Why you should “sleep on it”

Author: Dr. Michelle Durkin on 22 May 2018

irishproverbHaving your own business means that you end up doing a lot of things that you never actually went to school for. I am professionally trained as a naturopathic doctor but we never learned anything about business and we certainly didn't learn anything about having a website or social media. It makes me feel old saying this, but I didn't even have a website during my first years of business.

Now what does this have to do with sleep?

Well...have you ever heard the phrase "sleep on it"?

I can think of many different times when I have tried to figure how to do something on my website or learn something new on social media. I could work on the problem for over an hour and not be able to figure it out.

Eventually I would decide to step away and give myself a break from it. Then the next day I would go back, and bingo! I figured out the answer. The next day it all seemed so simple.

People will also use this phrase when they have a difficult decision to make. "Sleeping on it" seems to give us the perspective we need to make the right decision.

Why is that?

It's because the human body has an innate built-in intelligence.

In the brain we have an area called the amygdala. It is the area of the brain responsible for the perception of emotions such as anger, fear, and sadness, as well as controlling aggression. The amygdala helps to store memories of events and emotions so that an individual may be able to recognize similar events in the future. You can also think of it as an integration centre or a super complex filing cabinet.

If we have trouble staying or falling asleep, require medication to get any sleep, or just don't get enough hours of sleep (because we are addicted to Netflix), there is less integration of our emotions and the events associated with them. We end up with a heightened emotional reaction. Everything ends up seeming worse than it actually is. Every event starts getting filed under Danger instead of Don't Worry About It.

We will frequently recognize this in children. They are more whiny, irritable, or "emotional" when they haven't had enough sleep.

But why is it that we don't recognize it in ourselves?

There seems to be a destructive belief that a person who needs sleep is a person with a weakness. In fact, in the business world, many professionals take pride in burning the midnight oil.

In the book Eat Move Sleep by Tom Rath– he estimates that losing 4 hours of sleep is comparable to drinking a 6 pack of beer. He says “I don’t want to be in a serious meeting with a person who drank six beers or lost four hours sleep. I don’t want my child’s teacher to be that person. I don’t want my doctor to be that person. Still, we don’t view the two scenarios (beer drinking and not sleeping) as equal."

Maybe it's time we should.

Last month I did a Facebook webinar with Dr. Daralyn Bates all about sleep. If you want to learn more about the importance of sleep and what you can do about it check it out and don't forget to share it with your family and friends!

You can access our Facebook page here: Quinte Naturopathic Centre Facebook page.

Now I would love to hear from you! What is one thing you can start doing to improve the quality of your sleep? Is there a time when you slept on it and had an easier time making a decision? Leave a comment now and you'll hear from me next week on Doctor as Teacher Tuesday.

2 Replies to “Why you should “sleep on it””

Karen Hartke

when I was working I received approx 5-6 hour/night on a weeknight but now that I’m retired I find that I’m getting around 7.5-8 hrs/night. I feel much more alert and feel I have more energy at the end of the day as well. When I was working at the end of the day I would collapse after dinner because I was so tired.

Dr Michelle Durkin ND

That doesn’t surprise me Karen!

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