Sleep? Who Needs Sleep?

 

Sleep is essential for so many things!
Sleep is essential for so many things

After 3 nights in a row without proper sleep, I am beginning to wonder how I am going to function if this continues.

Not sure why my brain doesn’t seem to want to go to sleep, perhaps it is part of my abuse recovery… I am on what I am calling my “emotional fitness journey” especially intensive over the last month.  It has been a challenging path to take and honestly, some days, I feel like quitting the journey and just going back to my “tough” self that never had any problems.

Sleep is one of those things that is important for brain function and we don’t realize just how much.   Yesterday, at clinic, by half way through the shift, my thinking felt slowed, cloudy, eyes were burning, ears were ringing and felt some serious fatigue.  Ate a few mint chocolate squares to liven me up, which seemed to work for a few minutes, then subsequently I felt worse instead of better.  Challenging to get through the last part of the shift this way!

I did some research on sleep recently and founds some interesting facts about what the brain does while we are sleeping!  There were 5 that I found most interesting!

Firstly, while we are sleeping, our brain helps to process complex data, to aid with decision making when we are awake!  Its amazing how much our brain processes while unconscious!

Secondly, While we are sleeping, the brain creates and consolidates memories.  For this reason, sleep is VERY important for learning and retaining information.  Also, having good sleep PRIOR to learning, prepares the brain better for initial formation of memory.  Hmm, maybe pulling those all-nighters to study for exams and write papers were not such a good idea!

Thirdly, sleep helps to boost our ability to have creative connections.  In an unconcious state, the mind can make surprising creative connections that it won’t make while awake!  Have you ever waken up in the morning after a good sleep with new “aha” moments?

Fourthly, a very important function of sleep is for the brain to do a little housekeeping.  This process allows the brain to flush out toxic materials that build up while we are awake!  Apparently, without enough sleep, these toxins can build up and lead to cognitive diseases.

Fifth, while sleeping, our brain learns and remembers the process of how to perform physical tasks.  These things could include dance moves, new golf swing techniques, running form, etc.  During REM sleep, our body transfers these to a longer term memory area, so that they become more permanent in our minds.

Given the significant processes that occur during sleep, its no wonder my brain didn’t want to work properly after no sleep.  I have learned that no amount of caffeine, chocolate or sugar in the day will fix that!  In fact, having these substances, can affect the quality of your sleep the upcoming night again!

With all of the research, and looking at just how important sleep is, I have come up with 5 ways to improve my sleep:

  1.  Minimize caffeine intake (chocolate, coffee, iced tea, other drinks and more).  Caffeine can take up to 18 hours to completely clear from the body, so even the morning coffee can interfere with sleep quality!  (this issue can get worse at we get older too!)
  2. Avoid bright screens/computer for at least an hour prior to sleep.  Bright light can interfere with our natural melatonin and sleep cycles!  Also, what we are reading on those screens may be too stimulating instead of relaxing!
  3. Meditate or think deeply about things that are stressing me or bothering me prior to going to bed and write them down on a piece of paper beside the bed and give myself permission “not to worry about them until tomorrow”.
  4. Exercise and eat healthy (at least 85% clean) every day.
  5. Have no screens or TV in bedroom.  Bedroom to be used ONLY for sleep.

What other suggestions do you have for me about how to improve sleep?  Have you had issues sleeping and found a solution that works for you?  Please share your suggestions in the comment box below!

 

 

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