Lets talk for a minute about the importance of sleep. The poet William Wordsworth called sleep the “Mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health.” While lack of sleep worsens your mood and increases anxiety and stress, improving the quality of your sleep has a reverse effect. Sleep disruptions are a big source of stress. It’s one of the reasons why parents are so stressed, as well as new on-call doctors…and internet security folks, all who suffer from irregular sleep.
Lets take a moment and look at three different areas concerning sleep and its importance in living the best life you can.
Sleep is not a waste of time. First, many of us think of sleep as time wasted; a time when our brain doesn’t work for us. But a hundred years of sleep research has proven that bad things happen if you don’t get enough high quality sleep and that improving the quality of your sleep can have profound benefits. We have learned that sleep actually has an intricate architecture and is affected by, and directly affects, our waking lives. It has also been demonstrated that quality of our sleep affects the quality of our lives. Proper sleep improves many aspects of waking life; it elevates mood, lowers stress, strengthens memory, and reduces pain. It also helps with concentration, and decision-making. The benefits of quality sleep even extend to your overall health. Poor sleep has negative effects on your weight, your heart, and even your immune system.
Good sleep can change your life. Second, poor sleep, or lack of it, is one of the most common factors affecting performance at work…. and in life. By sleep, I mean not only getting too little sleep, but also getting low quality sleep. Mentally, at work, poor quality sleep lowers your pain threshold, interferes with your learning, your memory, and diminishes your ability to concentrate; making what would normally be considered simple decisions, difficult. It also makes you more impulsive and likely to see things in black-and-white terms, which is never good in our colorful world. Your brain’s entire electrical and chemical activity is affected by sleep.
Insomnia is worse than you think. Third, people with insomnia have increased stress hormone levels before and during their sleep. That’s a problem, because quality sleep helps prepare your brain to deal with stress. Insomnia and depression are a two-way street—if you have insomnia, you are likely to develop depression and vice versa. The connection between insomnia and depression has many causes, but one big reason is communication between parts of the brain. During sleep, parts of your brain talk by sending bursts of communication back and forth. Sleep is the only time when this back and forth occurs, which is why disrupting your sleep can be so harmful and improving your sleep so important. A recent study looked at brain activity during thinking and found that people with insomnia had reduced activity in their brains. The insomniacs were treated, without medication, by making several simple lifestyle changes, and improved their sleep quality significantly, which restored their brain activity to normal levels.
Fortunately, improved sleep can restore clear thinking and improve your attention, demonstrating once again, why sleep is, “the mother of fresh thoughts and joyous health.”
Next time we will talk about sleep hygiene, which is more interesting than it sounds!
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Frank Hopkins is a certified Professional Coach (CPC) and certified by the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). He is a certified Master Practitioner (ELI-MP) of the iPEC proprietary assessment tool, the Energy Leadership Index and offers seminars on Energy Leadership. He maintains memberships in the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and the Institute of Coaching (ICPA).