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Got a problem? Sleep on it.

Do you find yourself mulling over problems and reviewing the day’s activities as you try to sleep at night? You’re wasting your time and depriving yourself of sleep. Your brain won’t start working until you’re out of the picture. Once you are asleep, your brain can take over. It never sleeps.

That’s why your brain consumes up to 25 percent of the oxygenated glucose and nutrients distributed by your body’s circulatory system – even though it is only 2% of your total body’s weight. It’s a powerhouse – both during the day when you are directing its power, and at night when you’re supposed to be sleeping.

At night it repairs and replaces old neurons, decides what’s important to you and what isn’t, and consolidate memories. Oh yes, and in the morning it provides you with fresh insights on those problems that were keeping you awake, and frequently gives you a bonus of a truly creative idea – an “Aha” moment.

But you have to let it do its job. You can’t expect it to solve problems at night (when you’re stressed out and tired) that you were unable to solve when you were fully awake and alert.

We are programmed to spend about a third of our lives asleep. It’s not wasting time. During sleep those amyloid proteins – plaques and tangles – indicative of Alzheimer’s – are washed away. Sleep keeps us mentally sharp, creative and productive.

Don’t feel badly about all you’re fussing at night. We all tend to do it. It’s what we call “thinksomnia.” We’re so busy during the day fighting fires, flitting about from one job to another, fielding problems and crises that night-time seems to be the only time there is to really think about a problem and be really creative. But the thinking keeps you awake.

And you are anything but creative. Your job is to relax, let go of the day’s problems, and go to sleep. Sleep is as critical to life as the air you breathe. Don’t trade for it for anything – not even that million dollar contract that may be at stake if you flub that presentation in the morning.

That part of the brain that you rested will be rejuvenated, in addition to having completed its essential work during the night. You will be mentally alert, creative, optimistic and energetic in the morning. That’s worth more than another night of anxiety mixed with preparation. Believe it.

We need between seven and nine hours of sleep to be at our peak. That’s sleep-time, not bed-time. Less than six hours sleep and you are sleep deprived, which means you will not be at your best. Although a sleep deprived brain my tell you the opposite, your thinking skills will be way below average and your personal productivity will plummet.

There are ways of freeing up your mind and getting a good night’s sleep – and that’s not by taking sleeping pills. You might want to take a look at my brief e-book, Sleep: a time management strategy, published by Bookboon.com. It contains many suggestions that are based on actual research.

There is a list of 25 suggestions in the book for improving your sleep habits. Here are a few of them:

  • Keep the bedroom cool. Scientific evidence indicates that 65°F to 68°F is the ideal temperature for sleep.
  • Skip the caffeine. Avoid coffee or other caffeine drinks at least six hours before bedtime. It can actually stay in your system for 12 hours. Avoid alcohol and cigarettes as well.
  • Stick to a routine. Where possible go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends. It helps regulate the body clock. When people try to catch up on sleep on the weekend the quality of the extended sleep is quite low.
  • If you can’t sleep, don’t stay in bed. Don’t spend too much time trying to sleep; it reduces the sleep drive. Read a book, listen to calming music or engage in relaxation exercises.
  • If thoughts of all the things you have to do or specific worries linger in your mind, write them down on paper so you can put them out of your mind.

Don’t fight your biological clock. There is a time to work and a time to sleep. Don’t confuse the two.

 

 

 

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22 ways to get more sleep

If you haven’t heard or read something on the importance of sleep within the last month or so, you haven’t been paying much attention to the media. Magazine articles, blogs, books, newsletters, newspapers, TV specials and radio reports have all covered some of the consequences of inadequate sleep. I have even written an eBook on the importance of sleep from a time management perspective titled Sleep: A time management strategy, published by Bookboon.com.

I have already written past blog articles covering many of the consequences of inadequate sleep – everything from stress and obesity to diabetes and premature aging. So I decided to summarize in this article all the ways you may be able to gain more sleep – and I am referring to actual sleep time, not the amount of time spent in bed. If you get less than 6 hours actual sleep a night, you’re in trouble.

 Make sleep a priority. It’s as important as exercise and diet.

