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  • Writer's pictureDavid Brady

Sleep Is It Overrated

Proper sleep is so important but some have a hard time with it given the modern distractions and the need to satisfy life’s demand. Sleep is the first thing to go when we run out of time. I can tell you from experience that not putting in the proper sleep can affect your cognitive ability significantly. I can remember spending a week while serving in the Air Force while deployed, I had little if any sleep. I felt fine for the first 24hrs and then watched as my decision-making ability diminished to the point I had a hard time deciding whether or not to put cream in my coffee. Lack of sleep and its effects are insidious and hard to recognize after you have endured them for long periods. Overtime you fall into a trap and learn to live with the effects of not enough sleep. You learn to deal with the slow, unproductive decision-making pattern and lethargy in your daily life. Some of the founded side effects are increased cortisol production, high blood pressure, slower motor skills, and diminished vision. Emotional control, discipline, inhibitions, and judgment are just a few psychological effects that lower with little to no sleep. Recent scientific studies have shown just how much the body needs sleep for proper brain function and recovery. The brain goes through a memory classification and filing prosses when we get deep sleep, much like computes when de-fragmentation happens to a hard drive to run more efficiently. Vagus nerve of the brain will not function properly which assists the body with motor and sensory fibers to stimulate the brain stem to the heart, lungs, and gut. It also branches out to touch and interact with the liver, spleen, gallbladder, ureter, female fertility organs, neck, ears, tongue, and kidneys. It powers up our involuntary nerve center—the parasympathetic nervous system—and controls unconscious body functions like our heart, which is tied to the following: food digestion, breathing, sweating, blood pressure regulation, glucose, bile secretion, testosterone, secretion of saliva, taste buds, tears production, fertility, and orgasms.

So how can we develop proper sleep habits? We are lucky to have technology at our disposal but it gets in the way of good ole fashion quality sleep. I will offer a few tips that have made it easier for me to get the “good” sleep that helps to restore me for the next day.

We are lucky to have technology at our disposal but it gets in the way of good ole fashion quality sleep.

The first thing I acknowledged is that it takes about an hour to get the body ready for productive, deep restorative sleep and alcohol will negatively affect my sleep. I start with an hour before my desired sleep time, turn off lights in the house. If there are lights you must use in this hour before bed, make sure they are absent of blue light. Blue light from computer screens, LED tv's and LED lighting is the same color light that wakes the brain, much like that of the morning sun. I understand this may be difficult to do, but other ways to help are to purchase blue light reduction glasses from places such as Amazon. These glasses reduce the amount of blue light that hits your eye by use of a light filter. The second thing I do is is make myself a cup of hot herbal decaffeinated tea. The tea acts as a trigger that tells my brain it’s time to get sleepy, sounds odd, but it really works! Some prefer to brush their teeth, meditate, or do some light stretching. Remember if you are stretching or doing some yoga try not to twist the spine as it serves to wake up your nervous system which makes it harder to fall asleep. I always turn my phone to night mode, or off so I don't get any texts, emails or calls. This allows my brain to fall into a more relaxed state. This may be impossible for those of you on call protecting the free world but generally, most can accomplish this. Finally, I put down all electronic devices and pick up a book to read, be mindful if you are using a device to read from that you have eliminated the blue light. This activity lasts about 30-45 min before I feel sleepy and want to climb in bed. Just think of all the reading you could get done in a year if you did this every day. Can you imagine how much more productive it would make you? Right before I climb into bed I do some breathing exercises that engage my parasympathetic nervous system and put me in a very relaxed state. That's my evening ritual and what helps me ensure I have the best opportunity at productive clean quality sleep. I recognize not every night will be perfect, but with a road map and when followed, allows me to find good deep sleep on consistent bases. It's not important what pattern or method works for you, what matters is that you are consistent.

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