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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sleep – The Survival Skill No One Talks About

Original Article

sleep Sleep   The Survival Skill No One Talks AboutYou have heard this before:  “Sleep is not a luxury – it is a biological necessity”.
I am not sure who said that first but I do know that it is true.  I merely have to reflect back upon my own life to know that the lack of sleep will result in diminished mental acuity, crankiness and even diminished physical strength and mobility.  So in today’s world, where just getting through the demands of work, family life, chores and a bit of leisure leaves little time for much else, sleep seems to draw the short straw.  Add prepping to the equation and well, you get the drift:  burning the candle at both ends becomes the norm rather than the exception.

Today I would like to suggest that we add sleep to our set of survival skills. Why?  Well even under ordinary circumstances sleep has restorative and rejuvenating benefits.  Add a dash of stress to the mix – and what can be more stressful than a natural or man-made disaster or crisis – and we will need all of the strength we can muster just to get by.

What are the benefits of sleep?

I could fill volumes with the various benefits of sleep but for now, let me touch upon the highlights.

Sleep restores the body.  Every part of the body benefits from sleep.  Our body’s ability to rebuild itself at the cellular level depends on the quiet period commonly known as deep sleep to restore itself from the effects of stress, toxins, contaminated air and other maladies we are exposed to on a daily basis.

Sleep reduces stress.  Have you ever gone to bed a bundle of knots, unable to talk to someone without barking, and unable to think clearly because you are worried about this or that?  And then voila!  You wake up the next day with a clear mind and gentle demeanor ready to face the day in a positive manner?  What you have experienced is the release of calming hormones (serotonin and melatonin) that help us relax and overcome the stress hormones that have accumulated in our bodies during the course of the day.

Sleep reduces illness. During the sleep cycle, our bodies are in rest mode with not much to do at a physical level.  During this rest mode, our immune system goes in to high gear, fighting off germs and bacteria that can lead to illness and disease.

Sleep improves memory.  Like magic, our brain keeps functioning during sleep, sorting out the events of the day and categorizing them into slots that can be retrieved later.  Have you ever felt there was so much going on in your head that you could not think?  Abstract, I know but what has happened is that current events have not yet been stored as links in the memory portion of your brain.  Luckily, sleeping will process these events and store them as bits of information that can later be recalled when needed.

Sleep increases physical and mental acuity and increases reflex response.  A well rested body has the ability to respond to hazards with maximum physical strength and accuracy.  But even more important, having a rested body allows us to perform daily tasks in a more safe manner.  Case in point:  have you ever driven a car while sleepy only to find yourself weaving in the roadway?  Your concentration was diminished, right?  Even worse, your ability to react to road hazards was greatly reduced.  Now put yourself in a survival situation where you must defend your homestead and your family from intruders that are after your stuff.  You will need all of your wits about you since failure to react may jeopardize not only your stuff, but your life.  For the prepper, this should be of utmost concern.

Sleep helps you maintain a positive outlook.  As bad as things may get, they are always better after getting a good night’s rest.  Adequate sleep helps circumvent depression and gives you the motivation to get up and go even when all motivation has “got up and went”.  Decision making becomes easier as does thinking and problem solving in an imaginative and productive manner.  These are skills that are lifesaving when dealing with survival in normal times, let alone times of crisis.

How Much is Enough?

Good question.  The average is between 7 and 9 hours per night.  But my experience is that this number can vary, depending on the particular way your body is wired as well as the circumstances in your life at any moment in time.  For example, it is not unusual to need 10 or more hours of sleep when you are sick.  On the other hand, some perfectly healthy people may need upwards of 9 hours of sleep or as little as 6 hours of sleep.  Add stress to the mix and well, like I said, the perfect amount of sleep becomes elusive to predict.

I think the best thing to do is to experiment for awhile by going to bed when tired – not when the TV show is over, the last bill has been paid, or when your partner or spouse choses to snooze.  Then, if you can, eliminate the alarm clock and wake up naturally.  Do this for awhile and soon you will learn what works best for you.  If you wake up feeling refreshed, you have rested the proper amount of time.  Groggy and foggy in the head?  Perhaps you had too much sleep.

Hopefully, by varying your bedtimes and wake-up times, you will learn what constitutes the right amount of sleep for you – the amount that leaves you feeling well rested and energized to face the day with enthusiasm and gusto.

The Final Word

The many benefits of sleep should not be lost on the prepper.  As a skill – and as a way of life – adequate sleep should be embraced and yes, practiced now while times are stable.
And for those who use lack of sleep as proof that they are so very important that they have no time to get adequate ZZZ’s?  I say phooey on them.  When the SHTF, the well rested will prevail.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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