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Garbage collection time in the brain. Part 1.

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Garbage collection time in the brain. Part 1.

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.
~Carl Honore

I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?
~Ernest Hemingway

Action Ideas 
1. Make sleep a priority.
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 ‘all good’.

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 more happy?

The problem with prioritizing our checklist over our sleep is short-sighted for two reasons.

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 sabotaging ourselves.

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 gain.
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 importance.


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 from you. 

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