4 things to consider when reimagining your sleep

1. Your health

Getting enough sleep contributes to abundant health benefits through release of tension.  Also, the endocrine system works effectively with enough sleep, impacting hormones that control appetite.  If you’re a short sleeper, your likelihood for obesity is 7.5 times greater and your likelihood for diabetes is 2.5 times greater!

Full regeneration of the mind and body requires a two part cycle including quiet sleep (NREM) and deep active sleep (REM).  Both states need to run their cycles while asleep and takes 7-9 hours. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School recommends that the majority of adults get between 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep per 24-hour period to function optimally.

Admit it.  Ending up on your deathbed in the long-run because of sleep-deprived induced illness never helped anyone, including you. So, stop it.  Sleep is important to be your best self each day.

2. Your productivity

Contrary to beliefs that to be successful you need to work a 90 hour work week, there’s an important distinction between quantity of work and effective work.  Productivity demands emotional, physical, and cognitive well-being, all supported by proper sleep.

Sleep improves cognitive performance and memory.  Slow-wave sleep (a stage of NREM) recapitulates information learned throughout the day, and REM sleep solidifies memories into our existing database of knowledge (a process known as memory consolidation).  In essence, short-term memories become long-term memories.

Getting enough sleep also influences physical performance. Stanford University sleep expert, Cheri Mah, measured basketball players’ sprinting times and three-point shot success rates while getting 6.5 hours of sleep per night.  Increased to 8.5 hours of sleep per night, the players’ sprint times decreased by 0.7 seconds on average and they scored more than nine additional three-point shots.

Hanging around your office hours after everyone else has left, trying to be productive but aimlessly punching at your keyboard, eyes slowly drooping closed in frustration?  Naps under your desk not comfortable?  Promising yourself you’ll sleep this weekend?  When you’re dead?  This is no way to go through life, and certainly no way to maximize your productivity.

Everything works better once it’s unplugged, including you.

3. Your presence in the world

Just as no one wants to go through life feeling like a zombie, no one wants to go through life hanging out with zombies.  Long-term sleep deprivation can impact your personality (studies have found that longer-term sleep deprivation is equivalent to the cognitive impairment of nearly a 0.1 percent blood alcohol level). Most states have DUI limits of 0.08 percent blood alcohol content.

To build relationships and really connect with others, you need to be present.  Sleep supports your ability to function in conversation and to concentrate on truly listening to those who you engage with.  As the Dalai Lama puts it, “sleep is the best meditation.” Approach the day with intention to perform at your best, and also to connect with others.

Not only do you want to be awake enough to engage with the world, but you also don’t want to harm it.  As research shows, people become more prone to accidents when losing even a couple hours of sleep.

In real life, this lack-of sleep has had serious ramifications.  For example, in 1989, the third mate of the Exxon Valdez oil tanker noticed some dangerous ice floes, but failed to notice and adjust the ship’s autopilot setting in order to change course.  The ship ended up colliding with a reef, splitting the ship’s hull and releasing oil into the ocean, destroying the area’s habitat and biodiversity. If the third made would have gotten more than the six hours of sleep over the course of the previous two days, he may have been more alert, preventing a preventable disaster.

4. Investment in yourself

Sleeping teas, consulting experts, sleeping pills, oh my!

Notorious insomniac Charles Dickens sought out every method in the book to fall asleep — even turning his bed to face north in order to calm his mind.  But, unsurprisingly, most of these methods didn’t work.  Many times he would be left pacing the streets throughout the night.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration research has shown that prescription sleeping pills are a more dangerous remedy than people think, with a high level of related emergency room visits, especially among women who metabolize sleeping pills more slowly. Many people also experience after-effects and side effects of sleeping pills, and they aren’t viewed as a long-term solution for sleep issues.

Alternatively, Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been used as a treatment for sleep disorders, yet evidence doesn’t support CBT as a long-term solution, and some psychologists argue that the benefits are no greater than a placebo

One proven and easy way to help you fall asleep is to avoid light from lamps, phones and computer screens before going to bed (these devices simulated daylight and prevent the increase of melatonin).  Creating a quiet bedroom or using white noise can also be beneficial for some.

A friend of mine recently purchased silk sheets to try to improve her sleep (prices up to $US 1000 per set, yikes)!  She said, I spend a lot of time in bed, and it’s an investment in me.

At first I thought, “wow, that would let me buy a really nice vacation,” but then I did the math.  If a person spends eight hours per night sleeping, and lives to be 75, that’s 25 years spent in bed – I’d better invest in sheets!

For those of us who suffer from insomnia, new sleeping relief is around the corner to help our bodies recalibrate to natural sleep cycles. The new sound-based technology Somnuva (to be launched on UpEffect later this year) was designed specifically to replicate the body’s sleep cycles. It works by creating tones and pulses precisely tuned to match the different stages and wavelengths of the whole sleep cycle (the REM and the non-REM stages). The brain naturally follows these patterns as if following along to a memorable tune or song. This product is the world’s first sleep-device with a patented algorithm. Pretty cool!

A 21-day trial carried out with prototypes resulted in 92% of participants experiencing a positive impact and an average of 2 hours 35 minutes increase in the hours slept per night from the first to the last night of the trial.

Invest in yourself.  You deserve it!

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