living in Western Canada, I remember arguing with my mom about it. “I’m not tiiiiirrrred,” I’d say filled with a tone of pure whine. Where we lived, the sun might not set until past 9pm. But even after it was dark, I remember laying awake.
I remember staring at the sliver of light that shone under my door. I remember hearing coyotes in the distance, and owls in the trees. And when it was haying season, I remember listening to the sound of my Dad making rounds in the field. Quieter, and then louder, as he cut, bailed, or raked hay… As he drew near, the lights of the tractor would dance across my wall, and I’d wait for the next round. All the while, I was really waiting for sleep.
As I grew older and chased a career in Athletics, my sleep issues persisted. But remember, I still didn’t know I had any. I would stay up too late, twiddle my thumbs when I did go to bed, and remember how my mom coached me to count sheep. Which by the way, doesn’t work.
So, why didn’t I know I had a problem? Is it that I was just a “night owl?” That I’m just “not a morning person?” I didn’t know because although my sleeping issues are COMMON, I had no idea that they were NOT NORMAL. Most people have sleeping problems. Again, it is very common, but it is not normal.
As I grew even older, and was working in exercise rehab, the number one thing almost all my clients were prescribed were medications to help them sleep. It’s so COMMON, that people go to their doctor’s looking for a prescription to bring about this natural process called sleeping.
So, let’s think about that for a second. How basic is sleep? It’s about as basic as our need for breath. If we couldn’t breathe, would be look for a temporary fix? Fuck no. We would be trying to get to the route of the problem ASAP. It is NOT NORMAL to not be able to sleep.
Aside from some possible genetic mutations that can cause issues with neurotransmitter production, the majority of what affects your sleep is 100% within your control. Even if you have those genetic mutations, you can supplement with natural products to find sleep. I eventually learned this, with more age, and others’ wisdom.
Let’s think about our ancestral mama. What would Cavewoman do during her day that influenced her sleep? Well, first off, she would have been incredibly active. She would have rose with the sun, and settled in after it set. After all, it is not safe to be out in the wild after dark. And past sunset, the only light available would have been fire. She would have consumed a diet filled with all the necessary nutrients to survive and thrive, and she would have done this against all the odds.
Remember our brains have not changed that much over the last couple of thousands of generations, neither have our eyes. But the environment observed by those eyes and experienced by that brain, have changed wildly. We have a plethora of new stimuli that affect and influence our sleep – including but not limited to artificial light, lack of sun exposure, our consumption of “food like” products versus nutrient dense nourishment, increased exposure to screen time, and a complete lack of ritual around rising and falling with the sun.
Now when people don’t get appropriate levels of sleep, it is boasted about or touted as a badge of honor. That we are so tough, that we actually don’t need the rest. Which don’t kid yourselves, that’s a load of bullshit.
Sleep is a necessity. We need it to SURVIVE and we 100% need it to THRIVE. Sleep is when our body is able to rest and detoxify. Sleep has the power to affect everything under the umbrella of health and wellness. So why don’t we prioritize it?
I suspect most people were like me. They don’t even know they have a sleep problem. Over the years, I found I could manage my sleep better if I supplemented properly, but the biggest change happened when I started to regularly be in ketosis. Even if I forget all my other sleep supplements, but I’m in ketosis regularly, I will fall asleep when my head hits the pillow. How cool is that?
I have spent my whole life waiting for sleep. And for the first time ever, I just go to sleep. No more listening to my husband fall asleep, no more reliving the days events, and planning for the next. No more stressing about that conversation with Judy, or Julie, or Janet (etc.) where she gave me that weird eyebrow lift. No more getting excited about life and it’s opportunities and then getting out of bed and writing notes for an hour past bed time. No more waiting.
My sleep has become so normal, that if I have a night where I cannot find sleep, alarm bells go off, and I wonder what’s up. I’m finally aware that it is NOT NORMAL. And that’s the wonderful thing about awareness. I cannot unlearn what it feels like to go to sleep without any problems. And that awareness brings the accountability to sort it out, if it ever becomes a problem again.
So, what does this mean for you? These are all COMMON but not NORMAL sleep problems:
1. Difficulty going to sleep
2. Difficulty staying asleep
3. Difficulty waking up
And every single one of them can be impacted by practicing the ways of our ancestral mama. Be active. Get outside. Put away the screens at night and/OR wear eyewear that protects against the harmful light. Eat right. Get into ketosis. Supplement when necessary and take some massive accountability in restoring this natural process. I am not a doctor. But I can guarantee that the recommendation that goes along with every disease and disorder out there, is GET BETTER SLEEP.
And I can also promise you this: we are not stronger than our ancestors. The modern world has weakened all of us. So, let’s take back some of our badassedness (that’s a word), let’s take back our health, let’s take back our sleep, let’s take back our strength, and let’s show our ancestral mother that we can not only SURVIVE, but we can fucking THRIVE. And then let’s pass these skills on to the next generation!