  1. Make your environment as comfortable as possible for sleep. This may involve a softer pillow, comfortable mattress and even the habit of wearing socks to bed or having relaxation tapes or classical music playing in the background.
  2. Determine your required sleep time and add about a half hour to allow time for getting to sleep and getting up during the night.
  3. Never go to bed earlier than your normal bedtime. If you are not sleepy, don’t go to bed until you are.
  4. Stick to a routine. Where possible go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends. It helps regulate the body clock. When people try to catch up on sleep on the weekend the quality of the extended sleep is quite low.
  5. Don’t go to bed during the day if you’re sleepy; take a power nap instead.
  6. Skip the caffeine. Avoid coffee or other caffeine drinks at least six hours before bedtime. It can actually stay in your system for 12 hours. Avoid alcohol and cigarettes as well.
  7. Go light on dinner. Heavy meals keep the digestive system working and delays of sleepiness. It’s best to have a heavier lunch and lighter dinner.
  8. Use your bed for sleeping. It’s not a good idea to use your bed for watching TV, checking your e-mail, working on your laptop or other activities not associated with sleeping or resting.
  9. Control technology. Turn off your computers, laptops, smart phones, iPad’s and other electronic gadgets at least two hours before bedtime.
  10. Exercise daily. It’s best to exercise earlier in the day but avoid strenuous exercise at least two hours before bedtime. You may feel tired immediately after exercising but over the course of the day people who exercise actually have more energy.
  11. Keep the bedroom cool. Scientific evidence indicates that 65°F to 68°F is the ideal temperature for sleep.
  12. Keep in the dark. Light inhibits the production of melatonin, the body’s sleeping pill, so you might even turn off the night light.
  13. Don`t be a clock-watcher in bed. If necessary face the alarm clock the other way so you won`t be tempted or disturbed by the fluorescent screen.
  14. Crash early. The optimal bedtime is between 10 PM and midnight. It is generally recommended that you go to bed by 11 p.m.
  15. Have a transition routine. Have a half hour or more of relaxation away from the bright lights and work activities. This could be light reading, walking, yoga or a warm bath.
  16. Researchers at Wesleyan University found that sniffing lavender oil before bedtime increased slow-wave sleep, the deepest form of slumber, by 22 participants in study participants.
  17. Don’t linger in bed when the alarm clock goes off. More time in bed than needed increases the time that you’re awake in bed and produces poor quality sleep.
  18. Avoid shift work if possible. Working rotating shifts or in a regular sleep schedule weakens the circadian clock that regulates sleep. Even varying it by an hour is the equivalent of traveling across one time zone.
  19. If you can’t sleep, don’t stay in bed. Don’t spend too much time trying to sleep; it reduces the sleep drive.
  20. Make your bed. Terry Small reported in one of his bulletins that the National Sleep Foundation found that those people who make their beds tend to sleep more soundly than those who don’t.
  21. Organize your day, and go to bed with an uncluttered mind and the knowledge that you have the next day planned.

There are probably others. Experiment a little until you find something that works for you. And never regret the time needed to get a good night’s sleep. It’s an investment in your health, increased productivity and longevity.

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Holistic time management revisited.

In the past I have described holistic time management, as I see it, as the application of strategies necessary in order to lead a happier, healthier, longer, and more productive and fulfilling life. It addresses the person as a whole as opposed to simply their management of time.

But many time conscious people could be turned off by this definition; because they want to simply focus on efficiency and effectiveness and getting more work done in less time.

Either they think they are already happy, healthy, and destined for a long, fulfilling life – or they are not at that stage of life where those things seem important to them. After all, why would they be concerned about such things as exercise, getting more sleep, building personal relationships and spending time in the garden or walking in the park? These things consume time rather than save time, don’t they?

The short answer to that last question is “yes.” The long answer is that they only consume time on a short-term basis – just as organizing your office, training staff members so they can take over jobs that you are currently doing, and learning to use available technology all consume time. But these are all investments of time, which soon pay off by freeing up even more time that you can spend on those priority personal and organizational goals that will ensure your success.

For example, getting more sleep could increase your energy, boost your memory, improve your creativity, reduce lost time through illness and even extend your productive time by two or more years. Wouldn’t that be considered a time management strategy? Get less than six hours sleep a night, and you work as efficiently as you would if you were drunk. And if you think you can get by just fine on five hours sleep a night, remember it’s your sleep deprived brain that’s telling you that.

