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The Therapeutic Power of Sleep

Sleep is a highly underrated activity!

Sleep is a highly underrated activity. Sleep is the primal form of introversion, a state in which we temporarily but regularly withdraw almost totally from the external world. (See my previous post on introversion and extraversion.) Living as we do in such an extraverted society, most suffer from a chronic insufficiency of sleep. Some studies indicate that people today are sleeping less than they did several decade ago, and that sleep deprivation is a possible risk factor for serious physical conditions including heart disease, atherosclerosis, obesity, insulin resistance, diabetes, and suppression of the immune system. In addition, sleep deprivation and resulting sleepiness play a part in traffic accidents and other mishaps involving human error.

Moreover, lack of sleep can lead to a transitory mental state known as abaissement du niveau mental: a temporary reduction of consciousness, in which ego defenses are weakened, rendering us more susceptible to the unconscious. Sleep deprivation induces this state, sometimes causing or exacerbating symptoms such as anxiety, depression, mania, paranoia, irritability, anger and rage. Hence the value, even for hardcore extraverts, of getting enough of the compensatory, restorative introversion sleep provides—especially during times of intense stress. While each person differs in the amount of sleep needed for replenishment, eight hours being about average, it is crucial to get sufficient amounts and adequate quality of sleep, and to do so on a regular schedule. Sleep heals the body, clears the mind, and restores the soul. Recent studies indicate that getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep nightly leads to losing excess pounds. In patients suffering from insomnia or hypersomnia—sometimes secondary symptoms of anxiety and depression—regulating sleep pharmacologically or otherwise can be crucial to successful psychotherapy.

From the extraverted point of view, sleep seems a complete waste of time. Why spend eight hours each day sleeping, wonders the extravert, when you could be doing chores, seeing people, making money, etc.? Given the choice, most extraverts probably would never sleep if that were humanly possible! But from the introverted perspective, sleep is a welcome and requisite retreat from the outer world. Sleep is a specified time for just being rather than doing. While there are no scientific studies on this subject of which I'm aware, I would venture to speculate that introverted types both like and need more sleep than extraverted types.

So, if extra sleep helps you to feel better and reinvigorated, that may mean you tend more naturally toward introversion. Or you could just be a very tuckered out extravert! Whatever your typology, sleep—when not used excessively to escape problems and avoid life—can be therapeutic. William Shakespeare poetically called sleep that which soothingly

knits up the ravell'd sleave of care,
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast.

This is an excerpt from Dr. Diamond's forthcoming book Psychotherapy for the Soul: Thirty-Three Essential Secrets for Emotional and Spiritual Self-Healing

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