Changing how we view sleep

Insomnia affects between a third and a half of U.S. adults at some point in their lives. Worldwide, 10 to 30 percent of the population experience insomnia, but other studies find it is as high as 60 percent.

We can increase the quality of life if we can change how we think about sleep. Instead of worrying about how we can fall asleep, we need to start considering sleep for its transcendent significance.

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The Lie We Tell Ourselves About Going to Bed Early

theatlantic.com

We all know that sleep improves our well-being, and lack of sleep is harmful. Yet, we don't sleep enough. Common reasons are poor sleep, work, stress, and young children. Another reason is "bedtime procrastination" - when we put off going to bed because we think other things are more important.

A variant of bedtime procrastination is "revenge bedtime procrastination," where people put off sleep as a form of rebellion against their own inner authority - until the morning, when waking up fills us with regret.

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According to psychologist Daniel Kahneman, we have two brain systems: System 1 is our automatic, reactive brain. System 2 is our metacognitive brain that we use to reason, analyze and manage our decision. The trick is to move the bedtime decision from System 1 to System 2.

  • Consider how you might be sabotaging your sleep.
  • Then, set a realistic and sensible bedtime.
  • Half an hour prior, tell yourself that you are choosing to go to bed at this time. It may be a way to quiet your inner squalling child.

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You may feel that sleep is a necessary but boring investment, like eating your vegetables. But sleep is an intrinsic source of wisdom.

Our conventional understanding is that we are conscious when we are awake, not when we are asleep. But when we sleep, we often find solutions to problems that we struggle to solve. Before you retire for the night, try thinking of the life puzzles you want to solve. Then go to sleep and see what you learn from your slumber.

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