I am dead-dog tired.  As I alternate between staring at my bed and this screen, I think hard about passing on the blog for a day.=

But then I see this problem as an opportunity.  I think this is a good time to talk about sleep.

I have become quite familiar with recent sleep research.  When you have children (and when you work with them), you come to appreciate the healing power of sleep.  I think that over 75% of issues with my own children were solved by a nap or a good night’s sleep.

As parents, we know this.  As adults, we act like we are a different species.  We stay up late.  We burn the candle at both ends.  We simply do not get enough rest.

Before Susie and I were married, I had been an investment banker in New York.  Generally, investment bankers tend to see themselves as a superior race – smarter, harder working and less needy of sleep.  Staying late and coming in early were badges of honor.  An all-nighter resulted in high-fives.=

Susie belonged to a different school.  Get your sleep.  In fact, get some extra sleep.  Where I was committed to working and playing harder than others, she was happily in bed getting her sleep.=

I remember reading about how little sleep presidents get (Clinton was famous for getting 4 hours or less).  I thought this cool.

Have you ever seen “before and after” shots of presidents?  Why should I admire any job that ages you a decade every 4 years?

In any event, we both entered this marriage with strong opinions on sleep.  I wanted to sleep less to experience life more.  She wanted to assure herself of 8-9 hours each night.

It pains me to admit that she is right and I am wrong.

There has been a huge amount of research on sleep, and it reveals a plethora of information.  Here are some highlights:

  • For each hour of sleep you lose, you effective IQ drops 1 point.  This effect is cumulative until you catch up.  As a result, students that take their tests on Friday who were up 2 hours too late Sunday-Thursday are 10 points less intelligent.
  • Sleep literally makes you look younger.  Sleep deprivation affects the DNA in such a way that people lacking sleep will often look a decade (or more) older than they are.
  • You body builds your immune system while you sleep.  Lose the sleep and you get sick quicker.
  • Your brain consolidates learning and problem solves while asleep.  One experiment gave a tough math problem to MIT students and gave them 18 hours to work on it.  One half of the group could work on it straight.  The second half were required to sleep for at least 7 hours (thus giving them less than 65% as much time to work on the problem).  The second group always out-performed the first.  Always.

As I have been looking at all of this research, I became curious as to why this is true. I then looked at Fenway, our 7 year-old Basset Hound.  She was sleeping.  She sleeps a lot.  I think asked, “under what circumstances do animals get too little sleep?”

Here are few – lack of food (needing to hunt more), being hunted, lacking shelter, having a threatened or sick offspring.  In short – stress.  Animals get their sleep unless they experience stress.

I have concluded that this works both ways – stress can reduce sleep, but lack of sleep is interpreted by the body as stress.  When the body is under stress, it adopts a “fight or flight” approach.  Either it escapes the source of the stress or it fights it.  During such circumstances, the mind is completely focused.  Ideas like fun, beauty, love and other high–order thoughts become irrelevant.  If this is true, a stressed mind becomes a less intelligent mind.  If sleep deprivation leads to stress, this might be one of the reasons that people sleeping less often struggle more.

While there are some exceptions, this is an observation that I now agree with.

I am rediscovered the joy of sleeping.  That means it is time to go to bed.

Until tomorrow!

Steve Sir

PS We are in Budapest now.


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