The sleep thing – Russell Foster on sleeping or not sleeping

Sleeping, like that’s an issue for anyone? Fine, those who can’t seem to fall asleep or get out of it might see it as a bit of a problem, but for the rest of humanity? Is sleep such a big deal, since we all do it and it seems to work quite well? Now, try to connect these dots to modern life, to situations and circumstances interfering with our daily rhythm of existing. If you live on eating a lot of sugary, carb-y crap, is that the same thing as eating for your body? Hm, let’s check those things out a bit.

We all know that getting enough sleep is important. We all also know what happens when that’s not the case, and what the consequences are a few days (and nights) after that. We also know that thing where you sleep a bit too much and wake up just like you’d probably wake up after drinking a bottle of your favorite alcohol.

It’s the don’t-touch-me-and-don’t-speak-with-me situation.

And think about it – how much fun are you yourself when you’re dead tired? How much of value are you able to add to any conversation when you haven’t slept well? How about productivity, effectiveness, efficiency?

Not. That. Much.

Russell Foster is a circadian neuroscientist. He studies the sleep cycles of the brain and he’s got plenty of intelligent things to say about all things sleep.

And yet, for most of us, we don’t give sleep a second thought. We throw it away. We really just don’t think about sleep. And so what I’d like to do today is change your views, change your ideas and your thoughts about sleep. And the journey that I want to take you on, we need to start by going back in time.

It’s that thing – not caring about sleep other than well, being that thing you’ve got to do at least once in a while.

What do we do in the 20th century about sleep? Well, of course, we use Thomas Edison’s light bulb to invade the night, and we occupied the dark, and in the process of this occupation, we’ve treated sleep as an illness, almost. We’ve treated it as an enemy. At most now, I suppose, we tolerate the need for sleep, and at worst perhaps many of us think of sleep as an illness that needs some sort of a cure. And our ignorance about sleep is really quite profound. Why is it? Why do we abandon sleep in our thoughts?

We think of sleep as that big, bad thing we have to do in order to be able to stay awake longer, after one round is done. Which is not only false logic but also plain stupid.

If you are a tired brain, the brain is craving things to wake it up. So drugs, stimulants. Caffeine represents the stimulant of choice across much of the Western world. Much of the day is fueled by caffeine, and if you’re a really naughty tired brain, nicotine. Of course, you’re fueling the waking state with these stimulants, and then, of course, it gets to 11 o’clock at night, and the brain says to itself, “Actually, I need to be asleep fairly shortly. What do we do about that when I’m feeling completely wired?” Well, of course, you then resort to alcohol.

The sleep thing – Russell Foster

Stimulants, those awesome little helpers to get even less sleep and prolong any possible productivity, learning, innovating and inventing.

Take sleep seriously. Our attitudes toward sleep are so very different from a pre-industrial age, when we were almost wrapped in a duvet. We used to understand intuitively the importance of sleep. And this isn’t some sort of crystal-waving nonsense. This is a pragmatic response to good health. If you have good sleep, it increases your concentration, attention, decision-making, creativity, social skills, health.

Folks, go get some good sleep and make sure it happens regularly. Also, while we’re at it, if you know a politician then let him/her know about these things as well. Who knows? If sleep’s that important, then maybe (most likely) there are a whole bunch of sleep-deprived public figures that could need a hand.

Go help them, but first – help yourself.

Do you sleep in a way which is good for you, or in a carbs-y, junkfoody kind of way?

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