If you want scientific evidence of these things, refer to my e-book, Sleep: a time management strategy, published by Bookboon.com. There are plenty of references there. I’m just a reporter, not a researcher.

Similarly it has been shown that attitude, exercise, environment, mindfulness, stress management, relationships, music, volunteering, laughter, diet, nature, memory training, purposeful living, and even scenic views can increase your personal productivity – as well as umpacting your longevity. All these and more are discussed in my most recent book, How to grow older without growing old, a 147-page book now available as a download at my Taylorintime website.

It summarizes the relevant information in at least half of my 21 e-books that have been published to date by Bookboon.com. Although it is directed at fellow seniors, I believe it’s an even more important read as a time investment for those sixty-five and younger.

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An office is for working and a bed is for sleeping.

 

woman-working-on-bed

In past blogs we have covered productivity boosters – everything from an organized office and reduced distractions to color schemes and office greenery. But there are productivity killers as well, and one of them is using your bed instead of your well-organized office desk to get work done.

An article in the November 17, 2012 Toronto Star reported on a survey by Infosecurity Europe in London that found that 70% of the workers surveyed spent at least a half hour a day working in bed. An Angus Reid/Vision poll reported in the January 26, 2013 issue of the Toronto Star found that one third of wired Canadians use Internet-ready digital devices before getting out of bed in the morning.

Another survey by Good Technology revealed that half of the office workers polled were answering emails while in bed. The trend is encouraged by suppliers who are offering everything from pyramid pillows to laptop trays designed specifically for bed workers. This practice is proving to be neither efficient nor healthy.

The authors of the book, Neuroscience for leadership, published in 2016, even claim that we should not be sleeping with our smart phones or other handheld devices next to us due to the effects of Wi-Fi and 3G or 4G signals on our brain waves.

A study of over 200 students at the University of Rhode Island found they were losing

an average of 45 minutes of sleep each week because of their cell phones. (Source: Toronto Globe & Mail, November 22, 2011). We should be getting from 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night, although this does vary from person to person. Most people think they need less than 7 hours sleep a night; but according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, only 1 to 3 percent of the population actually needs less than 7 hours of sleep a night. The rest are sleep deprived.

Research reinforces the belief that insufficient sleep can precipitate stress disorders and other ailments. A study published in the National Academy of Sciences, reports that even an hour or two less sleep a night can negatively impact more than 700 genes required for repairing cell tissue.

Brain science research conducted as recently as 2012 studied how the brain cleans itself of toxic waste byproducts while we sleep. Failing to get enough sleep may prevent the brain from being able to remove these it neurotoxins which could have an influence on disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

A bed is for sleeping, a kitchen table is for eating, and an office is for working. Confuse the three and both your personal productivity and your health will probably suffer.

 

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Sleep is a new time management strategy for the digital age of speed

sleep- time management strategy

sleep- time management strategy

An old handheld device for managing time – a pillow.

An older strategy was to sleep one hour less and get more done. The newer strategy is the exact opposite: sleep one hour more and get more done.

In the years that intervened, as Daniel Levinson expresses in his book, The organized mind, it has been shown by research that sleep is among the critical factors for peak performance, memory, productivity, immune function and mood regulation. And the average individual gets at least one hour less sleep today than he or she did 50 years ago.

The expectation of individuals that they should sleep soundly for seven or eight hours prompts many to seek out sleeping pills, which have been shown to be addictive and have side effects – including interference with memory  consolidation – and cause them to be drowsy and unrested in the morning. The National sleep Foundation reports that 25% of Americans take some form of sleep medication every night.

In one study, sleeping pills only allowed individuals to sleep 11 minutes longer a night, and poor quality sleep at that. And according to literature on the topic of sleeping pills, it appears that the risks outweigh any benefits. One study, reported in the BMJ open Journal, found that regular sleeping pill users were 4.6 times likelier to die prematurely.

Thomas Wehr, a scientist at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, showed that without artificial light, people tend to fall asleep about two hours after the room goes dark, sleep for about four hours, stay awake for an hour or two, and then sleep for another four hours. Whether you take two minutes or two hours to fall asleep, it’s still normal. Not everyone has the same sleep cycle, and it’s the amount of time you sleep, not the amount of time you spend in bed, that is critical.

