Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Why Do We Sleep?

Russell Foster, Circadian Neuroscientist. Video by TED.

Knowledge Nuggets:

Sleep Stats:

You spend 36% of your life your life asleep. If you live to age 90, you spend 32 of your years asleep.

Sleep, which used to be coveted and understood to bring happiness and  good health, is now (and perhaps since the invention of the light bulb) often seen as something unnecessary and only for the weak.

Adults currently average 6.5 hrs of sleep. We were getting 8 hrs in 1950.

Teenagers biologically require 9 hrs. of slumber, yet it's very common for them to now get only 5 hrs.   Their body clocks are also designed for them to stay up later and rise later

Why You Should Bother Sleeping:

We have genes associated with restoration which are only turned on during sleep.

The ability to learn a task when sleep deprived is greatly reduced.

Finding novel solutions to complex problems is enhanced threefold by a good night of sleep.

Lack of sleep's affect on everyday behavior = Poor memory, increased impulsiveness and poor judgment.

Sleep deprived individuals have sustained stress. This causes suppressed immunity and increased risk for both diabetes and cardiovascular disease

Getting 5 hrs or less every night gives you a 50% likelihood of being obese, as being tired increases your craving for sugary carbohydrates.

Still Not Convinced?: 

31% of people will fall asleep once while driving in the Unites States. 100,000 accidents are attributed to tiredness and falling asleep every year.

Chernobyl and the Challenger disasters have both been found to be at least partly due to sleep deprivation. "Poor judgement due to extended shift work, and loss of vigilance and tiredness was attributed to a large chunk of those disasters."

Many use caffeine, nicotine and/or drugs to stay awake, then, too amped-up to sleep, use alcohol to sedate themselves. The problem is, alcohol harms neuroprocessing for memory processing and memory recall during sleep, so don't make it a habit..

How to Get Better Sleep:

Make your bedroom cool and as dark as possible. Reduce you light exposure at least half an hour before you go to bed, including screens. Use caffeine only in the morning. Seek out light exposure in the morning to appropriately set your body clock.

Some people need more or less than 8 hrs. Listen to yourself. Also, your need for sleep doesn't go down as you age. sleep is just more fragmented and difficult.

Current Findings in Sleep Research:

Mental health (or illness) and sleep disruption are physically linked in the brain. Sleep difficulties precede certain types of mental illness and sleep deprivation makes mental illness worse. It's hopeful that sleep disruption can be spotted and used for early intervention. It's thought that if sleep can be stabilized, it may alleviate some of the mental illness symptoms.

My thoughts:

Okay, so I suppose this sleep thing that I've avoided for years is kind of important. This post is half trying to convince myself to quit my "I'm fine on five hours of sleep" mantra, because honestly, it isn't even true anymore, but I can't seem to stop "getting stuff done" or "working on projects" and lay down and shut my pretty little eyes. What a waste of precious time! I'm a single mother! My free time is uber valuable! I'll never finish my to-do and want-to-do list before I die! YOLO! [Okay, I've never once typed YOLO until now, really, but it seemed like an appropriate next step in my rant).

If I'm again honest with myself, I'd admit that all the things I stay up trying to do I'm not doing very well. I can't even focus long enough to get started on something much of the time. I don't know what I spend so much of my time on. Browsing Facebook for the tenth time in an hour? Wandering around my apartment trying to remember what I needed to do? Reading articles that I wouldn't likely even remember later. I even considered buying Adderall from a friend recently as I figured my ADHD was just really firing-up (along with my frustration for being completely worthless as far as my goals). I  admitted that if I got more sleep I'd be better focused naturally, but I was unwilling to do it. Stubborn stupidity. I mean honestly. I almost became a criminal to avoid sleep. Hello, low point.

A question that arose for me while watching this video was around sleep in cultures where technology isn't rampant, or even available. I'm not readily finding stats to answer this, though I imagine that those without such savvy distractions aren't literally sending themselves to early graves due to a lack of sleep as often. Being smarter about our technology isn't a new idea, but this certainly points a direct eye at some of our stupidity.

And on that note, I'm turning off this screen, meditating in a dim room and heading to bed a bit earlier than 12:30 a.m. Time to at least try to start some new habits. After I wash the dishes and make lunch for tomorrow and respond to emails and see what my friends are up to on Facebook and text back all the people I've ignored while writing this. Damn it. Tomorrow. I swear.

Further Reading:

Recent findings linking sleep deprivation to Alzheimer's and more: (Oct 2013):
Brains Sweep Themselves Clean of Toxins During Sleep

Alternative Sleep Cycles

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