Life | 6 Min Read

#4 - Sleep is our friend, not our enemy...

Sleep is something we all need to do but some give it a higher priority than others. In this edition, I discuss why sleep is our friend, not our enemy.

Hey Friends 👋

I hope you're doing well and the last week has been a happy and productive one for you?

This week I've been reading my way through a new book called "Why We Sleep" by Matthew Walker. It talks about and gives the science behind why as humans we sleep and why it's so important we don't short change ourselves when it comes to getting our recommended amount of sleep.

I don't want to spoil the book for you as it's a great read. But, in today's newsletter, I wanted to cover off a few points from the book and why it's been a bit of a revelation for me.

Physical and Mental Health Implications

Let's start with the elephant in the room, how having less sleep than what we need can directly lead to both mental and physical health implications:

It may not be a coincidence that countries where sleep time has declined most dramatically over the past century, such as the US, the UK, Japan, and South Korea, and several in western Europe, are also those suffering the greatest increase in rates of the aforementioned physical diseases and mental disorders.

The diseases and disorders he is talking about are cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and congestive heart failure.

In short, not nice things and things we can easily avoid by just getting more sleep.

In our busy lives, we all lead, pushing towards new goals and targets, trying to improve our current situation by whatever means we deem necessary, the first thing we through out the window isn't our work or social commitments but instead our sleep.

Is this because we've been trained over the years to think of sleep as something we must do but don't gain from? For me at least, I was never sure why we needed it. What the benefits were? Or, why should we get the recommended 8 hours?

Now, the physical and mental health implications have been outlined to me as a product of shortchanging sleep, I'm going to be a lot more conscious about getting my 8 hours.

As a side note to this, I have noted that when I get my recommended hours of sleep, I'm more focused and motivated to work, I procrastinate less and I overall feel better in myself.

In short, shortchanging sleep to try to be productive and work an extra few hours maybe be one of the contradictive things we can do.

Or, as the book puts it:

...the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life span. The old maxim “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is therefore unfortunate.

Being a night owl isn't a choice

An interesting revelation for me so far in this book is that people who are categorised as night owls or people who prefer to stay up into the early hours and then sleep into the late morning / early afternoon are that way because of genetics, not a choice. Or, to quote the book:

However, night owls are not owls by choice. They are bound to a delayed schedule by unavoidable DNA hardwiring. It is not their conscious fault, but rather their genetic fate.

There is a fair amount of science behind this, it's to do with our circadian rhythms and the production of certain chemicals/hormones in our brain that influence when we feel tired and when we wake.

But, an interesting point that the book raises is that people who are night owls by nature are being dealt a negative hand by society.

First of all, you have the opposite of night owls, morning larks who often chastise night owls for being lazy or implying that they sleep in more by choice which isn't the case.

And then, you have society itself. While it is slowly changing now, for the longest part of history, workplaces have started early in the morning and finished in the afternoon, this impacts night owls massively because if they can't go to sleep until the early hours of the morning and then have to get up early for work they are running short on sleep having a knock-on impact into how they work, their performance and more.

So, it's not a stretch to say that morning larks are more likely to get recognised and progress at work purely because they have a genetic difference that favours them.

The answer to this is the adoption of flexible working schedules which thankfully is happening.

Caffeine isn't the solution, it is a plaster over a crack

I love coffee and caffeine as much as the next person, it performs miracles frankly and we can probably attribute a lot of the worlds greatest inventions and discoveries to it.

But, unfortunately as a society, we have developed a bit of a dependency on it.

We're sleeping less with the aforementioned work and social commitments taking over our lives, so we plaster over the crack with our morning cup of joe.

The book sums this it perfectly and frankly, has made me reflect on my coffee consumption already:

First, after waking up in the morning, could you fall back asleep at ten or eleven a.m.? If the answer is “yes,” you are likely not getting sufficient sleep quantity and/or quality. Second, can you function optimally without caffeine before noon? If the answer is “no,” then you are most likely self-medicating your state of chronic sleep deprivation.

Just reflect on that phrase self-medicating your state of chronic sleep deprivation. It highlights our dependency on caffeine in broad daylight and personally, it's motivated me to try to reduce my consumption and increase my sleep. Caffeine can't make up for a lack of sleep, it only hides it and it can only do that temporarily.

Eventually, our brain and body will come knocking for the sleep debt we owe it.

What I've Been Doing

This week has been a bit more relaxed on the content front, less focused on producing content. Instead, I've been planning and generating ideas for how I want to progress everything I'm working on.

After all, it's not all about doing the work. From time to time we need to take a step back and re-evaluate our course to ensure we are working towards and working on the things we want.

Saying this, this week I did do one livestream starting the redesign of my new website hosted on Ghost. I'm also creating a custom theme to use on the website which is what the livestreams are about.

Also, I've been reading more than usual but not as much as I'd like, unfortunately.

Tip Of The Week

It's okay to compare to others but be careful doing it. We're all different, working towards different goals with different lives going on so be careful what you compare. Use comparison to better yourself, not to beat someone else.

Quote Of The Week

This week, it's a quote of a quote from Matthew Walker's Why We Sleep:

Charlotte Brontë’s prophetic wisdom that “a ruffled mind makes a restless pillow,”

What I've Enjoyed

Here is my favourite content from the past week, mostly podcasts but also the book I've quoted a lot above.

Book: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Podcast: The Knowledge Project - #121 Walter Isaacson

Podcast: Today, Expalined - "I quit!"

This Week's Content

Below is a link to all of the content from this week:

YouTube Livestream Playlist

Twitter Threads

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