A new study published by the American Academy for the Advancement of Science shows how REM sleep functions to lock in our daily memories. It’s a groundbreaking discovery on how a good night’s sleep is essential to proper maintenance of our minds and bodies.
This changes everything, right? Now that we have evidence that a lack of proper sleep can actually rob us of our memory, we’re all going to make some changes, right?
Nah. Probably not.
Because no matter how often we hear about the healing, restorative, healthy benefits of sleep, nobody ever seems to change their attitude towards it.
This gets to me, because I’m passionate about sleep. Seriously.
Okay, maybe it’s a bit of an odd passion, but sleep really matters to me, and not just on a personal level.
I feel like it’s so vital to our well-being, and everywhere I go, I see people who I’m sure could benefit so much from changing their sleep habits that I just want to tap them on the shoulder and say, “Sorry to butt in, but have you tried turning the TV off an hour before bedtime?”
I don’t, of course, because that would be rude, presumptuous, and probably a little creepy, but it takes some effort to resist, and let me tell you why.
I love to sleep. I love getting ready for bed, putting on my clean, comfy PJs, washing my face and putting a glass of ice water on the nightstand. Climbing into a freshly made bed, c’mon. Who doesn’t love that feeling? I love that sensation when my brain starts to have those weird, off-the-wall thoughts as I’m slipping into a dream, and more than all of that, I absolutely adore those first few minutes after I wake up from a solid eight-hour snooze, and my kids climb into bed with me for some morning cuddle time. (Which is happening less and less as they approach their tween years. I’m telling you, cherish those morning snuggles while you can.)
My energy and attitude towards life in general are also hugely affected by my sleep, as I’m sure is the case for almost everyone. When I’m properly rested, everything just seems so easy. Even things I don’t particularly want to do seem like they might potentially provide at least a little enjoyment.
If someone told me I could get those kinds of benefits from a pill, a new exercise routine, or the latest superfood, I’d be on it like tie-dye on a hippie, and I’d be driving everyone I know crazy with my endless blathering about how they had to give it a try. Don’t act like you wouldn’t do the same thing.
But if you hear someone in line at Starbucks saying, “I’m just exhausted these days. I need like three cups of coffee in the morning before I can even function,” and you tell them, “I’ve got just the thing! Have you tried the Getting Eight Hours of Sleep a Night routine? It saved my life!” they’ll assume you’re just being a sarcastic jerk. “Sleep? That’s your answer to my low energy level? Wow. Thanks, doctor.”
How frustrating it is to see everyone around you running on empty all the time, and you know that they know that they could fix the problem anytime they want, but they choose not to.
In my opinion, it’s because we, and I mean North Americans in particular, see sleep as a luxury. We’re too busy to waste eight hours every night just lying in bed, sleeping. Hardcore go-getters don’t have time for sleep. They’ve got to get out there and take on that world! “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” You will indeed, and you’ll have less time to wait if you don’t give your system its nightly chance to recuperate.
We don’t knock other things that are beneficial to our health this way. Nobody ever gets chastised for extensive workouts or meditation sessions. We’ll rush across town on our lunch hour to make our yoga class, but climbing into bed on time is up for consideration if there’s a load of laundry that needs doing.
I know I’m not the only one in this situation. Doctors must go crazy when they see people smoking. Physical therapists probably have to restrain themselves whenever they see people lifting with their backs. IT specialists undoubtedly want to slap the hands of anyone who accepts an unsolicited offer to add a new toolbar to their web browser. It comes from our natural instinct to keep others from doing things they’ll regret.
I had a friend back in college who used to drive me crazy with her endless griping about her finances, apparently forgetting that she would routinely drop hundreds of dollars of periodic shopping sprees, buying things she didn’t need and, quite often, didn’t even use.
I get the same feeling when I hear people complaining about how tired they are, followed by how late they got to bed because they were binge watching House of Cards. They know what the problem is, they can easily remedy it, but they choose not to and then try to fix the problem with caffeine, guarana, or whatever new “energy source” snake oil happens to catch their eye.
I know I’ll never be able to change everyone’s priorities to the point where sleeping eight hours a night is the cultural norm, but I’m going to keep trying. Every person who reads a post like this and thinks to themselves, “That makes sense. I’m going to start getting serious about my sleeping habits,” is a victory in my books.
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