Today We Talk SLEEP! When, Why, How Much, How Long, How To!
- Spirited Slumber: Contrary to popular belief, your brain is most active during sleep, not while you are awake.
- Brain-Body Trade-off: Running at full-capacity, your brain and body are each almost equally demanding of oxygen, blood glucose, glycogen & micronutrients. Because the brain is such an expensive organ to operate relative the rest of your body, it is made to take a back seat during the day: when the body is active (during wake hours), the brain quiets down; when the body is at rest (e.g. sleep), the brain really comes ‘alive’ to do most of its work.
- The Midnight Mechanic: It is during sleep that the brain does all of its mending, repairing, cleaning, rinsing, changing, deleting, and neuroplastic alterations. What this means, is that memory, learning, & knowledge networks (which are related – ‘knowledge’ is just the ‘memory’ of having ‘learned’ something) are consolidated during sleeping hours, not during waking hours. Teachers and trainers, as example, don’t love to hear this, but all learning actually happens in the bedroom, not the classroom, meeting room, or boardroom.
- Mending Short-Term Memory: More likely than early-onset dementia (as example), is that problems with short-term memory are due to a lack of quality sleep: memories get consolidated into neural networks during REM sleep cycles. A poor night’s sleep makes codifying & solidifying memories near impossible.
- A Slumbering Savant: If the brain is so active at night, why does a good sleep leave me feeling so refreshed & rested? This is because the brain loves an opportunity to work, improve, process, consolidate ideas, think, and have first dibs on all the oxygen, blood glucose, nutrients, minerals to do so, while the body loves an opportunity to rest. Proper sleep provides both.
- Movement Magic: Regular, moderate exercise in fresh air improves both your ability to get to sleep, as well as the quality of the sleep you are able to get all night long. Moving during the day improves learning, memory, knowledge network activity and means better quality sleep at night.
- Irreplaceable Inputs: In order, your brain needs these to function:
- Oxygen (4 mins before damage)
- Water (90 mins before physical shrinkage begins)
- Sleep (16 hrs before cognitive compromisation sets in)
- Food (72+ hrs before processing slows due to nutrient deficiency)
What this means, is that Sleep is more important than food for neural processing, and near as important as oxygen or water.
- The Real Fountain of Youth: High quality sleep is as important for weight composition, metabolism, controlled appetites, muscle maintenance, hormonal balance, skin health (elasticity, tone, complexion), and overall immunity as food and exercise combined. Want to look healthier, thinner, happier, younger, more vital? Get more sleep!
- Quit These for Quality Sleep:
- Disruptive Sleep Partners: A partner’s cover-hogging, snoring, sleep apnea, nocturnal trips to the washroom, violent dreams, sleep walking/talking etc. all compromise your sleep significantly, whether you are aware of it or not. Tell your 'sleep disturbers' to take it to another room.
- Sleeping with Pets: Cats & dogs, as example, while domesticated, have completely different sleep patterns & requirements than humans. Avoid having them in your bed or sleep environment when at all possible.
- Caffeine post-4PM: Caffeine is the most popular drug in the world, but also one of the most harmful to sleep. The half-life of caffeine is 6 hours, meaning even a singular 9AM coffee is just phasing out around 8PM at night. Avoid anything containing caffeine after 3:59PM at the very latest.
- Excessive Fluid Consumption: While most of us cannot sleep through the night without a trip to the washroom (something evolutionary theorists have posited might have evolved to help us with nocturnal surveillance & monitoring), more than one trip can be a major disruption to required sleep cycles.
- Alcohol Consumption: While a glass of wine at dinner seems like a good idea, alcohol actually compromises our ability to stay asleep, how deeply we sleep, as well as the necessary sleep cycles required.
- Screen Time: The blue light emitted from screens (TV, smartphone, tablet, laptop, monitors etc.) disrupt your pineal gland’s ability to distinguish day versus night, as well as manufacturer requisite levels of melatonin as a result. Blue-light circadian hormonal disruption (which includes but is not limited to melatonin) impedes your ability to fall asleep, as well as enter into deep sleep. Limit screen time as much as possible, but especially during the evenings.
- Light Sources: Naturopaths advise that humans sleep in cool, humidified, blackout rooms completely void of any electronics or light from any sources (think cave-like). So, keep the winter thermostat on low, blinds drawn, no electromagnetic activity within 8 ft of your brain (now you have an excuse to put that pesky alarm clock in another room ;)) is advised for ensuring highest quality sleep.
- A Tall Tale Told About Timing: 8 hours is a rough estimate of how many hours of sleep you require. In fact, many people require much more or less than that naturally, as well as depending on other factors in their lives such as daily physical exertion, viral load, toxic load, food/drink consumption, hormonal fluctuations, season, environment, stress levels, daily learning requirements etc. The best way to know if you are getting enough sleep is to wake up naturally, without any alarms or other disruptions – tell people you live with to respect your ‘muted mornings’ policy – e.g. no household noise until 9AM, as example. If waking up naturally leaves you waking too late for your life, it means you aren’t going to bed early enough. The old adage was brain-savvy: early to bed, early to rise, (still) makes a person healthy, wealthy & wise!
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