Last month, I attended my brother’s marriage ceremony. After the lunch, we went up to his hotel room for a traditional Chinese tea ceremony where the newly weds served tea to the elders. While this was happening, I noticed my 16 y.o. nephew had dozed off on the sofa, missing all the fun with the family. When I enquired about the cause, I was told that he had been kept awake the night before by the computer games while everyone was asleep. I felt deeply concerned for him because he was messing up his internal clock, depriving his body-mind system the necessary renewal it needed. He already has the health problem related to fatty liver due to poor diet. Apparently, this is a common habit among teenagers and young adults in Singapore as we are such a wired-up nation where 24/7 entertainment by media like TV or internet is widely available.
In fact, a poll conducted on 940 students in 26 secondary schools (age 14-17) in a Teen Sleep Survey Singapore 2007 revealed that 80 per cent of them are getting less than eight hours of sleep on school days, while only 2.6 per cent are getting the recommended nine hours as compared to 9% in United States. The survey was approved by the Ministry of Education and several local institutional review boards which was modelled on the National Sleep in America polls. The result showed that the situation in Singapore was worse than America which was very disturbing. I noticed that in Singapore, the importance of sleep is not well-appreciated. Parents, who may acknowledge that their teenage children are not getting enough sleep, are also unsure about what to do about it.
At the prime age of youth, they should be expressing enormous energy, creativity and a passion for life. However, due to unhealthy lifestyle habits of modern living, peer pressure, stress from school and wrong conditioning by media, I’ve seen some of our youths are becoming listless in family or social gathering, they lack intensity yet mentally are restless, irritable easily and have poor concentration. Unless the parents themselves take responsbility by interferring, the children will develop many problems at the physical, mental and emotional levels at later life stage.
Sleep problem used to be an issue experienced by older folks but now we are seeing more children, teenagers and adults are also losing sleep in our society. For adults, I have seen people suffering from chronic fatigue because they drive their poor body to the extreme in pursuit of a so-called “ideal lifestyle”. They are running after something that will not give them fulfillment, this is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode. Then there is another group who suffers from insomnia such that they have to be dependent on sleeping pills or drugs to fall asleep. These are symptomatic of deeper level of disturbances at the psychosomatic level which need to be addressed. Without addressing the root of the problem, just the use of the drugs will not solve the problem. In fact, pharmacotherapy often brings out many other side-effects such as anxiety, loss in appetite, heart palpitation, mood swings, memory loss and depression.
A disturbed sleep pattern should never be brushed aside because it is a serious issue for the optimal well being of individuals. If it is not addressed at the root cause, the continuous disturbed sleep pattern could slowly affect one’s physical, mental and emotional balance at the personal, social and professional levels. The problem could contribute to a public health epidemic such as motor vehicle crashes, industrial accidents or disasters, medical or other occupational errors.
Sleep deprivation has become a prevalent disorder in our modern society. Every one needs a good quality sleep so that our body is able to do the necessary repair work of healing and rejuvenation. If this natural process gets disturbed, we deprive ourselves from this natural self-renewal capability from within.
From the Yogic Psychology perspective, it is the the quality of deep sleep that is the right gauge rather than the absolute 8-9 hours of sleep given as a general guideline. In Yoga, we believe human beings are neither the body nor the mind. We are made of several layers of consciousness. There are 2 states of the mind and 2 states of the being which criss-crossed to create 4 States of Consciousness in which we exist and live our lives. They are – a) Waking State, b) Dream State, c) Deep Sleep State and d) Turiya State. The Deep Sleep state is a state in which our body does the repair and rejuvenation. However, if we have a disturbed inner space, it causes us to have too many dreams and this reduces the time we spend in the Deep Sleep state. Disturbances in inner space can be caused by poor lifestyle habits and a lack of self care for physical body, running after too many desires, excessive worries and stress, guilt and pain in the energy bodies.
To help create more awareness about the seriousness of sleep problem and techniques to come out of sleep disorders, I have developed a 2-hr introductory sleep workshop called “From Disturbed Sleep to Deep Sleep” from the wisdom of 4 States of Consciousness and 7 Energy Bodies. The first workshop happened on 6 Feb 2012 which was well received and I already have a request to develop a 4-part series Sleep Therapy Workshop Module which works on the purification of the first 4 layers of energy bodies i.e. Physical, Pranic, Mental and Etheric. More information will be shared in the website when it is ready. Stay tuned.
In my life, the process of cleansing the various energy bodies had helped me to improve my quality of Deep Sleep. By putting time and energy in taking responsibility of my body, mind and my life is a part of the process of sleeping my way to health. In fact, I can survive on less than 6 hours of sleep and still feel energetic the whole day.
By infusing awareness in every action and every moment in the Waking State leads one to greater awareness in Dream State, Deep Sleep State and eventually in the 4th State – Turiya State. The Turiya State is the state all yoga practitioners aim to reside in, which is a state of pure awareness without thoughts (Pure Consciousness). It is said that a yogi does not sleep because he sleeps his way to enlightenment. He uses the ordinary sleep to work on enlightenment and the waking state for making his dream into reality in the outer world. That is the ultimate sleep!