The Essential Purpose of Sleep

Soo Young Lee By Soo Young Lee - Updated: September 23rd, 2017
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There is an essential purpose to sleep that we cannot deny. Proper rest gives us the perspective to work through big and small challenges throughout our day. It also gives us the energy to put our plans into action.

Every day, I do my best to be present for my little boy who is 19 months old. This means paying attention to his needs, his sleep schedule, his moods and desire for connection. It means being responsible and attentive while still maintaining boundaries and keeping things interesting. But yesterday was not one of those days. I was failing at being present for him and for myself.

I woke up exhausted and "on the wrong side of the bed." Most of the night was spent in my son's bed nursing him and trying to soothe his cries.Wandering through my morning in a cranky fog, my body ached in accordance with my bad mood. As hard as I tried, I could not snap out of the negativity running through my mind. My familiar cadre of worries about finances, failing physical strength and lack of creativity kept creeping up.

There was nothing I could do but plod along and hope that I could reset my mood when Niko went down for a nap.

Reading books to him about soft, cozy animals made me want to curl up and go to bed. Good Night Moon felt like a desperate plea to have my son go down early for his nap. My patience was thin and shaky. Making simple mealtime decisions seemed challenging. With remorse, I kept apologizing to him for being in a bad mood and let him know it was not his fault.

Niko started rubbing his eyes in the late afternoon. Ah, a beacon of hope. When he finally went down for a nap, it was a godsend. I just let myself fall asleep with him. Really, I could not help myself. Usually his nap time is a time for me to clean, do laundry, get some stretching in and most importantly time to write.

None of that was going to happen that day. My body shut my monkey mind down, and I crashed into slumber. I drooled on my pillow and talked in my sleep. My son woke up babbling something in Korean about snacks. I laughed and asked if he was hungry. Suddenly feeling lighter, I knew I desperately needed the extra two hours of sleep.

For human's of all ages, a good night’s rest is crucial for a sound mind and body. Adults often underestimate the impact of poor sleep until something drastic happens to their health or in their lives.

Deep down, we know getting enough sleep affects overall health and mental clarity. Not getting enough sleep creates various dysfunctions in the immune system and appetite that throw our natural rhythms into a funk. To be highly functional, we push beyond our fatigue and ignore the warning signs our emotions and body reveal to us.

After that rough morning, I decided to get to bed at a reasonable hour. Today, I woke up today feeling more energetic and light hearted. After breakfast, I planned an outing with my son to get some outdoor playtime before his afternoon nap.

Niko saw the stroller and completely lost it while trying to climb on. I was not ready to go and had to finish gathering a few things, so I took him out of the stroller. He threw himself on the ground and started crying. Then he pushed his tricycle through the apartment hallway and freaked out when it got caught on a wall.

Then he fell on the ground and was really reactive to his slight fall and started hitting the floor. It hit me, I remembered he woke up super early. He was exhausted and needed a nap. Niko was showing me all the signs of needing more sleep that I felt yesterday. I immediately nursed him and he started nodding off.  I felt the anxiety leaving his body and his breathing fell into a deep rhythm.

As grown adults, we are very hard on ourselves when we wake up tired from a night of poor rest. We try to wake ourselves up with more caffeine and push down our discomfort to feel a sense of accomplishment. A life of busyness equals a badge for success.

Because of our responsibilities, we often have no choice but complete our duties for the day. I cannot stop taking care of my son because of exhaustion. My husband cannot miss work from being tired. But if we recognize how we are affected by poor sleep, we can start making better choices to address our tiredness. Getting to bed earlier, drinking less caffeine and tuning into what we need not just what needs to be done.

We would not berate a baby or toddler for being cranky when he/she is tired. We would not force them to play with their toys when they clearly need to sleep.

As parents, we all have witnessed that hyper and almost frantic energy that happens before they finally let themselves relax into sleep. They want everything but nothing makes them happy. They throw their favorite toys down on the ground and smash their beloved snacks.

We need to see the similar effects that lack of sleep has on us. When tired, avoid making any big decisions because our minds are cloudy. It is easy to revert into an automatic pilot mode and not be aware of what is happening in front of you. Our fatigue can be our wakeup call to slow down and get more quality rest.

There is an essential purpose to sleep that we often forget about. It is a time to recharge, rejuvenate and regroup physically, mentally and emotionally.

Next time you feel cranky and nothing will soothe your ruffled feathers…get more sleep. It will help you move through your day with clear thinking and give you the focus to act on what matters.

Challenge Genie loves the dreamy charcoal drawings by Sverre Malling. Please check out more of his surreal work at

This article was originally published on by Soo Young Lee.