black woman asleep

Just sharing this video I watched it earlier in the year and it prompted me to ensure that I started going to bed at a reasonable time. I was disciplined, setting my phone for the ‘getting ready for bedtime’, eating dinner earlier and on time. However over the past few weeks, that has slipped and I have been going to bed later and later, so I thought I’d watch this TED talk again to remind me about the importance of sleep. It is interesting, because I know all of this information. In my job I spend time telling my patients and parents about the importance of sleep. I prescribe medication for my patients for whom sleep is a huge challenge. I sympathise and empathise with parents who are sleep-deprived. Yet, I, who has better opportunities to get a regular night’s sleep, seem to bypass this to my own detriment. There are some days when I am running on a sleep deficit, not many but the difference in my mood and concentration is immediately noticeable.

Professor Matthew Walker is professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, in this talk he presents some interesting evidence on the importance of sleep, which made me sit up and take notice. It almost made me feel that not prioritising sleep, when I am in a position to do so, was a form of self-neglect, poor self-care. In my post a few days ago, I was very clear about the things that I/we can do even when the circumstances are challenging. Things that are within our gift.

I love this talk, I listened to it about three times when I first discovered it. I also really loved the use of his words and analogies. The transcript is available with the video, online, so I have just cut and pasted below the words that had a significant impact for me.

Let me start with the brain and the functions of learning and memory, because what we’ve discovered over the past 10 or so years is that you need sleep after learning to essentially hit the save button on those new memories so that you don’t forget.

But recently, we discovered that you also need sleep before learning to actually prepare your brain, almost like a dry sponge ready to initially soak up new information.

And without sleep, the memory circuits of the brain essentially become waterlogged, as it were, and you can’t absorb new memories.

The link between a lack of sleep and cancer is now so strong that the World Health Organization has classified any form of nighttime shift work as a probable carcinogen, because of a disruption of your sleep-wake rhythms.

There is simply no aspect of your wellness that can retreat at the sign of sleep deprivation and get away unscathed. It’s rather like a broken water pipe in your home.

I have two pieces of advice for you. The first is regularity. Go to bed at the same time, wake up at the same time, no matter whether it’s the weekday or the weekend. Regularity is king, and it will anchor your sleep and improve the quantity and the quality of that sleep.The second is keep it cool. Your body needs to drop its core temperature by about two to three degrees Fahrenheit to initiate sleep and then to stay asleep, and it’s the reason you will always find it easier to fall asleep in a room that’s too cold than too hot. So aim for a bedroom temperature of around 65 degrees, or about 18 degrees Celsius. That’s going to be optimal for the sleep of most people.

Sleep, unfortunately, is not an optional lifestyle luxury. Sleep is a nonnegotiable biological necessity. It is your life-support system, and it is Mother Nature’s best effort yet at immortality.

I believe it is now time for us to reclaim our right to a full night of sleep, and without embarrassment or that unfortunate stigma of laziness. And in doing so, we can be reunited with the most powerful elixir of life, the Swiss Army knife of health, as it were.

It almost feels terrifying but there are solutions and knowledge is power. The Public Health England has website (Every Mind Matters) that covers sleep problems and possible sleep solutions. It’s work taking a nosey around if you have time.

Well. I’ll finish with – good night!

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