Have you heard the cliche, “If you snooze, you lose”? It’s not true in terms of keeping your brain healthy. I’m continuing to review John Medina’s book, Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Today we’ll talk about Brain Rule #3: “Sleep Well, Think Well.” START SOMEWHERE today to get more blissfully restorative sleep.
Medina opens the chapter with a story about Peter Tripp, a New York disk jockey, who decided to stay awake for 200 hours in 1959. He allowed medical professionals and scientists to observe him, including famed sleep researcher, William Dement. For the first 72 hours of wakefulness, everything seemed normal. But things quickly changed. Tripp became rude and began experiencing hallucinations. According to William Dement, mental impairment set in, including acute paranoid psychosis. Yikes!
During sleep, the brain is not resting at all. Actually, this amazing creation is incredibly active during “rest.” Miles of neurons send electrical commands, using a surprising amount of energy. Medina describes three types of sleepers, termed “chronotypes”, each with their own innate schedules:
- Larks: About 1 in 10 people like to rise early and find their most productive time to be in the morning. Larks cheerfully report a love for breakfast and generally do not need an alarm clock. (This is me!)
- Owls: At the other end of the spectrum, 1 in 10 people prefer to get things done late in the evening and are most alert around 6:00 p.m. Obviously, they need an alarm clock if they have to start their work day before noon. These are the biggest coffee drinkers.
- Hummingbirds: These are the other 80 percent, with some people being more larkish and others being more on the owl end of the spectrum.
Regardless of where you fall on the scale, researchers believe the patterns that govern our sleep and wake cycles are genetic. Almost everyone experiences a “nap zone” — that mid-afternoon period of sleepiness when you really need a catnap. Interestingly, more traffic accidents occur in this time frame than any other time of the day.
What can you do to sleep better and therefore keep your brain working optimally? Here are a few suggestions:
- Embrace the nap zone! Even a 30 minute nap will boost brain performance.
- If possible, set your work schedule to fit your “chronotype”. We start our workday at 7 a.m. To me, when it gets dark, it’s bedtime!
- Have an intentional sleep routine. Turn off all media at least 2 hours before you want to snooze. Keep your bedroom cool and dark.
- Read my previous blog posts for more sleep strategies (1, 2, 3).
LIVE YOUNGER by protecting your brain with blissfully restorative sleep. Let yourself spend about one third of your time in bed. You can do it. I will help you.