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The Promise of Sleep

All wakefulness is sleep deprivation; You build up sleep debt over the course of the day, and then pay it off as you sleep that night

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Notes and excerpts from The Promise of Sleep: A Pioneer in Sleep Medicine Explores the Vital Connection Between Health, Happiness, and a Good Night’s Sleep by William C. Dement, PhD., Stanford University

This is the definitive book on sleep!  It is loaded with gems: Your sleep drive keeps an exact tally of accumulated waking hours. Like bricks in a backpack, accumulated sleep drive is a burden that weighs down on you. Every hour that you are awake adds another brick to the pack. The brain’s sleep load increases until you go to sleep when the load starts to lighten.

The author emphasizes that your brain keeps an exact accounting of how much sleep it is owed.  Each successive night of partial sleep loss is carried over and the end effect appears to accumulate in a precisely additive fashion. Accumulated lost sleep is like a monetary debt: “It must be paid back.”

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Overthrowing Our Biological Clocks

In just a few decades of technological innovation we have managed to totally overthrow our magnificently evolved biological clocks and the complex biorhythms they regulate.

Our loss of sleep time and natural rhythms is the tragic legacy of a single and profound advance-the light bulb. Electric lights not only let people stay up longer, they also were bright enough to mimic the light and significantly shift people’s internal biological clocks. When bedtime shifted to 10 or 11 p.m. instead of 8 or 9 p.m., midnight was no longer the middle of the night.

The incandescent bulb marked the beginning of the modern era of sleeplessness, and Edison was by no means ignorant of the implications of his breakthrough. A restless genius and experimenter, Edison believed that too much sleep was bad for you. Edison thought that people got twice as much sleep as they needed and the extra sleep made them “unhealthy and inefficient.”

Sunlight Had Been the Standard

Edison’s invention of bright electric lights threw a wrench into the human clockworks. Over millions of years, our bodies and minds had evolved using sunlight as a Universal Standard Time (UST), as the infallible index against which we set our internal clock.

We have grown so accustomed to living year round in an artificial summer of light, with long days and short nights, that it is difficult to image life before electric lights and contemporary work schedules. Our bodies, however, have not forgotten. Can we believe that in 100 years our bodies can so easily change needs buried deep within the workings of each cell?

Many people work long hard hours throughout the week hoping to catch up on sleep over the weekend. They collapse in the bed on Friday night and sleep deeply until late in the morning. Even though they have paid back several hours of sleep debt, they walk around like zombies all day Saturday, barely able to stay awake. The reason is obvious: you cannot pay back a weeks worth of sleep debt in one night. Less obvious: the stressful arousal of the weekday work place is no longer masking sleep debt on Saturday. As people tend to drink and eat more on weekends, their sleep fighting arousal is further suppressed.

Deprivation

All wakefulness is sleep deprivation. You build up sleep debt over the course of the day, and then pay it off as you sleep that night. If you get an hour less than you need, you carry an hour of sleep debt into the next day, and your drive for sleep becomes stronger. Sleep debt accumulates in an additive fashion, so that if you get one hour less sleep than you need for each of eight nights your brain will then tend toward sleep as strongly as if you had stayed up all night.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Business

Gone in an Instant

Our e-files are so fragile that they can be gone in a moment’s notice

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Many people retain all of their text messages with their various correspondents. My daughter Valerie, for example, has more than one hundred text message correspondents — in other words, a running dialogue for each of the people with whom she sends and receives text. I only maintain two such longitudinal files, and one is with Valerie. With friends, relatives, clients, and acquaintances, I save the text streams for a few days or weeks, but then clear them out.

One evening, my sister Nancy texted me, and I texted her back. We went back and forth for a while. So, my message roster now included both Valerie Davidson and Nancy Davidson. After a while, I decided to clear the Nancy Davidson file, and you know what’s coming. I hit the wrong “Davidson,” file, and in an instant, more than a thousand texts between my daughter and myself were gone.

These texts included photos she had sent that I hadn’t yet downloaded, the picture of her new ring,  emojis that we passed back and forth, and everything else that transpired between us.