Seven hours of sleep a night is considered to be a healthy minimum and anything less them six hours is considered to be sleep deprivation – along with its adverse effects. One of these effects is to leave you with less energy, and less likely to perform at your peak, and therefore less productive.

If you value your health, your time, and your personal productivity, you should also value your sleep – and you should see it as an important strategy in getting more accomplished in the time at your disposal. Sleeping off the job will keep you from sleeping on the job.

Since adequate sleep also has a bearing on your longevity, it could very well increase the time at your disposal as well.

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Sleep deprivation causes weight gain

ObesityResearch indicates that sleep deprivation causes weight gain and obesity. A CBS “60 Minutes” documentary aired on March 16, 2008, reported that four nights without sufficient deep sleep affects more than just performance, judgment and memory. It also presents a risk factor for diabetes. One of the interviewees commented that diabetes was now an epidemic. In fact sleep researchers were attributing some of the obesity problem being experienced in North America to sleep deprivation. Evidently lack of sleep makes us hungry and we overeat.

Researchers at the University of Chicago discovered that overweight dieters lost over 50 percent more weight when they averaged 7 and a half hours of sleep per night for two weeks than they did when they slept for only 5 hours a night. Too little time sleeping can also make you hungrier during the day.

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, also did a carefully controlled study in a laboratory setting where volunteers were closely monitored for three days to determine how much they normally ate and slept. Half of them were then allowed to continue their normal routine for another eight days, while the other half were allowed to sleep only two-thirds of their usual sleep time. Both groups were allowed to eat as much as they wanted.

Results showed that the reduction in sleep led to an increase in food consumption. The sleep-deprived group consumed an average of 549 additional calories on the days after their sleep was cut short compared to when they got their normal rest. Without compensating through additional exercise, this could add an extra pound to their weight in less than a week. It’s interesting that there appears to be two epidemics currently occurring in North America – obesity and sleep-deprivation.

There are plenty of studies that show a relationship between sleep and eating habits. Lack of sleep robs us of self-control and the brain regions required for complex judgments, and decisions become blunted. One study of 13,284 teenagers found that those who slept poorly also made poor decisions.

On the positive side, you can view good sleep habits as a way of controlling your weight and getting the proper amount of sleep at the same time. It’s certainly a lot less painful than most diet programs. As an example, consider the study conducted at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas. 32 students kept diaries of how much sleep they got and which foods they ate over a 3-week period. The first week they ate and slept as they usually did; but on the second week they slept an extra two hours a day.

The third week they went back to their normal routine. The students who got an extra two hours of sleep during week two ate nearly 300 calories a day less than in week one. When they returned to their normal sleep-deprived routine, they once again ate more food.

And weight gain isn’t the only consequence of inadequate sleep. John Medina, in his book Brain Rules (2008) has a whole chapter devoted to sleep. He emphasizes that loss of sleep affects learning as well as cognitive skills. He described a study of soldiers operating complex military hardware. A loss of one night’s sleep resulted in a 30% loss of cognitive skill and a corresponding drop in performance.

Don’t sacrifice sleep in order to get more things done. That’s when the new things you have learned are being processed and memories are being organized and stored. Sleepless brains don’t perform well. If you don’t get enough sleep, you become dysfunctional.

Just as the old example of pausing to sharpen the axe will allow you to cut more logs in less time, so will taking time to sleep properly increase your personal productivity.

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What are the benefits of sleep?

Benefits of sleepYour body is programmed to spend one third of its life asleep – and to sleep in specific cycles of light sleep, deep sleep, and active brain sleep. Each cycle takes about 90 minutes and each has a specific assignment that affects thinking, memory, growth, your immune system and even your weight. So what are the benefits of sleep?

Benefits of Sleep

We spend about a third of our life sleeping for very good reason — or I should say reasons — many of which are yet to be discovered. But what we do know is that sleep allows us to learn new things and transfers the significant ones into our long-term memory. Sleep prepares and replaces damaged neurons, calms disease-triggering inflammation, and keeps us mentally sharp, creative and productive. It even controls the aging process, helps keep our weight down, lowers our blood pressure and impacts our overall health.

