Like all teenagers, I loved to sleep long hours. Once engaged in an active life, I almost came to regard sleep as a waste of time. It seemed that I had more important things to do. I got up early and stayed up late to lengthen the time I considered 'productive'. It is tempting to reduce our sleep hours, and the more we advance in life, the faster time seems to pass. I have since learned that this is a very bad habit that results in a loss of productivity rather than gain. A sleep deficit, according to neurologists, is the worst thing that can happen to our brains and our health. If we spend a third of our lives sleeping, it's for good reasons!
As written by Dr. John Medina in his bestseller Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, it's essential to think carefully about our sleep routine. Those who do not pay attention to the quality of their sleep are left with problems of stress, anxiety, and aggressiveness that can be very harmful.
In his book, Medina illustrates different experiments that show what happens when a person is not sleeping enough: cognitive abilities are affected in less than five days. The scientist also explains that sleeping too much is not necessarily better, as it reduces our agility. The good news is that we can easily endure the occasional short night of sleep if we catch up in the subsequent days. The average time needed is between 7.5 and 8.5 hours per night.
Regular Sleep Schedules:
A Key Factor for a healthy brain.
Most of the time, our brain never rests. Medina compares it to soldiers on a biological battlefield. The two armies of biochemical cells have opposing agendas. The first wants to keep us awake, the second wants us to sleep. After about 16 hours, the first lets the second army take charge: we fall asleep. This is not to say that our brain is inactive. On the contrary: it rests only 20% of the entire sleep period. What does it do during the other 80%? In future posts, I will address topics such as memory and learning to discuss where researchers in neurosciences and artificial intelligence are currently on these issues.
Despite recent scientific developments, the brain remains an organ which we still know very little about. We know enough, however, to adopt habits that encourage our brain capacity and well-being. Company management, government administrations, and schools should rethink their schedules to encourage a sufficient number of sleep hours. Some schools in the United States are experimenting with schedules that allow teens to get more sleep in the morning. Beginning at nine o'clock instead of eight o'clock can make a big difference in improving teenagers' ability to learn, but it also encourages quieter and more positive behaviors. NASA experiments, conducted with a flight crew, have shown that a nap of 26 minutes improves brain functions. ¨If you embrace the need to nap rather than pushing through", wrote Dr Medina, "your brain will work better afterwards.¨ The study showed that a 26-minute nap reduced a flight crew's lapses in awareness by 34 percent, compared to a control group who didn't nap. Other studies show that 30 minutes of sleep during the day, at the right time, helps to increase productivity.
Our organisational systems have to be rethought. Reading the book by John Medina, I could not help thinking of a friend, a very dedicated talented cardiologist in Paris who accumulated sleep loss for many years. Inappropriate systems affect the cognitive abilities of those who are subject to it. The Digital Revolution obliges us to rethink our organisational modes. I hope that we will not forget human basic needs. This way of thinking could also reduce violent behavior in family and society.
There are enough studies that prove that a student who has sufficient sleeps can go from failure to success in a very short time. Reading on the subject, I realize that ultimately it is often bad habits that produce insomnia and that we can pass these deficiencies from generation to generation. Moreover, a young man who has a sleep deficit may find himself, in less than a week, with a body equivalent to a 60 year old. Sleep loss has a direct impact on premature aging. In my previous article, I recommended two small steps to get started: sleeping a 7.5 hours per night and, if possible, going to bed before midnight.
Here is a summary of some additional tips from experts:
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away." is still quite relevant. Scientific studies have shown that apples have antioxidant qualities and effectiveness in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. "Thanks to two key components, pectin and polyphenols, apples can lower blood cholesterol levels and prevent the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol — the chemical process that turns it into artery-clogging plaque. Make sure you eat the peel, because apple skin has two to six times the antioxidant compounds as the flesh. Consuming apples has been shown to decrease the risk of lung, breast, liver, colon, and other cancers, as well as heart disease and asthma."
Apples have also been linked to brain benefits. In animal studies, eating apples has been shown to potentially decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and to decrease age-related mental decline. These benefits are thought to be because they boost the production of acetylcholine, a chemical that transmits messages between nerve cells. The quercetin in apples has been shown to protect brain cells from free radical damage.
Studies have shown that eating white-fleshed fruits and vegetables, such as apples and pears, could reduce stroke risk by as much as 52%. A Dutch study published in “Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association,” determined that each 25 gram per day increase in white fruits and vegetable consumption was linked with a 9 percent lower stroke risk. The average apple weighs 120 gram. ."Just an apple a day could reduce your risk of stroke to the degree in the study." wrote Debbie Hampton, on her blog, The Best Brain possible.
A creative mind needs a healthy brain. Let us know your habits to improve your sleep? What do you think about this topic? Do you understand at what point it can impact your creativity and productivity? When I teach creativity to PhD candidates, this part of the course is always successful. Let a comment and let me know if this article has motivated you to develop better habits.
NOW YOU SLEEP!
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