Sleep, Precious Sleep

Everyone sleeps. It is the foundation of just about everything else we do from a purely raw, human perspective.  Sleep and water.

We can go weeks without food. You can survive for years and years........and years..........without exercise. You can go quite a long time with no sun exposure. You get the idea. 

But, if you're so inclined, try going 24 or 48 hours without sleeping and see how well you think and perform. Some of you have probably done that studying for a test or you're a doctor and you know how much it stinks.

It doesn't take long to become a complete and total mess of a human being.
You can't concentrate. You can't focus. You become irritable. If you're driving a tractor, you run it into a Wendy's. If you're Christian Bale, you lose like 150 pounds.

Many people in my phase of life are dealing with sleep deprivation of the worst kind --- infants and toddlers. If you're not (and by "you're" I mean "she") getting up every 3-4 hours with a newborn, then you're dealing with sleepwalking or elbows in your face after your kids crawl into bed with you and feel like they need to establish some sort of huge geographical space with their tiny limbs.  

When I talk about sleep to my peers, I usually get the ole "well I'm not getting good sleep anyway, so what's the point in trying to make it better?" 

Well, I'll tell you. Once and for all... 

Not trying to get the best possible sleep you can possibly get when you get it, is like competing in a 12 mile open water swim and not doing EVERYTHING you can possibly do to make it EASIER.  Like doing something really tough and only making it TOUGHER on you.

Let me explain.

Let's go back to a time before technology. A time where children played with sticks and rocks and men wooed their women by hitting them with a club. We there? Good.  I wish.

In those days, the sun came up, people woke up. Good morning. It's like the most extreme form of your dad coming in the room when you're in high school and turning the lights on. Except instead of a 60 watt light bulb...it's the SUN.  Wake up.

You go about your day. Live life. Hit women with clubs. Play with sticks. The sun is high in the sky and the blue light wave is rampant. But after a while the sun starts to head to the horizon. 

What happens to the light in the sky when the sun goes down (barring a hurricane or other natural phenomenon which blots out the sun)? It turns red and orange...amber(ish) if you will. 

That is nature's way of telling humans that the sun is about to go bye-bye, so get whatever it is you're working on done because the lights are about to be turned OFF.  

This change in light tells the brain to start shutting down the "fully awake" system and start to rev up the "time to hit the sack" system.

Sleep is an amazing thing. That's where kids grow the most. It's where your body repairs and restores damaged cells. It's when insulin is supposed to be gone and you're supposed to be in a catabolic, fat-burning mode. It's literally like re-charging the batteries.  

But it doesn't just happen. You don't just get up to use the restroom and the next thing you know, you're asleep...well, I guess that happens to some people, but that's not ordinary. 

It's a process. And the start of that process is your brain determining that it's about to be night-time. And your brain does that  based on the light that enters into your eyeballs. 

So when there's lots of blue light whizzing by all around during the day, your brain is awake and alert (or it's SUPPOSED to be). 

And when the amber light starts to hit the brain...initiate the sleepy time process! Melatonin is released, other bodily functions are shut down. Full restorative sleep mode is about to begin. 

But then after the sun goes down and sleep is about to begin??  -- artificial blue light from TV, phone, computer, lights, etc...hits the brain and he says "oh wait! I was preparing for sleep mode. My apologies! It is obviously still awake time. I will shut down the sleep cycle process. Forgive me, sir." 

And we wonder why we can't go to sleep, and when we do (after four Ambien), we toss and turn and wake up to pee 10 times and in the morning we feel like garbage. So weird!

In an ideal world, the sun goes down, sleep cycle begins, sun disappears, sleep is deep and restorative, we wake up in the morning with the sun. In the summer we go to sleep later, in the winter we go to sleep earlier. It's all part of a perfect cycle. A process. 

But let's be real...unless you're living in Brady, Texas...that ain't gonna happen. 

So what do we do? How do we make that swim AS EASY AS POSSIBLE? 

Exhibits A and B: 

sleep.JPG

Ladies and gentlemen -- may I present???? 

Everyday, ordinary, sporting clay/shooting glasses? And the MindFold. Why? Because they block out the blue light and all light, respectively. 

I'm not going to get all scientific on you, but if you want better sleep, here's what you do: 

When the sun goes down -- IF you're going to watch TV or look at a computer -- put on the glasses. It will keep your brain from thinking it's daytime.

Then I would guess that all bedrooms out there have SOME light in them. A smoke detector light, baby monitor light, street light...ANY light will be enough to mess you up. 

I recently read a study where even a light as thin as a tiny laser had negative effects on sleep cycles if picked up by the brain. Your eyelids are permeable. That's why when you get Vidal Sassoon in your eyes you can run your CLOSED eyelids under the water and it will feel better.

With the mindfold, a nuclear explosion won't be noticed if you're wearing them. If that happens, other things are obviously going on making sleep cycles obsolete, but still... 

So back to the swimming thing and the argument that "hey, I haven't slept good in five years thanks to kids, so what's the point?"

The POINT is to get the most out of the sleep you DO get by mitigating the effects of natural, artificial light. 

Like jumping in the water for a 12 mile swim. That's tough. You know that. You KNOW that with kids or other issues in your life you're not going to get ideal sleep. So you're not going to tie your hands behind your back, right?

No. You'll put on paddles and fins and wear a snorkel to make a tough thing as easy as you possibly can.  

That's what the glasses and mindfold do...it makes a tough situation a little easier. And if you DON'T have kids waking up at all hours, then you're getting superior sleep (aka the sleep that humans are SUPPOSED to get in the FIRST place...imagine that.) 

Don't believe me? Try it out and see for yourself. Be an independent mind that experiments and researches and questions. Don't settle for an answer you THINK is true because you have a FEELING or so-and-so told you. 

Get the glasses at any sporting goods store or on Amazon. Get the mindfold at mindfold.com.  There are other things you can do - like getting to sleep not too far after sunset, not eating too close to bedtime, internal silence practices, etc... -- but these are two things you can do for that little extra boost.