At the beginning of each new year, I like to take stock of the previous year and think of new resolutions. Keeping it simple is key for me to put the resolution into place. This year I have decided to focus on only one item – getting sufficient sleep. I am most productive first thing in the morning. And, to set myself up to do my best work in the morning, I need to start with the night before and getting enough sleep. If I don’t get myself into bed the night before, my next day’s results and productivity predictably suffer.
English dramatist Thomas Dekker said, “Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” But, how many of us get the sleep that we really need? The National Sleep Foundation says that typical adults need 7-9 hours per night of sleep. I rarely got that amount of sleep earlier in my life – especially when my children were very young. I remember that for the first 2 years of my twin sons’ lives, I was in a constant state of sleep deprivation, rarely getting more than 5 hours per night. When someone is sleep deprived, there are brain impacts and body impacts. Some of the brain impacts are:
- Problem solving ability is lost.
- Creativity decreases.
- Reaction time slows.
- Memory and learning declines.
Basically, the brain malfunctions without enough sleep – it begins shutting down parts that are not necessary for survival. So, if we are in the middle of a difficult problem or challenging situation, the very abilities that we need to solve that problem are the first to go. Try thinking outside-of-the-box when you are sleep deprived!
The body impacts of insufficient sleep are also significant as Matthew Walker, Professor of Neuroscience and Psychology at UC Berkeley outlined in his book Why We Sleep. Some of these physiological impacts are:
- Decrease in immune system effectiveness.
- 70% reduction in anticancer-fighting immune cells after one night of only 4-5 hours of sleep.
- Increase in blood pressure as the cardio-vascular system can’t reboot.
- Increase in the beta-amyloid protein associated with Alzheimer’s development.
I used to think I could just ‘cheat sleep’ a little bit and ‘gut through’. After all, I was busy and had a lot to do. I used to believe that I could catch up later on my missed sleep without any impact. But, it only takes 16 hours of wakefulness before mental deterioration and/or physiological deterioration begins. Once 19-20 hours of being awake is reached, mental capacity is the same as someone who is legally drunk. Who was I kidding with cheating sleep? While I was doing activities, the quality was poor, and many times the work needed to be redone. This took additional time so there was less time available for sleep – a sleep cheating cycle.
All this evidence, and my own performance, is why my single resolution for 2018 is getting sufficient sleep. It is a critical component for me to have a mentally and physically healthy life. So, the next time I am really stuck on a problem’s solution, or feeling a cold coming on, or feel mentally fogged in – I am going to think about sleep and make sure that I am getting the right amount. It will help me feel better, think better, and function better!
As always, we welcome your thoughts and comments!