Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sleep well, think well

We spend about one third of our life doing it.  That is roughly 56 hours a week, 240 hours a month and 2920 hours a year.  Kinda hard to believe when it is put that way, isn't it?  All that time doing nothing.  Or are we really doing nothing?

When we sleep, as you may know, our brains are very active.  Sleep is very essential to a healthy brain.  I know with my brain injury, I did not truly begin doing some serious healing until I started doing some serious sleeping. 

Over the first year, I would sleep a lot...until the afternoon oftentimes. I would get up and answer the phone when it rang.  "What you doing?" the caller would ask.  "Oh, you know, the usual," I would answer groggily probably not very convincingly.   Because the neurologist told my family to not let me sleep more than 10 hours a day, I felt like I had to hide it.  That was the first time I remember just doing what my body innately needed and not following the conventional medical recommendation.  Thank goodness.  Smart girl.  In my research, it has been shown that sleep and lots of it is absolutely necessary for recovering from a brain injury.  It is when the brain heals.

For all that time spent horizontal, I never really felt rested and was always sleepy because it was not deep, contiguous sleep for me.  I woke up several times throughout and could not go back to sleep.  I would get up and take a bath.  Some nights I know I took as many as 4 or 5 baths and my fingers got all wrinkly.  I found something about the water soothing, but all too often it did not help me to go back to sleep.  I would just lie in the bed, very clean mind you, half asleep and half awake for hours until I got bored and decided to take another bath.  Not fun.

I started doing some major healing when I started sleeping better shortly after beginning neurofeedback which is a therapy I still do where electrodes are attached to the head and the brainwaves are actually trained to perform within an optimal range like they are supposed to.  It has been the one therapy which has made a huge, dramatic difference for me.  More on that later.

OK.  So you don't have a brain injury, but did you know sleep can make a tremendous difference in your life?  Studies have shown that sleep enhances your immune system, your motor skills, your language processing, your memory, and much more, but most of all it greatly increases your ability to learn.  So whenever you pull an all nighter...or did...way back are really kind of shooting yourself in the foot, defeating the purpose. 

Rats deprived of sleep die within a matter of 2 to 3 weeks, and it is practically impossible to kill those little pests otherwise. You know you need your sleep. Total sleep deprivation in humans is fatal.   Lack of adequate rest will start showing very quickly as problems with executive function, mood, memory, attention, logic and even speech and coordination.  Coffee will not help.  Only sleep does.

I used to pride myself on being able to go without sleep, and it sure came in handy in the baby days, but not anymore.  I love my sleep now.  I consider it a treat when I can go to bed early.  I know.  I am getting old and boring.  I also often take several naps throughout the day if I feel the need to.  A NASA study showed that a 26 minute nap improved a pilot's performance by more than 35%.  Talk about a power nap.  Go ahead. Indulge.

The point is that you may not realize how important sleep is in your own life or how the lack of it can be manifesting itself everyday for you.  Inadequate sleep is highly correlated with many things that greatly impact quality of life from stress and anxiety to depression and more...studies even show that lack of sleep is linked to gaining weight.  OK, now there is some motivation for a lot of us.

Make an effort to get some more, good sleep for a couple of days and see if you don't feel better.  Then, make it a habit.  Treat yourself.  I am.  zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.......

No comments:

Post a Comment