From skwigg's journal:
Here are some eye-opening quotes from the book "Why We Sleep" by Mathew Walker, PhD.:
Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer. Insufficient sleep is a key lifestyle factor determining whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s disease. Inadequate sleep—even moderate reductions for just one week—disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic. Short sleeping increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, setting you on a path toward cardiovascular disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure. Fitting Charlotte Brontë’s prophetic wisdom that “a ruffled mind makes a restless pillow,” sleep disruption further contributes to all major psychiatric conditions, including depression, anxiety, and suicidality.
Perhaps you have also noticed a desire to eat more when you’re tired? This is no coincidence. Too little sleep swells concentrations of a hormone that makes you feel hungry while suppressing a companion hormone that otherwise signals food satisfaction. Despite being full, you still want to eat more. It’s a proven recipe for weight gain in sleep-deficient adults and children alike. Worse, should you attempt to diet but don’t get enough sleep while doing so, it is futile, since most of the weight you lose will come from lean body mass, not fat.
Sleep dispenses a multitude of health-ensuring benefits, yours to pick up in repeat prescription every twenty-four hours, should you choose. (Many don’t.)
Within the brain, sleep enriches a diversity of functions, including our ability to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions and choices. Benevolently servicing our psychological health, sleep recalibrates our emotional brain circuits, allowing us to navigate next-day social and psychological challenges with cool-headed composure. We are even beginning to understand the most impervious and controversial of all conscious experiences: the dream. Dreaming provides a unique suite of benefits to all species fortunate enough to experience it, humans included. Among these gifts are a consoling neurochemical bath that mollifies painful memories and a virtual reality space in which the brain melds past and present knowledge, inspiring creativity.
Downstairs in the body, sleep restocks the armory of our immune system, helping fight malignancy, preventing infection, and warding off all manner of sickness. Sleep reforms the body’s metabolic state by fine-tuning the balance of insulin and circulating glucose. Sleep further regulates our appetite, helping control body weight through healthy food selection rather than rash impulsivity. Plentiful sleep maintains a flourishing microbiome within your gut from which we know so much of our nutritional health begins. Adequate sleep is intimately tied to the fitness of our cardiovascular system, lowering blood pressure while keeping our hearts in fine condition.
A balanced diet and exercise are of vital importance, yes. But we now see sleep as the preeminent force in this health trinity. The physical and mental impairments caused by one night of bad sleep dwarf those caused by an equivalent absence of food or exercise. It is difficult to imagine any other state—natural or medically manipulated—that affords a more powerful redressing of physical and mental health at every level of analysis.
Based on a rich, new scientific understanding of sleep, we no longer have to ask what sleep is good for. Instead, we are now forced to wonder whether there are any biological functions that do not benefit by a good night’s sleep. So far, the results of thousands of studies insist that no, there aren’t.
I was getting pretty indifferent about whether I actually hit my 7-hour minimum sleep goal. Not anymore! I am on it! Like I said in some other post, I definitely noticed that my resting heart rate is tied to how much quality sleep I get. Nights I'm short, it jumps. I'm also shorter on patience, more interested in high-calorie, high-reward foods, and more inclined to eat for reasons other than hunger.
I had the delayed thought that a good night's sleep probably makes a big difference in the ability to identify and question painful thoughts. Sleep deprivation makes us very reactive and not so reflective.
They f@$k you at the drive-thru! Does anybody remember that line from Lethal Weapon? That's how I felt today when I got home with my Panera Bread rapid pickup order and there was no Lemon Drop cookie. Oh, well. I had to eat one of my own cookies, which aren't nearly as exciting as a fresh lemon sugar cookie dusted with lemon powdered sugar. Maybe I'll make lemon bars tomorrow to get my lemon fix.
After going on about the wonders of sleep, I only got 4 hours and 57 minutes last night due to an early appointment. Which may be why the lost lemon cookie made me sad. I'm sleepy and someone stole my carbs. LOL
Can I say again what a difference that extra hour of sleep has made? I was an excellent example of sleep deprived people not being able to tell they’re sleep deprived. You get used to a certain level of foggy and drowsy and it starts seeming normal, or even ideal. I thought six and a half to seven hours of sleep a night was plenty. Now that I’ve been getting seven and a half to eight hours, the difference is crazy. I don’t nod or feel sleepy late in the day. It’s not a struggle to stay awake and sharp until midnight for work. I’m less cranky, more optimistic, more creative and decisive. I didn’t realize any of those were off or could be better.
