Sleeping with the Television On

Unless you really HAVE been living under a rock, you likely are very much aware that there has been a lot of information in the recent past regarding the importance of sleep. We know that driving while sleep deprived is at least as harmful as driving drunk (and therefore just as important that drivers make a personal commitment to never drive drowsy in much the same way we make a commitment to never drive under the influence of alcohol). We know that different people require different amounts of daily sleep for optimal functioning, but that the average amount is around eight hours, unless you are a teenager or young adult and then you need more. We know that sleep is critical for not only physical restoration, but also for cognitive restoration (not only does lack of sleep make you feel physically weaker and less-coordinated, and achy too, it also makes it harder to articulate in conversation, more difficult to concentrate, and also contributes to difficulties in memory and learning). A very new study even suggests that older adults who get less sleep experience a speedier deterioration of brain structures (Lehman 2014).

Here’s something related to sleep that you may or may not know: light does more for us than illuminate our world. It also works with the brain and body to signal hormones and regulate sleep/wake cycles. The light receptors in our eyes respond to all visible light, and have evolved to do so basically to help our bodies adjust to a 24 hour cycle related to the natural light and dark of day and night. The blue waves of light peak in mid-day, when the sun is at its brightest and shiniest, but we don’t even have to have our eyes open in order for the receptors to detect the blue light. So, blue light provides a special function, which is to help us feel alert and awake. As a matter of fact, there have been recent experiments using blue lights in car interiors in order to help drivers feel alert while driving in the dark, and it appears to be an effective tool (Taillard 2012). Cool!

It would logically follow, however, that if blue light works great to keep us alert, it of course has the opposite effect on our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. So, while blue light may belong in car interiors, it is the enemy in bed. I am still amazed at the number of people I know who complain about insomnia issues yet list watching television or spending time on the computer as a way they try to fall asleep at night. A friend of mine recently complained that his toddler was waking up in the night, and to keep the toddler quiet so that others in the house could continue to sleep, he and his 2 year-old watched a video from 2:00 a.m. until 4:00 a.m. What?! I know. Television, like other electronics, emits blue light and therefore sends signals via photoreceptors in the eyes to the brain to slow or shut down the release of melatonin, the body’s main sleep hormone. Smart phones, iPads, computers, etc. are no friend to the person who would just like to fall asleep.

In conclusion, you know that sleep is very important to your health and well-being. Thus, as part of your efforts to get that sleep you need, turn off the electronics! I mean it!

peace and love,

mom

References

Hecht, J. (2012). Better than sunshine. New Scientist, 214 (2871), 42-45.

Lehman, S. (2014, July 10). Less sleep may accelerate brain aging. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/r-shorter-sleep-may-speed-brain-aging-2014-10.

Taillard, J., Capelli, A., Sagaspe, P., Anund, A., Akerstedt, T. &Phillip, P. (2012). In-car nocturnal blue light exposure improves motorway driving: a randomized controlled trial. PloS One, 7(10), 106.

I Just Wanna See You Be Brave

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” – Nelson Mandela

He ought to know, don’t you think?

Not a lot of empirical research on courage exists, but there is some, and it is important. Courage happens to be a pet topic of mine. A pet that I love and feed, and take to the vet when necessary. I give it a lot of attention. It sleeps, curled up, at the bottom of my bed. I take it for walks. We spend a lot of time together, Courage and I. I’ve been trying to get to know Courage better, but it seems that more often than not, when I get close, Courage snarls a little bit, and I retreat, frightened. And so it goes.

I like Mandela’s definition of courage, and it is actually very close to how researchers define courage. According to Paul Tillich, “Courage is self-affirmation ‘in-spite-of,’ that is in spite of that which tends to prevent the self from affirming itself” (1959). In 2004, we got that courage is “persistence or perseverance despite having fear or apprehension (Woodard). And, my favorite, because I think this definition encompasses all aspects of courage: “Courage is the willingness to act even in the presence of fear, risk, and threat” (Biswas-Deiner 2012).

Here’s the cool thing about courage – it can be studied, measured, quantified. And it is a quality that has been correlated with happiness in study after study. Happy people are courageous people.

And what do we fear? Lions, tigers, bears, certainly. Spiders sometimes. The fears that hold us back though, and require daily courage, are fears that we may not even recognize as fears. We need courage to change what needs to be changed. We need courage to face tough decisions. We need courage to confront what needs to be confronted in relationships.

Courage, in my book, is the thing, along with love and gratitude, that can transform lives! And as it turns out, courage isn’t something you are either born with or not – courage is a skill that can be learned! Yessirree!! And the more you practice courage, the better you get at it, just as any skill. In the interest of space and time, I’m going to recommend two books that I wish everyone would read. The first is The Courage Quotient, by Robert Biswas-Diener. Biswas-Diener approaches the topic of courage scientifically – in fact, the subtitle of the book is “How Science Can Make You Braver.” You will love this book, I promise. It is so much fun to read, and there is just so much to learn and then act on within its pages. The second book is Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown, which discusses the courage to be vulnerable. Below is a link to a Ted talk by Brene Brown, where she introduces the topics that she explores in her book. This talk is just PACKED with delicious aha moments; I have listened to it several times, and I just cannot feel good about merely referencing it then moving on. Please take the time to listen to this talk! I am going to summarize what I deem to be the most important points of the talk, but listen to the whole dang thing!

Brene Brown, information collected through research:

  • Connection with others gives purpose and meaning to our lives.
  • In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to truly be seen for who we are (vulnerability).
  • People who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe theyare WORTHY of love and belonging (whole-hearted people).
  • These “whole-hearted” people have some striking commonalities:

1.    They share a strong sense of COURAGE, including the courage to be imperfect.

2.   They have the ability and the compassion to be kind to themselves (we can’t be compassionate to others until we learn to treat ourselves kindly).

3.   They display authenticity (willingness to let go of who they think they should be in order to be who they are).

4.  They have fully embraced vulnerability – they see vulnerability not as comfortable, nor excruciating, but as necessary.

  • Because so many of us do not have the courage to be vulnerable (to risk whatever it is we need to risk to connect whole-heartedly with others), we numb our vulnerability.
  • The problem is that we cannot selectively numb emotion. If we choose to stand back, not connect, because it is too hurtful, we are also numbing from other possibilities. When we numb out from the hurt, we also numb out from the joy.
  • We need COURAGE to be vulnerable.

Watch: https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability

In conclusion, you must be willing to persevere through your fears. You must be willing to ACT, even though the thing you fear (conflict?) is hovering RIGHT THERE! You must have the courage to take those necessary risks, to face the threat and move forward, and to be vulnerable. And then … happiness.

peace and love,

mom

 

 

References

Biswas-Diener, R. (2012). The courage quotient: How science can make you braver. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly. New York: Gotham Books.

Tillich, P. (1959). The courage to be. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Woodard, C. R. (2004). Hardiness and the concept of courage: categorization and measurement. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 135-147.