A couple of years
ago, while listening to a program, I made a note that sleep is the only time
the brain releases and removes its unwanted material/garbage.*
Deprive yourself of sleep and you will depend on brain cells that are living
in a garbage dump.
Being short-changed on sleep is a choice for some people (a choice made by a
brain that is probably sleep deprived).
Other people would love to have more or better sleep but cannot because of
problems falling asleep, staying asleep or getting a quality sleep.
There are lots of things we can do to improve our sleep, which will allow our
bodies to improve the environment for our brain’s cells, which in turn will
improve our thinking.
Get quality sleep: Good advice for anyone who uses their brain.
Our obsession with speed, with cramming more and more into
every minute, means that we race through life instead of actually living it.
Our health, diet and relationships suffer. We make mistakes at work. We
struggle to relax, to enjoy the moment, even to get a decent night's sleep.
I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you
1. Make sleep a
It is easy to think of sleep as having an elastic quality – some days you get
more, some days you get less, but it is all good. For a few reasons, it isn’t
First, our sleep
cycle loves routine – going to bed at the same time every day
is important for our ability to sleep maximum hours in the time allotted.
This rings true for me this week. My goal is to be in bed by 10:00pm and
asleep shortly thereafter. One evening I decided to stay up to watch a show that
began at 10. Because I fell asleep during the show, I missed much of the show
and then had trouble falling asleep. Although it is a program I like, I
realized that show is less important than my sleep. A 10pm bedtime is an
ongoing goal for me that I find especially difficult in the summer but know
when I follow it, I feel better.
Second, because of hormones, our best
times to be asleep are 10pm-2am. If sleep begins at 11pm, one
quarter of the quality sleep slot is missed.
Three, often our morning hours are fairly consistent but evening hours can fluctuate.
If we shortchange our evening sleep, we get less sleep.
2. Which is more
important to having a good life: a crossed off checklist or sleep?
As you have probably guessed, it’s a trick question.
Often we miss out on sleep because we have too much to do – our checklist is
long and never-ending.
But let’s backtrack a bit: why do we have a checklist? Is it so we keep track
of all of the things we need to do so we will, in the end, be less stressed and
The problem with prioritizing
our checklist over our sleep is short-sighted for two
First, when we have less
than optimal sleep, we feel less joy. If joy and happiness
are our ultimate goals, by reducing the potential for happiness, we are
Second, if we have less than optimal sleep, we will take longer to do menial and intellectual
tasks, have more difficulty with thinking creatively/solving problems, and
have problems with maintaining our health. So, without full
sleep, it takes extra time to do anything on our checklist. That extra
checklist time could’ve been spent sleeping. In the end, we’d accomplish the
same amount but we’d have felt better if we had slept.
A friend of mine had been working hard and short-changing her sleep. That is
until she got sick. Then any time-benefits she had received by reducing her
sleep, vanished. Now, she works very hard to be in bed by 11pm.
3. It needs to be
paid in advance.
If you have been continuously depriving yourself for a long time, a single
night or weekend of sleep will not make up for the depletion.
To fulfill your body’s need for sleep, first comes the long-term commitment
to sleep your needed hours. Then comes the ability to focus, be more
creative, feel more connected to others, and feel happier and be healthier.
It can be compared to building a fire. Before any warmth from the fire is
enjoyed, there is the gathering of the kindling and wood, prepping the fire,
and coaxing the fire into life. A commitment of effort is prior to
experiencing the reward.
4. We are finding more and more Joe-and-Jane-Average
are benefiting from weighted blankets (both uniblankets and two-piece blankets). Try one of our weighted blankets. Other
than sleepless nights and the accompanying poor physical, emotional, mental
and creative abilities, what do you have to lose? And look what you might
Next week: List
of sleep-supporting ideas so you can pick and choose the best for you.
* I think I heard the 'taking out the garbage' info from a TED talk but
didn't have time to scan through the list of sleep presentations. I did mark
it as 'Use for Take AIM' so would bet it was scientifically based.
Regardless, we all know sleep is good for us. For me, it underscored its
P.S. If you would like the websites I used as background for this series, please email me. Or if you have any
suggestions for other topics, please contact me as well. Would love to hear