November 17, 2013 § 3 Comments
Imagine this is not me speaking, but someone you whose advice you respect.
You say you respect my advice? Thank you. But for the purpose of this post please imagine my words are coming from the ultimate authority figure in your life. Your mother. Your hair dresser. The Dalai Lama. Your choice.
How do I know you’re not getting enough? I’ve seen the time posts on those emails you send me: 4:13 am, 5:02.
You say you don’t send me emails—and I say I still know you are not getting enough sleep.
You are a modern Homo sapiens, trying to keep up with a world that buzzes without rest, trying to prove that you are always ready, eager, on the ball, on your toes.
You don’t waste time on sleep—like the adage says, you snooze you lose! It’s snappy and it rhymes so it must be true.
I have cheated sleep for years, thinking that if I start work at four I’ll get the jump—you’ve seen the time on my emails too.
Sleep has become quaint, old-fashioned, perhaps a sign of weakness.
But sleep has been in the news lately. Gotta have it. Seven to eight hours every night.
At first I was defensive. This was just another scary health story, the wagging finger accusing me of not doing enough for my old friend, the body. And then, I listened to the sales pitch for sleep.
The brain rearranges the furniture while you sleep, adds the day’s memories to what is there, integrates the new stuff into the whole.
Learning becomes permanent in sleep.
And because every brain rearranges the furniture in its own way that rearrangement enhances creativity.
Those who sleep seven to eight hours a night live longer than short sleepers (maybe we get just so many waking hours and short sleepers burn through theirs faster).
Or maybe it is because sleep curbs inflammation that leads to heart attacks and strokes.
Beauty sleep? True. Skin regenerates faster with more sleep. It is even good for weight loss.
The latest study shows that adequate sleep can prevent dementia because during sleep the brain gets rid of amyloid plaque. I don’t know about you, but dementia is at the top of my “things I don’t want to die of” list.
You can read the studies. But now I want to tell you what more sleep feels like.
I’ve been getting the recommended seven to eight hours for a while now and I feel a persistent calm. With more sleep I am up to the task of coping. On short sleep, I always felt as if I was falling behind although I was at this desk often before five.
I know that as a sleep study of one I am statistically meaningless, but the change in my sense of well-being is profound. Try it. I’d be glad to add you to my study.
Time, although shorter, feels more spacious and it seems to move more slowly. I can focus on each thing in front of me, not go into the panicked flurry that calls up every job that needs to be done, overloading the system and rendering me inert.
Whether extra sleep will make me live longer, my life feels as if it is going by more slowly. I am calm. Peaceful.
You are probably saying, oh, I can’t sleep longer. I’ve tried. I just lie there awake. You have trained your eager-to-please brain to snap-to. Although sleep deprived, it does its best to idle, ever ready to flick to the “on” position.
It took a while for me to convince my brain that, although it was used to reporting for duty at 4 AM, it was all right for it to drift back into sleep.
One added bonus? That extra sleep is when the dreams I remember seem to come. The other night Mick Jagger appeared behind the glass in every case in a museum I was visiting. Cool (if a little scary).
So, listen to authority figure of your choice.