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Our Texting History, Vanished

I was beyond crestfallen. I felt as if I had lost something near and dear to me. It was devastating. I sat down in the big chair in my office and contemplated the possibilities. I contacted my computer guru and asked him if a deleted text message file was retrievable. He said with my Android system there was no such capability, only on iPhones. I called my sister and explained what I had done. She commiserated.

Then I sat down again, for a long time, and I thought about a friend who had lost her 23-year-old daughter and only child, seven months earlier…

I called my daughter, and I gave her the news. She didn’t seem concerned. I explained to her that she was the only one with whom I had maintained the longitudinal text trail. She told me that she maintains the text trail with everybody. “It’s not like you’re going to run out of room.” I asked her if she knew of any way that it could be retrieved. She didn’t know, either. We parted company.

Eureka! If she never deletes text message histories, then she has everything that’s transpired between us. I called her back, and she said she did have them all. So, on another day, when we figure out how to transfer what she has back to me, or least downloaded them into some text file, barring her losing her phone or accidentally hitting the delete button like I did, our texting history will be intact on my device.

A Fresh Start

I feel like I’ve been given a new lease on life. The greater question now is, what kind of technology and what kind of lives do we lead when a longitudinal history can be wiped out by mistake in single second?

It is not comforting to know that critical files can be gone in a flash, but this is a condition of our era. For thousands of years, people simply spoke to each other with no way of recording anything, or even knowing it would one day be possible. Relationships right up to the 1960’s were based on real time conversations in person or on the phone. Answering machines existed in the early 1960’s but were not widely available until the mid 1980’s.

As technology became more and more powerful, as we all know, everyone has the capability today to save and store virtually every encounter that they have with anyone else in the world. Still, it is disquieting to know that our e-files are so fragile that they can be gone in a moment’s notice.

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Family

I’ll Be Home for Thanksgiving

Where we are born, where we are raised, and where we return for Thanksgiving is based on a long-term chain of events that vastly predates our birth

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Years ago, when my mother was still alive and I routinely flew up to Connecticut from Washington DC for Thanksgiving, I had a profound realization during one of my flights. My father had passed away years ago, but my mother carried on the tradition of having the kids assemble at her house for turkey and all the fixings.

My plane ride that morning was actually on Thanksgiving Day, which stood out when I made the reservation as the best and least expensive flight. Surprisingly the cabin was not crowded, I guess because nearly everyone else who travels for the holiday departs a day or two before Thanksgiving. In any case, departing the ‘morning of’ can be a welcome change.

Ruminating in the Clouds

During the flight I became pensive. “I’m flying back to Hartford, Connecticut. Why?” Because that is where my parents settled, after a courtship that started when they first met in New London years back. My mother was from Springfield, Massachusetts and my father was from Hartford, Connecticut. As a family, after living in Hartford for a few years, we moved to Bloomfield, Connecticut.

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On Thanksgiving, among others times, I would land at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, be greeted by my mother, and then make the drive 15 to 18 minutes back to Bloomfield.

What if, I surmised, after meeting in New London, Connecticut my parents settled in, say, Providence, Rhode Island, or Cincinnati, Ohio? What if I’d been born to other parents? (Yes, I understand the intricacies of following that line of thinking.) What if my family was from Decatur, Illinois, or Paducah, Kentucky, or any one of 100s of other places? If so, on this particular morning, I’d be flying to one of those locations. That got me to thinking about the fragility and randomness of life.

A Chain of Events

To whom we are born, where we are born, where we are raised, and where we return for Thanksgiving is based on a long-term chain of events that predates our birth not just by years or decades, but by centuries and more. I was thankful to be flying back to Connecticut to see my mother, brother, and sister and at the same time realized that everyone on the flight, more or less, shared fairly similar circumstances.

We were all flying to Bradley International Airport, but for a quirk of fate, or happenstance, any of us could’ve been flying to Altoona, or Annapolis, or Austin.

Unlike most flights that I take, on that particular journey, at that time in the morning, I felt a kinship with everyone on board. I was thankful for my life, thankful for my family, and thankful for the opportunity and ability to travel to where I choose. What an experience, what a world, what an existence.

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