Sweet Dreams, Sweet Success
Don’t you just love to sleep?! There’s hardly anything nicer than to wake up refreshed, rested, feeling good and ready for a great day.
We don’t usually think of sleep as a very “professional” quality. But you know what? The road to success is paved with faith, prayer, well-packed days, and yes… sleep! Sadly, with our busy schedules we often neglect to sleep enough. You’ll find, however, that it’s well worth putting forth some effort to protect your sleep and to nurture good sleep habits.
Learn how the time invested in sound sleep will be well worth it as you gain from “plusses” such as clearer thinking, happier moods, more energy, a keener sense for solving problems, better communication skills, etc. In this issue you’ll also find out about the affects of alcohol on your sleep and how to become an early riser!
Get Some Sleep!
Our lack of sleep deprives us of the capacity to excel. There was a time I chose to sleep only a few hours a night. Habits included late night reading, early morning email, and thirty years without a nap. I believed I could achieve higher productivity by simply sleeping less.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, almost 70% of us get fewer than eight hours sleep a night. Only one in ten say sleep is an important part of good health, and a full 40% blame watching TV or surfing the Web for not going to sleep before midnight.
But did you know that sleepless habits deprive us of our natural capacity to excel? Learning–and applying that knowledge–provides us with the only long-term competitive advantage in life. And optimal learning requires sleep.
If you need a justification to head for bed rather than staying up late again, I offer you the following learning angle:
Think about tomorrow
The thinking part of your brain (the cerebral cortex of the frontal lobe) is the first area to falter when you lose more than a few hours of sleep. That part of your brain is responsible for your most important mental assets: focus, flexibility, innovation, decision-making, and putting things in perspective. Perhaps you justify lacking these skills at 1:00 a.m., but what about the next day? New approaches to sleep research show that sleepy people tend to use a smaller vocabulary, with more clichs, and have more trouble finding creative ways to solve complex problems. You’re sleepy and dopey, too.
Deliberate over a seemingly unsolvable problem and you eventually feel worn out. Surrender to sleep instead and you might find fresh insight and solutions when you wake up. Long-term research shows that while you sleep your brain strengthens relevant associations and weakens irrelevant links. Forget something important? Sleep can help you restore the memory. When you sleep your body relaxes in a way it doesn’t at any other time, making connections you literally can’t attend to otherwise. By letting your thoughts stir around in your subconscious you incubate new ideas and bring together ideas that haven’t congealed before.
REM sleep helps your brain consolidate the activities, skills, and memories picked up during the day. It also helps you sort through your experiences and their details in context so you can use them again someday. In sequential memory tests, volunteers were shown pictures of two sets of unfamiliar faces, separated by a distracting task. Faces were presented again, but this time in a jumbled order and with a third set of totally new faces. Both the control (those who had slept normally) and the group who had lost the equivalent of one night’s sleep could easily recognize a face seen before. The latter group, however, found it hard to decide when they’d seen a face. In addition, when asked how sure they were of their answers, the tired people were much more likely to say “100% certain” as they offered responses that were wrong.
Sleepy people repeatedly have trouble conveying ideas and finding the right words. When I often traveled *red-eye, I made my way through airports without incident but only if I didn’t need to answer more than the most basic questions (e.g., “Did you pack your own luggage?”) en route. When you can’t hold a simple exchange, are you likely to engage in a meaningful conversation? One experiment asks people who haven’t had enough sleep for ten words beginning with a single letter. They tend to deliver similar meaning words such as none, not, nil … in between loooonnnnng pauses. They also produce more monotone speech which makes them sound like a bore. (*A red-eye flight is an over-night flight.)
Sleep helps you adjust to unforeseen changes while sleeplessness impairs your ability to make flexible decisions. Researchers learned this when they adapted a computer game where players marketed a product for a virtual company. The game increased in complexity as it introduced unpredictable events. After less sleep loss than the amount lost by high-tech employees releasing a new product, player performance was marred by rigid thinking and an inability to fine-tune plans when new information became available. It was their approach to solve problems, however, that created the wildest errors. Even with new and relevant information, the sleep-deprived wouldn’t change their strategy and usually latched on to an earlier approach.
Give your legs a break
Sleep provides your body rest. With work, family, networking, community, pets, sports, and catching up on what you missed yesterday, your body gets tired too. While you sleep, the chemical and electrical connections that keep you going reset themselves so you can embark again tomorrow. Weary muscles prove distracting to everything (including learning), and they can prevent you from focusing on what matters most. A tired body is also more likely to affect your immune system, your heart, and lead to other health problems that ultimately mess up your well-manicured plans.
But, but, but….
Some of you are doubtful, or maybe you’re too tired to make the connection between your life and those of people who regularly don’t sleep enough. Perhaps you even know a medical resident who saves lives while working a 36-hour shift. Surgery rotations are not only being reexamined as a troublesome educational model, but they were initially designed so that young doctors could gain the skill of working while stressed, not because the doctors were sharper that way. Did you know that studies of medical residents regularly find they perform at least as badly when sleep deprived as when they are moderately drunk?
