A long time ago, in a nursing school galaxy far, far away, I learned there are two simple things you can do to combat and cure just about any “classic” illness you have, barring a deep-seated bacterial or viral infection. I’m talking the things we as humans experience on the regs — colds, tummyaches, headaches, general malaise.
You drink tons of water and you sleep.
Hydration and deep regenerative sleep are not only the basis for quick recovery. They help maintain an optimum level of body function. And while proper nutrition is also extremely important for both, keeping all those pipes in your system flushed with plenty of fluids is the very best thing you can do for your body as far as input goes. Nothing else is effective if the innards can’t spread all that good stuff around.
(There’s some medical jargon for ya. It’s probably the reason my student nursing notes were read aloud for the class as “what not to do.” I found it much more descriptive and easy to understand when I replaced words like “flatus” with “farts,” but learned very quickly to avoid ever describing an infected wound as “pussy.” “Purulent” is really the only acceptable term for the condition, especially when your nursing instructor was a combat nurse in Vietnam and has absolutely no problem with calling you out like a drill sergeant to describe a “pussy” wound to the entire class, after she assaults you with the information that using the word “fart” instead of “flatus” would make me look like the stellar nurse I was going to be, should I ever have to read my nursing notes in open court. I’m pretty sure she was being sarcastic about the second part, but in my defense, the particular notes she brought up were about a resident who literally farted herself awake from a deep sleep, and I couldn’t figure out how to use “flatus” in the past tense. I feel like I may be getting off subject here. I apologize.)
Anyway, back on track with the other really important component in being healthy, and that’s sleep. The body requires rest to regenerate. Each person has a very unique Circadian rhythm; no one is the same. I’ve written about it, there have been a gabillion studies about it, and it’s a hotly debated topic in the industry. And while water to hydrate with is plentiful for pretty much everyone in the reach of this post, sleep to regenerate with is not. We have a lot of sleep-deprived people on the roads – and they are of course not all professional drivers.
No one in America is getting enough rest these days. We’re distracted and kept from closing our eyeballs every night (or day) by tiny illuminated screens that actually trigger the brain to stay alert with light and activity. Consider this: your brain is a lot like a hyperactive Chihuahua. It gets all riled up and starts barking every time a leaf blows by, so to make it shut up and go to sleep, you close the curtains, but it takes a few minutes and maybe a stern talking to to get the little dog to lay down and sleep, even with the curtains closed. Not many people are blessed with the ability to just shut their eyes and go to sleep immediately, and when you get the little Chihuahua all riled up with a swirling tornado of leaves, it’s even harder to achieve the level of rest you really need.
We forget that bodies and brains were created way before technology, and there are certain things our bodies tell us that will never change, no matter how many electric geegaws we attach to it, or how far we “progress.” Sleep studies have a distinct margin for error. Anyone who has done one or gives them will tell you actual sleep patterns aren’t what they’re looking for, only fluctuations in them, and a lot of people tend to fluctuate in sleep when they’re hooked up to wires and in an unfamiliar environment. I can also tell you with a level of certainty that trying to talk a dementia patient into letting you attach wires to them before they go to sleep is almost impossible. But that’s another story. The point is, if you let people have a measure of control over their own bodies, the bodies will tell them what to do without interference from invasive, unwanted, unnecessary studies. For heaven’s sake, let people take a damn nap without repercussion.
I have a theory that the general decline of civilization can be directly related to sleep deprivation. I think everyone is tired and cranky. I think a lot of people are forced into sleep schedules their bodies and brains aren’t compatible with, and I think all the technological progress we’ve made has stunted our growth as human beings as a whole. But what do I know? I used the words “unnecessary soliloquy” instead of “doctor’s orders” once, so I’m no expert on anything. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a nap…