I hear and read many people talking about how much they love to sleep. It makes sense! Laying in bed is relaxing and comfortable, sleep reduces stress, and rejuvenates the body in many ways. Sometimes, though, in our busy world, finding time to sleep is difficult. We get so busy completing tasks that it cuts into our sleep time.
Needing to Sleep
For those of us with Epilepsy, getting enough sleep is key to our health. The electrical activity in our brains changes when we sleep; our brain is busy processing the events of that day, strengthening connections between brain cells, and recharging for the day ahead. In some cases, the lack of these processes creates an opportunity for our brain to misfire, causing a seizure. Not getting enough sleep can cause changes in eating habits or cause people to be overly tired, both of which can create seizure activity in the brain. Personally, I know that if I don’t get sleep, I will feel poorly the next day and have painful migraines. My stomach will feel sick and my only option is to lay on the couch until I sleep, resting my body and brain. In addition to these painful hours (and sometimes days), I will be cranky, and no one likes that!
Make Sleep a Priority
Over the years, I’ve had to make sleep a priority. Just like eating well or exercising, I must make time for sleep. In college, this meant I had to study during the day to avoid an all-night cram session, instead of going to the movies or the mall with my friends. It meant I had to turn in early when my friends wanted to go to a party. I truly had to make plans around getting sleep. If I knew I would be out late one night, I made sure that I could sleep into the morning so I rested for my required hours. If I ever doubted the importance sleep played in my seizure control, I was reminded every time I slept less than 7 hours: I had an episode that would cost me an entire day to recover from.
Better Sleep Month
May is Better Sleep Month. It was designed to highlight the importance of getting quality sleep to help our bodies stay healthy. In addition to making sure you are getting enough sleep, try to get the best sleep possible. Stick to a bed time. This may sound like something for children, but by going to bed at or around the same time each night, your body will learn this pattern. This will make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep for the same amount of time. Avoid eating too late at night: your body will be focused on digesting the food instead of resting. Food and drink also provide your body with energy; by consuming them at night, your body will want to use that energy instead of sleeping! Try not to use electronics in bed. This can be so difficult, because our phones and tablets provide entertainment and help us keep track of our health through apps. However, this stimulation keeps the brain awake and busy when it should be relaxing and shutting down. I have a rule to not touch my phone while I am in bed and it helps me fall asleep right away and relax when I am in bed. My bed is a place where no one can bother me because the world outside of my bedroom walls stays outside.
Leila shares stories on stigma and epilepsy based on her experiences and what she hears from others. She was diagnosed with Epilepsy at age 8 and is based in Pennsylvania.