It has taken some time to get used to staying up later every night and sleeping later every morning, which is what I needed to do to fix my rather confused circadian rhythm. I had been staying up late on work nights, going to bed early on my 3-day weekends, and getting up at the first light of dawn no matter how late I went to sleep. I was also rushing naps to spend more time online, watching TV, or working out. Sleep is so much more important! Since I’ve made a deliberate effort to prioritize it, there’s been a big payoff in energy and wellbeing. I’m so glad I read “Why We Sleep.” I already knew that not getting enough sleep compromised immune function, messed with blood sugar, increased the risk of cancer, diabetes, depression, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s, but I thought I was fine. It was those other people who needed more sleep. LOL I’m glad I got a clue. The book sold me logically on sleeping more but it’s so easy to stick to old familiar patterns. It was after making it through that first awkward week or two that I really started to experience the benefits of more sleep.
I meant to add, jess, that I have a go-to method for going back to sleep if I wake up too early. I had to use it this morning after a bouncy dog whose name rhymes with Cooper woke me up when I had another hour or so to sleep. ***Don’t think*** It sounds impossible but it’s just a matter of relaxing your body and focusing on breathing in and out. If thoughts form, cut them off and go back to relaxing and breathing. You may have to do it several times before nodding back off. The trick is not to let your brain come fully online and start chattering away about breakfast, what you need to do today, who said what yesterday, even a song in your head. Shut that down and you can generally keep sleeping. Let it go on unchecked for even a minute or two and you’ll be wide awake.
I’m also a fan of a very dark room, cool temps, and background noise like a fan or a sound app. I put duct tape over the bright LED power buttons on electronics in the room. My husband thought I was nuts but it makes a difference.
Oh, and sleeping pills are terrible. I think I left that out of my summary. With both sleeping pills and alcohol, you are sedated, but not getting the benefits of natural sleep and going through all of the important phases. It's more like you're under anesthesia.
I finished reading “Why We Sleep.” It was so good I forgot all about Byron Katie for a minute. I hope to get back to “A Mind at Home with Itself” now that I’ve absorbed all the sleep knowledge. There’s no way I can share everything I learned. Some highlights though:
- The symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and lack of sleep are identical. The diagnosis may be skyrocketing in children and adults because they’re not getting enough sleep. Then they’re prescribed medications that interfere with sleep. Doh!
- Snooze buttons are evil in terms of what they do to your heart, blood pressure, and central nervous system. Jarring alarm clocks are bad, but experiencing the jolt repeatedly is that much worse for you. It’s better to alter your sleep patterns or wake-up method to be more natural and less brutal.
- Short-sleeping causes the “I’m still hungry” signal to be amplified and the “I’m full” signal to be removed altogether.
- When food becomes scarce, sleep becomes scarce as animals are driven to stay awake and forage. (Restriction insomnia.)
- REM sleep (the kind with vivid dreams) is what separates painful emotions from traumatic or stressful memories. Your brain works on it repeatedly at night until just the information remains and not the emotional response. That’s if all goes well. If people with PTSD don’t get enough quality sleep, the emotions stay raw instead of sleep healing them.
- Don’t nap after 3 pm. Just don’t.
- Waking up at the same time every day is one of the best things you can do to improve sleep quality, that and going to bed at the same time.
- Usain Bolt often napped before breaking world records. Thomas Edison was a daytime napper too.
He didn’t specifically answer the question about surviving the interrupted sleep that comes with parenting young children. He also didn’t specifically answer my question about how to handle my shift work. Based on what I’ve read, I gather that I should be sleeping later in the morning and staying up later so that there’s not a dramatic difference between when I go to bed on work nights and weekends.
I’ve now clocked eight hours of sleep for the last five nights in a row. At first it was difficult to stay in bed longer and I was still showing some signs of sleep deprivation, like microsleeping in my chair. Today, I am a new woman! I’m almost not joking. :-) I can really feel a difference in alertness, concentration, mood, and energy. And I thought I was fine before! I can’t wait to see what months of this will do for me.
Here are the sleep tips he referenced in the appendix -
The sleep book is fascinating and terrifying. I just read the chapter about what sleep deprivation does to your brain. It's not good. I'm going to change my sleep pattern. This thing where I sleep five hours at night and catch an hour or two nap can't go on. I changed my Fitbit sleep tracker goal to 8 hours, which is going to be a big adjustment.
