Sleep is something that seems simple, comes natural, we all sleep. Sometimes easily, sometimes we fight it, sometimes we lay in bed trying to count sheep telling ourselves "ok you have to get up in a few hours, go to bed!" Sleep is extremely important to our bodies for many reasons. Especially after a trauma because your body needs time to repair. Lack of sleep can lead to many health issues like an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke, can cause accidents and well just put you in a really bad mood.
When I was a professional dancer / aerialist I would only average about 4 hours of sleep per night due to my training, performance and appearance schedule which is crazy! When I could I did take a nap and taking a nap is something that I've done since I can remember which is also a very southern thing to do. After my last show on Sat. nights, we'd take down my rigging quickly, I'd get paid, then I'd jump in the shower, repack my bags and off to the airport for the 1st flight out. I would sleep on the flight back home for a bit but as soon as I landed it was catch a shuttle to my apartment, drop my bags off, wash my face, hop in my car and go to my private acting class. My teacher would ask me "how long have you been up?" Sometimes my answer was honestly 30 hours (worst due to flight delays was 36 hours) and I'd say tell me the magic words (which I taught her to tell me). She'd say "push though". I'd reply "ok, lets get to work." My acting coach at the time was Amy Lyndon and we did a lot of cold reading which is a great skill because you don't always get the sides (the scene or scenes) before an audition. Then, I'd drive to the grocery store to pick up food already prepared, go home, put in my laundry, eat, jump on my treadmill, fold my clothes, shower and finally sleep in my bed! Sometimes my schedule would get so crazy that the next morning I'd wake up @ 4am to jump back on my treadmill, in the shower, grab my bags and off to the airport to my next gig. Other times I'd get a few days, max a week and a half at home or on the road for 3/4's of the month. I do believe due to lack of sleep, not giving my body proper recovery time is something that was a factor in me tearing my left psoas for the 2nd time, this time I had just finished performing on my aerial hoop, walked into my dressing room, looked down and said to myself "crap, I know what that is and it's not a hernia. Ok, my body is telling me to move on." My body needed to recovery and I was already transitioning out so I decided that was my last show performing as a dancer / aerialist. It was a very smart decision.
Driving and performing without proper sleep was not smart of me and I'm lucky. I am going to say never, NEVER, ever drive, perform as an aerialist, performance artist, do physical activities or operate machinery when you have not had enough sleep or flat out haven't slept because you can have a really bad accident and not just harm yourself, but someone else! I knew a guy that fell asleep at the wheel, totaled his car, broke his jaw so they had to wire it shut, broke ribs, his right arm and no one else was hurt, thankfully! Research has shown that getting less than 5 hours of sleep is the same as driving drunk!
I do say kinda jokingly that redheads have 2 speeds, full force and off time recharging to go full force again which has caused me some injuries. I will overwork myself and at times I can feel that I'm going to what I call "hit the wall". Which means that my body is so exhausted, it will not function and I know I'm going to sleep for almost 24 hours. One time, when I was still performing as a dancer / aerialist, I had not gotten my apartment yet so I was staying with a friend of mine in Beverly Hills. I informed them that I was "going to hit the wall" and what that meant. They had to go to work and asked their roommates to check on me every few hours. I literally slept 24 hours and did not move. All 3 said they were worried I was dying or dead because I hadn't moved and I breath shallow when I sleep so they apparently put their face close to mine to try to hear me and to feel if I was breathing. One of the women said she put her hand on my abs to also feel if I was breathing. Yes, I was breathing just very shallow. Kinda odd that I slept for 24 hours and when I woke up I was fine but I was like 30 years old. Compared to years later, Oct. 12th 2017, I had been overworking myself again, writing, producing, acting, scheduling, my workouts, classes, cleaning, etc... only getting a few hours of sleep again so that night I was actually able to get into bed early, my alarm was set for 8am so I could go to ballet but when I woke up Oct. 13th at 8am I noticed something was wrong! I woke up having slept on my right arm, my arm was numb especially from the elbow down and I couldn't move my right hand. It was a floppy fish. After a few hours I called my doctor and they referred me to a neurologist. The neurologist Dr. Andrew Morovati said that I had gotten radial nerve palsy in my right arm due to having slept on it the whole night because I was so exhausted that I didn't even get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom like I normally do. So I probably slept on my arm the whole night without moving and either pinched or pulled my right radial nerve. It took me a lot of physical therapy and months to get function of my hand back. I went from knocking things out of the park schedule wise to a massive stop everything, again!
I use to think well since I just recovered from a surgery or injury now I have to play "catch up" so, I'd cram as much into my schedule as possible, not that I stop doing everything when recovering but I would get a lot of rest, which is vital to recovery. Finally lesson learned! Balance! Now, I get my sleep or else it's going to force me to stop everything one way or another and that's just not healthy or worth it! I'm sure many of you have also experienced times where you didn't get enough rest or your body is just exhausted which is normally a sign that you should listen to. So please listen to what your body needs.