Most of us don’t really think about sleep much, and that is really unfortunate. The lack of intention when it comes to sleep is costing us more than we realize and it is one of the simplest things we can fix with just a small amount of effort.
First, let’s define what sleep is if we can. Sleep isn’t completely understood even today. For all the “regular” people like you and I, it is just something we accept as a necessity. We can’t even look to the simple definition of sleep to begin understanding how important it is to every system in our body and brain.
Here is the definition from dictionary.com:
Clear as mud right?
There is one important point that you might have missed in the definition; sleep is NATURAL. It’s part of our normal function and a necessity to remain alive.
Unfortunately, we don’t pay much mind to how important it is. We have made it a “badge of honor” to talk about how little sleep we can function on instead of priming ourselves for peak performance by treating it as a critical part of how well we can perform.
Here are some reasons to consider changing your outlook on sleep and make it a real priority.
- Weight Loss - Yep… you read that right! Great sleep boosts your metabolism and balances your hormones. In fact, much of the recent research on sleep is showing that it may be more important than diet and exercise.
- It will help you keep your eating on track - Ever wonder why you crave late night snacks? Simple, biology is to blame.
When we are sleep deprived the glucose levels drop in our brains and your pre-historic wiring realizes that it needs an energy spike to stay alert so we don’t get attacked and eaten by a predator. So our willpower goes out the window and we head to the fridge for a sugary hit with some ice cream! BOOM! The glucose hit temporarily gives the brain a rush of energy and our “lizard brain” is satisfied that we are alert.
Warning: Our brain is programmed to help us make poor decisions when it is tired!
- You are dumber when you don’t sleep well - Fact #1: Researchers have shown that after just 24 hours of poor sleep there is a 6% reduction in glucose reaching the brain. Less fuel for the brain means less optimal function. Fact #2: A study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that poor sleep quality was just as bad as binge drinking or marijuana use when it came to academic performance.
Making sleep sacrifices to accommodate our busy lives is common. But when you look at it through the lens of its effect on our brain, most of us wouldn’t go on a drinking binge and then brag about it to our co-workers. Yet we often “brag” about losing sleep to go out, catch a show or watch a popular show on TV.
- Alzheimer's & Dementia - Your brain cleans itself at night while you sleep. Research is now showing links between the build-up of these waste products and the onset of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. So, if you aren’t sleeping well you may be hastening the onset of these terrible conditions.
Here is the short description of what happens when you sleep. Your brain actually shrinks in size during the various stages of sleep to make room for fluid to move into the cavity and “wash” away all the various toxins, dead cells, and waste products our brain creates during the say when it is at full function.
Imagine how different your laundry would be if the washing machine couldn’t fill with enough water to wash the clothes. It would become pretty yucky FAST!
The Moral Of The Story
Science is finally figuring out that sleep isn’t just some useless process that forces us to take a break. It is necessary and important in allowing us to be awesome every day! We should treat it like that!
I know that there are many challenges that we all deal with that can make this a difficult thing to get control of. Odd schedules, daily demands and aging all have serious impacts on how, when and the quality of our sleep so I am going to do a few articles on some of the tests I have done with my own sleep and report on what has helped. Stay Tuned! -Bruce