We’ve all heard it a billion times: “Sleep is so important”! And hence, we try our best to prioritize going to bed earlier, so we can wake up feeling refreshed. Not to mention: who doesn’t love that weird yet awesome sense of accomplishment when you get up feeling energized and totally ready to take on the day ahead!
But of course - life sometimes gets in the way. There’s that project, that party, or that binge-worthy Netflix show. Sleep takes a backseat. “We’ll catch up later in the week - or on the weekend,” we think to ourselves.
Or for some (or several) of us, even if we prioritize doing all the right things: setting boundaries on our never-ending to-do list, and getting ourselves in bed at a decent time - regardless of life’s circumstances, it’s still a challenge. We lay in bed feeling tired & wired. And even when we do fall asleep, we wake up only a few hours later. Feeling frustrated, irritated or worse - that depressing sense of hopelessness.
For myself, I’ve found it interestingly helpful to understand more about the deeper context behind WHY sleep is so important.
Once that’s better understood, it’s generally:
Easier to prioritize and be motivated to make time for.
Simpler to “do it right”.
We’ll dive into all the recommended sleep hacks & healthy sleep hygiene rituals in another post. Here, I solely want to share with you the core essence behind sleep, and what it’s truly doing for you (not to you!).
“Sleep is critical for waking cognition—that is, for the ability to think clearly, to be vigilant and alert, and sustain attention. We also know that memories are consolidated during sleep, and that sleep serves a key role in emotional regulation.” Says David F. Dinges, PhD (1).
Dr. Dinges also notes that “we tend to become much more sensitive emotionally and socially when we are sleep-deprived” (ibid). In other words, yes - you are a “better” (or at least kinder, more understanding and naturally accommodating) person when you are getting quality sleep.
On the other hand, chronic insufficient sleep is associated with an increased risk of mortality and contributes to both the individual risk and societal burden associated with several medical epidemics, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. (2)
Perhaps the most compelling perspective (& scientifically proven information) comes from the research for how sleep essentially “detoxifies” the brain. (3)
Researchers think cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) may flush toxic waste out, “cleaning” the brain and studies have shown that garbage clearance is hugely improved during sleep (ibid).
While the brain sleeps, it clears out harmful toxins, a process that may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's, researchers say. (4)
During sleep, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain increases dramatically, washing away harmful waste proteins that build up between brain cells during waking hours (ibid).
In today’s arguably “health-obsessed” culture - fixated on “cleansing”, “detoxing”, eating “clean”, living “clean”, etc. etc. - if we look at how our body’s work (& most specifically, our brains), the best “detox” we can subscribe to is really just a good, uninterrupted quality night’s sleep.
Best of all - it’s free, widely accessible, and (for the most part) socially-acceptable across all walks of life.
When we start to see sleep as medicine, as purification, as a practical and efficient way to “renew” ourselves from the inside out - sleep becomes something we not only prioritize, but also treasure, appreciate, and feel gratitude for. These are the first steps (& feelings) in making sleep “work” for you.