“To die, to sleep, perchance to dream…” Shakespeare
I love sleeping, it is my favorite activity. It’s to the point that I have become almost a sleep hoarder. How can you hoard something that is not a material object? Oh, it’s possible. I have very strict rules about when I go to sleep (9 o’clock. on. the. dot.), my rituals before I go to sleep, and a minimum requirement for the ability to do anything productive the next day. Yes, I have had trouble sleeping, and yes…I called into work because I felt it was a bigger risk caring for my patient, as a nurse with sleep deprivation, than someone that had a good night’s sleep. Which reminds me, when you schedule surgery, try to get something mid-morning. The people have “warmed up” and woke up, but aren’t exhausted yet!
When I was a new graduate, I worked night shift for five years, which I think started me onto a path of sleep hoarding. Never again would I subject myself to the torture of stumbling around in a fog for years, never really feeling like I was awake, or living my life. Sleep is so important, that people who suffer sleep deprivation will die. Many studies have been done on this subject, but sleep deprivation highlights include:
- Increased weight due to poor regulation of hunger/fullness hormones and release of insulin
- Increased risk of respiratory diseases
- Poor healing and rebuilding of heart vessels, causing inflammation, blood pressure, and overall cardiovascular disease
- Increased risk of chronic illness from poor support of the immune system
- Poor execution of cognitive and motor tasks (increased risk of accidents), and of course, mood problems!
Now, I’m pretty sure you all know some of this at this point in your life, but kids don’t, and the amount of sleep humans need slowly lowers until you are elderly. From the time you are born, and need up to 18 hours a day, to old age when you might be okay with only 7, those in-between years seem to be ignored by a lot of people. You still need up to 13 hours when you’re 5, and up to 9.5 when you are 17. Right there we can see where the modern day school schedule and overly-packed schedules of adolescents and young adults are just crazy. Kids need to sleep, and parents need to facilitate that, or the world will have a bunch of people who can’t think and are grumpy…..might be too late on that one.
Here’s the best thing about sleep though – it changes you brain wave activity. In our normal waking lives, we exist in pretty much a Beta wave pattern. Quick study…the brain has 5 patterns, or frequencies that it flips through every day.
Going from low, slow frequency, to fast, high frequency looks like this:
Delta: Deep level of relaxation and sleep. This is where we have restorative REM sleep and get all those awesome sleep benefits.
Theta: This is prevalent when in a trance or hypnotic state. This is a state of deep meditation, and the time of maximum creativity, deep emotional connection with oneself and others, and greater intuition. This is the state when you are kind of awake, but you’re brain is telling you to take it all in. This is the state where I get most of the best ideas for my creative life, and have the most insight into events and dreams. I love this state. It’s my fav. If you can, don’t rush yourself awake from this state….just enjoy.
Alpha: The bridge between your conscious mind (Beta) and your subconscious mind (Theta). This is where you are when you are staring out the window daydreaming at work or school. It tends to make you unfocused, but not enough of it causes anxiety.
Beta: You’re awake, performing tasks, and thinking analytically. We spend most of the day here, and it is important to have this high-level frequency so we don’t become depressed and unfocused.
Gamma: This super-high frequency is the newest to be discovered, and it’s properties are still somewhat of a mystery. It is higher when you are in a heightened “state of being” during meditation. It is accessed best when it is quiet. Gamma waves simultaneously process information, and are important for learning and memory. It is thought that gamma relates to expanded consciousness and spiritual emergence. The Dalai Lama probably spends a lot of time in gamma.
What I recently learned is that people don’t even go into a higher state than alpha until they are about 3 years old. That freaked me out. I kept looking at babies and thinking that even though they are looking at us, they aren’t really “awake” as we know it. Wow. What I also want to point out is that you can move your brain frequency from beta, through alpha, and into theta to reap the benefits of slowing down the constant onslaught of stimulation and reset yourself. This is helpful to relieve stress and anxiety, enhance your creativity, and connect you to the present moment. The way to do this in daily life is to find a quiet place and sit in a meditation with eyes closed for as little as 5 or 10 minutes. Animals will innately do this in order to maintain a peaceful state. If things are a little bonkers at the house, like moving day, you might find you dog or cat hiding in an upstairs bedroom just to get a break. You’re moving from your conscious mind to your subconscious mind. The benefits are immediate and unbelievable. Meditation has literally saved my sanity at least twice in my life. More on that later.
You will meet a lot of people that poo-poo the idea that sleep is important. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”, they say. Well, actually, you don’t know that. I would sleep now if I were you. Maybe part of the mystery of gamma is that it is some universal consciousness wave, and maybe that’s where we’re at when we die. Who knows? If that’s true, you might never sleep again. Sleep is safe, and warm, and peaceful. It’s the only place that is truly yours, where your mind is free to explore every crazy thought and you can access deeper knowledge. Sleep is priceless my friend. If I could get a job sleeping, so they could study that, I would. I’m passionate about it. As a population, we need more of it, not less. I will have much more to say about this topic and ways that biohackers have found to enhance quality of sleep in future blogs, so stay tuned. Make sure to “follow” and have a wonderful night of blissful rest……
Here’s a link to the brainwave explanation: https://brainworksneurotherapy.com/what-are-brainwaves
“We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with sleep” – Shakespeare