Sleeping in troubled times

While adequate sleep is critical to good health and longevity, sleep deprivation is currently on the rise.

  • Wednesday, November 28, 2018 8:30am
  • Opinion
Diane Gillespie. Photo courtesy of Diane Gillespie

Diane Gillespie. Photo courtesy of Diane Gillespie

By Diane Gillespie

Special to the Reporter

“This political climate is ruining my sleep,” a friend lamented.

In a new survey sponsored by Bankrate, researchers found 69 percent of Americans have difficulty sleeping because they worry and politics is increasingly one of the topics that keeps people tossing and turning. Sleep deprivation is on the rise at the very time that researchers are discovering the ways that adequate sleep is critical to good health and longevity.

As someone challenged by sleep myself, I worry firsthand about the ill effects of being sleep deprived. And when I tell people about my new book, “Stories for Getting Back to Sleep,” they want to share their sleep struggles. They want real talk and suggestions, not just “ain’t-it-awful” complaining that constitutes our socially acceptable script about not sleeping enough.

When I began the book three years ago, I had no idea that so many people, like me, were not sleeping or were taking sleep medications. The book was borne out of some soothing stories — scenarios really — that I first imagined after I read about the dangers of sleep medications in a study by Group Health and the University of Washington called the Adult Thought Study. Realizing that I needed more natural sleep, I found that the scenarios helped me fall back to sleep when I woke in the middle of the night and I started to write them down for others.

In exploring further, I discovered that the hazards of sleep deprivation had become the focus of a national conversation. Arianna Huffington left the Huffington Post to pursue Thrive Global and publish “The Sleep Revolution” (2016), which describes our culture as toxic to sleep. Neuroscientist Matthew Walker’s book “Why We Sleep” (2017) explains the dire consequences of sleep deprivation and sleep medications.

It’s no wonder the medications are so popular. People need sleep, but pills are deceptive because the sleep is not natural. At some level we all know from experience that natural sleep is what we need to be at our best, our most humane and creative.

As a sleep advocate, I promote strategies that lead to natural and abundant sleep. Chief among them is cognitive behavior therapy, a method in psychology that helps people align their goals and behavior by thinking anew about their thinking.

My book helps us change the narratives we tell ourselves in the middle of the night. We can re-author those stories of desperation and woe and replace them with ones that allow us to sink deeper and deeper into restfulness and sleep. We then awaken refreshed and more ready to take on these troubling political times.

Diane Gillespie is a professor emerita at the University of Washington Bothell and will be reading from her book, “Stories for Getting Back to Sleep,” at 4 p.m. on Dec. 1 at The Book Tree, 609 Market St in Kirkland. All proceeds from the book go to Tostan, a nonprofit with the mission of empowering African communities to bring about sustainable development and positive social transformation based on respect for human rights.

More in Opinion

Delegating isn’t legislating | Letter

Think that Washington voters successfully legalized the cannabis industry? You’d be wrong.… Continue reading

Spending on female empowerment | Letter

In these past few years, I’ve been encouraged with how much focus… Continue reading

#NeverAgainIsNow | Letter

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is inflicting countless means of physical… Continue reading

KCLS forges partnerships for broader public benefit

Partnerships make it possible for KCLS to serve a broader range of people, while stretching tax dollars.

Loss of neighborly community | Letter

When I was young, neighbors gathered together just once a year to… Continue reading

Shut up or put up | Letter

There have been many of President Donald Trump’s cronies that have gone… Continue reading

The importance of being counted | Windows and Mirrors

The 2020 Census is coming and that can greatly affect everything from government representation and federal funding.

Arguments for sweets at school | Letter

Did you know that all students in the Lake Washington School District… Continue reading

No reason to delay | Letter

I’m so bloody tired of this stupid talking point of “impeachment doesn’t… Continue reading

Closing the margins | Windows and Mirrors

How a program at Mercer Island High School is helping students affect social change.

Legislature: History, investigations and new laws

The 2019 session of the Legislature included controversy, compromise, surprise, new law and more.

Critical time for the planet | Letter

This is in response to Mr. Eirich’s letter on May 17 regarding… Continue reading