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Back to Bed
The importance of sleep.
Sleep is the nourishment of the body, and dreams are the nourishment of the soul.
Even a soul submerged in sleep is hard at work and helps make something of the world.
As I had tumbled into my teenage years, I was terrible at sleep—and I didn't much like it.
I did not care for how much time I would lose during the night hours, and by staying up later at night, I was sure to gain back the many hours that I had lost from my younger years of going to bed at 8 pm.
Regrettably, this mentality of 'losing' hours to sleep continued for longer than I now would've liked.
As is now apparent to me, sleep is non-negotiable. You need more than seven hours of sleep to retain cognitive performance, and even then, getting more than eight hours can be much more beneficial. What is more, is that you can never recover from the lack of sleep that you have previously lost... that is, you cannot sleep more on the weekends to make up for poor sleep on the weekdays… as is shown by a study, after ten days of just seven hours of sleep, the brain is as dysfunctional as it would be after going without sleep for twenty-four hours.
My recklessness caused me, as I now realize, years of not being fully present in the moment—and the sadness that may have followed. This happened because, as I was getting 5 or 6 hours of sleep each night, I entered a mental fog where I couldn't truly appreciate living life forwards.
The book Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker completely changed my perspective on sleep.
Sleep is important, Walker argues, primarily because we need sleep to be able to function... to be able to learn, to integrate our new learnings with past experiences, and principally build an interconnected model of how the world works. Sleep will help us refine motor movements and memory. As Walker says: "Not without putting too fine a point on it, if you don’t snooze, you lose."
Sleep is ‘neurological sanitation’ as Walker beautifully describes it.
In regard to learning and memory, sleep is important in the following areas:
When awake, one recepts new ideas, thoughts, and learnings throughout the day. As one goes into NREM (Non-Rapid-Eye-Movement) sleep, thoughts and learnings from the previously awake state, in the Hippocampus, are moved to a permanent memory location in the prefrontal cortex. When one then moves into REM sleep, these now-permanent memories are integrated with the already-present memories.
That is to say, sleep will help make your memory and mental models of the world permanent.
Consider taking a look at this graph. It certainly helped me change my attitude and to know when I function most optimally.
There is a chemical in your brain called Adenosine, which is a barometer—continuously counting the amount of time elapsed since you woke up this morning. This graph below shows the 'relation' between adenosine (S on the graph), and your Circadian Rhythm (C).
A high amount of adenosine triggers a large desire for sleep, as does a declining Circadian Rhythm. As you will notice, this is why sleep is most desirable in the evening hours. As you sleep, adenosine will gradually decline. If you get less than seven hours of sleep, however, the remaining adenosine is likely to cause a mind fog such as I had previously lived.
In the initial waking hours, when adenosine is low and Circadian Rhythm is peaking, you have the most energy during the day.
Caffeine in particular is interesting when looking at the chemical adenosine. What caffeine is doing, is blocking the receptors for adenosine. It is not lowering or halting the adenosine... it is merely blocking the gradual tired feeling—that is until it stops working. When it stops working, the adenosine will be higher than at the caffeine intake, causing a 'crash' in energy levels, because it is no longer blocking the feeling.
Truthfully, this book scared me a little.
All these years of not getting nearly enough sleep, it is a shame that I didn’t realize the consequences. What is important is that I took the time to read this book, and it has been life-changing. It has to be my favourite book of all time.
For once, I am no longer confused all the time. I stand on my own.
If you only read one book this year, heck, if only this decade, for the sake of your own mental health, let Why We Sleep be it.
"if you don’t sleep the very first night after learning,” Matthew Walker reminds us, “you lose the chance to consolidate those memories."
Until next time,