Another important benefit of sleep was reported in the February, 2014 issue of Scientific American Mind. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that sufficient sleep not only restores cognitive functioning, but also may fortify the brain over the long term. During sleep, activity is increased in genes involved in producing brain cells responsible for coating neurons with myelin, the brain`s insulating material. This allows electrical impulses to travel quickly and efficiently to other neurons. Myelin deficiency is at the root of multiple sclerosis disease, and can contribute to symptoms such as fatigue, vision and hearing impairment and a loss of coordination.

A study published by the National Academy of Sciences reports that even an hour or two less sleep a night can negatively impact more than 700 genes required for repairing cell tissue.

Chiara Cirelli, a neuroscientist and author of the paper describing the above research, suggests that sleep helps cells regenerate and repair themselves by helping the body produce new myelin after it has deteriorated.

When it comes to managing time, sleep can be classified as a time management strategy. I explain why in my book, Sleep: a time management strategy, available through Amazon.

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Sleep is an important time management strategy

Sleep as time management strategySleep will help extend the time you have available to get things done, and thus sleep is an important time management strategy. And as I continue to write, speak professionally, and develop training programs in my eighties, I can almost speak from personal experience. I say almost since there are a lot of things besides sleep that contribute to brain health and longevity. But just as I tried practicing what I preach in order to slow the perceived passage of time — as described in my book Slowing down the speed of life — I have recently brought my sleep time from six hours a night to seven hours a night with equally good results.

I didn’t always think this way. Over thirty years ago I had joined other time management consultants in recommending the opposite; sleep less and get more done. We urged our clients to set their alarms 15 minutes earlier each week until they noticed that they got tired by early afternoon, and then set it back to the last setting. We felt many people were getting more sleep than they needed (and some were), and that if they could get a head start on the day with an extra half hour or more of “prime time”, they could get more done.

This was before the holistic time management era — and before all the research now available on the role sleep plays in our health, longevity, and productivity. It was also before the digital age of speed. Now, people don’t even have to get out of bed to start working; they can sleep with their Blackberries, iPads, or smart phones, which can then accompany them from bedroom to bathroom to breakfast to bus or car to business and to the boardroom.

Today there is little concern about sleeping too much; the concern is about sleeping too little. The lure of the Internet, computer games, social media, e-mail and text messaging keep us from going to bed early. And the stress of the day, the worry of unfinished tasks lingering in our thoughts, and the widespread view that sleep is an inconvenience to be tolerated but not enjoyed, keep us from sleeping soundly once we are there.

Gary Small, who writes the Brain Bulletin, and speaks on that topic, says that sleep deprivation is one of the risk factors in Alzheimer’s. The June, 2014 issue of Scientific American Mind quotes neuroscientist Dwayne Godwin as saying that sleep helps clear the brain, flushing away waste products such as Alzheimer’s-related proteins. One sleep scientist claims that sleep is one of the most important predictors of how long you will live — as important as whether you smoke, exercise or have high blood pressure.

And I claim that through adequate sleep, you can increase your personal productivity and effectiveness by at least 20 percent, reduce anxiety and stress, and increase your health and well-being in the process.

In my brief book, Sleep: a time management strategy, I claim that sleep is one of the most important time management strategies for you and for your staff, clients and family.

Perhaps I couldn’t make this claim before the advent of electronic technology; because back in those days most people were probably getting sufficient sleep. The average person now gets 90 minutes less sleep a night than a century ago. In my lifetime, the average amount of sleep we get has decreased from just over eight hours to 6.7 hours. (I recently read a figure of 6.5 hours, along with an explanation that this is the average amount of sleep people say they get but by the measurement of brain activity while these same people were sleeping, the actual figure was 6.1 hours.)

62 percent of Americans report difficulty sleeping at least a few nights a week. About 90 percent of teens in the U.S. don’t get enough sleep. And children who don’t get enough sleep are often misdiagnosed with ADHD.

If you get less than six hours sleep a night you are considered to be sleep deprived. And even getting less than seven hours a night produces sleep debt that should be repaid by napping, which is also discussed in my book, Sleep: a time management strategy.

Yes, taking dementia and any current health issues out of the equation, getting an average of 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night will increase your personal productivity. I am referring to the amount of actual sleep you actually get, not the amount of time you spend in bed.

Both of the short books I mentioned in this article are available on Amazon as Kindle e-books:
Sleep: a time management strategy
Slowing Down the Speed of Life