Masking physical sleepiness with a cup of coffee, a can of cola, or a Red-Bull will not remedy an over-stimulated brain or reenergize a physically tired physique. That requires sleep.
Maintaining Your Temple
Jesus: Rest is important for both the body and the spirit. The spirit cannot rest properly when the body is operating at a go, go, go pace. Nor can the spirit be easily replenished when the body is so exhausted and spent that all it can do is sleep. Spiritual and physical rest are not exactly one and the same, but they are both necessary, and they affect each other. When you are weary and tired, it is usually a bit of both the body and spirit being drained. It usually isn’t enough to just sleep for hours or days, and neither is it enough to spend hours or days reading the Word and hearing from Me. You need both.
Your physical state often has a very large bearing on how you perform in a spiritual battle. When you are tired, run-down, haven’t gotten enough sleep, or are in poor health, you can still fight and win a spiritual battle-but it’s harder on you, both physically and spiritually. The reason that I encourage you to care for yourself physically is mainly for your sake, because I want to make things easier for you.
It’s part of your job to maintain your temple and to do the things that will actually prolong and lengthen the time that you’re able to serve Me as healthy, happy humans. If you don’t eat right, exercise right, take care to manage stress, make sure you’re sleeping enough, and not taking unnecessary risks, then you could actually be working against My plan by potentially robbing Me of one of My very precious “dimension-bridgers,” as I could call you. You live in the physical but are working for spiritual goals and realities.
Alcohol and Sleep
Alcohol does help you fall asleep, but over the course of a few hours it will prompt you to wake up, rendering its short-term sleep benefits useless. After alcohol has metabolized into sugar, even with moderate consumption, the body reacts poorly as glucose levels rise and hydration decreases in the body. The result is wakefulness, often affecting the entire second half of the optimum eight-hour sleep cycle.
Eight hours of sleep is the preferred “average” length of a proper night’s sleep because of the benefits it provides to the human body. When the body is at rest, its light and deep sleep cycles are nourishing the mind and replenishing the body. Alcohol creates an imbalance that depletes vital systems and accelerates the body’s metabolism when it should be at rest.
Those who begin their nightly sleep cycle under the influence of alcohol often find themselves awake two to five hours into slumber.
Many people who have trouble falling asleep appreciate alcohol’s assistance in helping them drift off. But that initial gratification has some unhealthy outcomes. You awaken feeling worse than when you went to sleep, and are mentally and physically deficient throughout the following day.
To manage your alcohol intake to get the best sleep possible:
Moderate alcohol consumption and hydrate properly (drink one glass of water for every alcoholic drink, and limit consumption to no more than one drink per hour). (Editor: And abide by the Word and Charter guidelines.)
Stop drinking at least one hour before bedtime.
Take an inventory of your sleep habits to identify how alcohol may be exacerbating existing problems with your sleep quality.
How to Become an Early Riser
If you’d like to become an early riser but are having a difficult time convincing your body to cooperate, try this 10-step program:
Step 1: To get up early, you have to get to sleep early.
Step 2: Sleep in the dark. The less light, the more melatonin* your body naturally produces. So block out as much light as possible in your bedroom. Use blackout curtains or shades, and open them as soon as the alarm goes off.
* Melatonin is a hormone made by a part of the brain called the pineal gland. It helps regulate the body’s sleep/wake cycle.
Step 3: Get plenty of fresh air. Fresh air is good for sleeping and for wakefulness. If you sleep with the windows closed, get outside and breathe in some fresh air first thing in the morning.
Step 4: Don’t eat before you sleep. Your last meal or snack should be about three hours before you go to sleep. You’ll sleep sounder and feel much better in the morning.
Step 5: Don’t use the snooze button. According to the Sleep Disorders Center in Philadelphia, you will have a much easier time getting up when the alarm first rings, rather than waking up, falling asleep again, and then waking up a second time.
Step 6: Brighten up your walls. Some studies have indicated that vibrant colors help activate the energy cells, so paint your bedroom a bright, cheery color to wake up to.
Step 7: Stretch. Five to 15 minutes of stretching in the sunlight will do wonders to get rid of any stiffness that may have settled in overnight.
Step 8: Exercise. Supplement the stretching with exercise.
Step 9: Start the day with a smile. Before you even wash your face, do a set of 25 smile repetitions. Just stand in front of the mirror and smile as brightly as you can…25 times. The physical act of smiling produces endorphins that will give you energy and drive.
Step 10: Wake up just one minute earlier every day. It wasn’t until I hit my 30s that I came to understand the value of waking up early. I was bringing home the bacon, as they say, but rising at 8:30 every morning left me no time to accomplish other goals. So I started setting my alarm for one minute earlier every day. Soon I was up at 8:00… then 7:30… then 6:30… and, eventually, at one point in my career, 5:30. Rising early has given me the time to get in great physical shape, spend more time with my family, and more. Become an early riser yourself, and there’s no telling what you can accomplish.