I work nights and my husband works days. So, I was coming home late but getting up early to eat breakfast and hang out before he had to leave. Technically, I could get another 60-90 minutes of sleep in the morning and still see him. I have to start doing that. Pronto.
Here are some of my highlights and insights from the book:
Getting less that seven hours of sleep a night on a routine basis is considered being chronically sleep restricted. (Oh, hell, says skwigg who was regularly clocking in at around six and a half hours.)
Ten days of six hours of sleep a night was all it took to become as impaired in performance as going without sleep for 24 hours straight.
"With chronic sleep restriction over months or years, an individual will actually acclimate to their impaired performance, lower alertness, and reduced energy levels. That low-level exhaustion becomes their accepted norm, or baseline. Individuals fail to recognize how their perennial state of sleep deficiency has come to compromise their mental aptitude and physical vitality, including the slow accumulation of ill health." (Aaaagh! Oops!)
"After sixteen hours of being awake, the brain begins to fail. Humans need more than seven hours of sleep each night to maintain cognitive performance. After ten days of just seven hours of sleep, the brain is as dysfunctional as it would be after going without sleep for twenty-four hours. Three full nights of recovery sleep (i.e., more nights than a weekend) are insufficient to restore performance back to normal levels after a week of short sleeping. Finally, the human mind cannot accurately sense how sleep-deprived it is when sleep-deprived." (Oh, boy...)
What's really interesting to me is that sleep deprivation causes more and worse car crashes than drugs and alcohol combined. With drunks, braking is delayed, reaction time is delayed. With someone who is experiencing microsleeps, they don't react at all. They don't make any attempt to avoid the accident, so the consequences are even more deadly.
This reminds me of something that happened a couple of weeks ago. I had just pulled into the driveway, well after midnight, as I do. Yawning, bleary-eyed, fumbling with my jacket and lunch box. I got out and was standing in the front yard with one of our freakishly tame neighborhood rabbits. There was this HORRIFIC loud sound, like a building collapsing, or a dump truck falling out of the sky. The rabbit and I both flinched and ducked down at the same time. We looked at each other like, WTF was THAT?!?! I stood there for a minute but didn't hear anything else and went in the house. The next morning, I saw that one of my coworkers, an overnight news photographer, had tweeted about it. A guy who was driving about a block from my house fell asleep at the wheel. He mowed down a traffic light and hit a tree and a building, totaling his car. He was completely sober. There wasn't a scratch on him, luckily. I saw the tweeted photo and the real life intersection the next day and the damage was incredible.
Sign from the universe?
OMGosh, dolphins can put one hemisphere of their brain to sleep while the other one is fully awake and swimming! They are literally half asleep. Humans can't do this, unfortunately, but it would be a neat trick. I'm so enthralled with the sleep book that I haven't read another Byron Katie chapter all week.
I already have some practical tips that should help me. If I'm trying to push my circadian rhythm toward a later bedtime for staying awake until midnight, I need to always wear sunglasses when I exercise outdoors in the morning with Cooper. Then I need to make a conscious effort to get some bright afternoon sunlight with no sunglasses. Bright-light exposure early in the day promotes an early-to-rise, early-to-decline cycle of the 24-hour clock. If you want to stay up later, bright-light exposure in the afternoon helps.
This was really interesting. There's a chemical called adenosine that builds up in your brain and creates sleep pressure, separate from your 24-hour circadian rhythm. The longer you've been awake, the more sleep pressure you begin to feel. Morning or midday naps are no problem for me because I'm awake for many more hours until bedtime and the pressure builds up again. I've noticed that if I take a nap in the early evening when I'm feeling sleepy, like dozing off on the couch in front of the TV, instead of the extra sleep helping (as I had imagined), it really messes up the quality of my overnight sleep. That's because you jettison all of the day's sleep pressure. There's not enough time to get it back before bed, so an hour or two later when it's time to go to sleep for real, you may not have enough sleep pressure to fall asleep quickly or stay asleep.
There was also a fascinating discussion of sleep paralysis and apes falling out of trees, which reminded me of how I get sleepy in my tall chair on wheels at work. LOL It's all good if I'm sleeping lightly, but if I go out hard enough to lose muscle tension, SPLAT!!