The Walking Dead

I see them everywhere. I see them on buses and trains, with their heads bobbing uncontrollably. I see them holding onto steering wheels in cars while the traffic moves, sometimes at high rates of speed, other times in the slow, rhythmic stop-and-go traffic characteristic of cities. I see them in restaurants staring at their phones, mesmerized by the screen. I see them holding on to magazines and books with their eyes closed. I see them holding their babies. I see them in class trying to hold their heads up, fearing that if they move their hand from their chin they will fall onto the desk and fall asleep – not because they are bored, but because they are bone tired. When I ask my students, “If I shut the lights and told you it was naptime, how many of you think you could fall asleep?” almost all of them say they could. We are an exhausted society.

Sleep, while incredibly important for our physical well-being, is often put at the bottom of our priority list. First we have to complete our list of things we need to do (go to work/school, complete an assignment, get food/water, ensure that we have clean clothes to wear, and so on). Then we have to complete our list of what we want to do (talk to our friends, watch some Netflix, exercise, and so on). I know we also all have the unending list of things we should do – but if you read my first blog you know I prefer to change that list to needs/wants. In any event, sleep tends to go to the bottom of all these lists – it is something we do when we complete the things we need/want/should do – or something we do unexpectedly…we fall asleep while doing something on those lists.

Let’s go back a bit. I said sleep is incredibly important, but I gave no supporting evidence. We all get by, so what is the big deal, right? Well, sleep is restorative. It is where growth happens; as adults we tend to think “I’m grown, so who cares?” Our cells are restored during sleep; we would not need the soaps that claim to rid us of wrinkles or the shampoos that claim to give luster to our hair. Sleep would give us those things. Sleep refreshes us, helps us process and recover from the day’s events. It helps restore our energy for the next day. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, reduces our concentration, our attention, and our motor skills. It makes it more difficult for us to be patient, so our mood fluctuates and we seem angrier. If our concentration is reduced, our attention is less focused, and we seem less energetic, then we are also likely to be described as less motivated than our more well rested peers.

Most of us cope with our lack of sleep by increasing our caffeine consumption. (I will not entertain the use of more serious stimulants as an option here, although I am certainly aware of their use and impact. We will stick to a discussion of caffeine because it is legal and readily accessible, with no real constraints even with regard to age). It is in soda (even some that are not cola based), coffee, tea, chocolate, ice cream, some pain medications, energy drinks – including water that is marketed as energy packed. It is difficult to know how much caffeine we are ingesting a day; it is not a nutrient so it is not listed on the Nutrient Facts Panel; if it is added to a food as an ingredient, then it must be on the food products label (http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/Transparency/Basics/ucm194317.htm). The point is, very few of us are keeping track of our daily consumption of caffeine, but it is likely impacting our sleep patterns.

Caffeine is not “bad”. It certainly, like all stimulants, gives us a burst of energy, increases our optimism, making us feel like we can get it ALL done, helps us feel like we can concentrate on the task at hand. Problem is, our energy is not always focused. We sit down with that cup of coffee and our book to read. Then we jump up because we forgot our highlighter. Then we get up to get our phone that we forgot near the coffee pot. Then we…anyway, our focus is not always there. Sometimes we are so unfocused that the “fall” from the burst happens before we accomplish our goal. The solution? More caffeine. No, not really: the solution is more sleep. After all, it is sleep that actually restores our energy and helps us concentrate and helps us maintain an optimistic mood.   I guess this is the right place to mention that caffeine, if we overdo it, does have some negative associations. It can make us anxious (our heartbeats will certainly increase), it can cause dehydration, stomach upset, and lack of appetite. If you really want to understand its side effects, try giving it up for a day. My students often try this as a challenge I offer them; they write about their withdrawal headaches, their irritability, their fatigue. They are miserable for the day. That has to tell us something about our over reliance on it.

So, back to the idea that we need more sleep. How can we really get more?

  1. We need to relax before bed. Clear our heads of what is bothering us. Children are great at that. We can be with them all day, asking about their day. They have nothing to say until they are in bed and then they “remember” about something they forgot to do, or got in trouble for doing. They call out to a parent, who comforts them. They fall asleep, sometimes the parent does not, taking the worry on as their own. Interestingly, many couples do this too. They wait until they are in bed and then say things like “Did I tell you I forgot to pay the credit card bill?” or “Did I mention that I’m going out of town this weekend?” Upsetting conversations do not belong at the end of the day or in the bedroom.
  2. Make the bedroom a relaxing place. Sending children to their room as a punishment only creates association of bed with “bad” and withdrawal of love. Those emotions are not compatible with sleep. Making the bedroom their playroom is also a problem, blurring the line between playtime and bedtime. For adults, too, bedroom associations of relaxation and intimacy are far more likely to produce a restful sleep than associations of arguments and rejection.
  3. Allow yourself time to daydream before bed. That can be much more relaxing than watching the news or even reading a book that keeps you wanting to find out what happens next. A good daydream allows us to escape from the realities we face, while affording the opportunity to put ourselves in the role of “winner”. We can accomplish anything in a daydream and, with enough rest, we could more easily turn those daydreams into realities.
  4. Concentrating on what you accomplished is more relaxing than concentrating on what you did not do during the day or what is left to do tomorrow. Thinking about what you did provides closure. I did make that phone call, I did send out resumes/do my homework (or some of it), I did text my friends. When we concentrate on what we did not do, it increases our anxiety, not only about the day we had and the decisions we made, but about what the next day will be like as well. Whatever we did do during the day, we did because it had value to us. If we accept that fact, then a positive closure follows, and so does a more restful sleep.
  5. If you have the same list of things you did not accomplish every night, make a note to figure out a better plan after you get that sleep. For example, if you did not do laundry 4 days in a row, maybe it is time to ask someone else for some help with it. Or maybe it is a chore you do not like and you can “trade chores” with a housemate. Or maybe you can save money somewhere else and pay to have the laundry done for you. Sleep helps us be more creative problem solvers.
  6. Turn down the lights – especially on your devices. The light mimics daytime and confuses your brain into thinking it should be awake. Less light, more sleep.
  7. Tackle the shoulds. Write them down so they do not continually play over and over again in your head. As we try to remember our list, we get more anxious and sleep evades us. So, write them down. Look the list over in the morning and make a real effort to convert them to needs and wants so the “should” can either be accomplished or discarded.
  8. Make a “happy book”. Put some fun pictures or nice quotes in there. Look at it before bed so you end the day thinking of good thoughts. Good thoughts can be elusive, and something concrete to look at can be very helpful.
  9. Did I mention reducing that caffeine during the day? If that is difficult, end the caffeine intake earlier in the day. Being able to drink a 20 ounce coffee before going to bed is a sign of caffeine tolerance; it means you need more for the same effect of energy. However, that tolerance is impacting the quality of your sleep.
  10. Blow some bubbles. Yes, you read that right. Blowing bubbles helps us take a deep breath. Then we need to release it. Then we can imagine our troubles floating away in the bubbles. It can be a great way to end the day.

I wish you restful nights and energetic tomorrows!

“A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow” ~Charlotte Brontë

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17 thoughts on “The Walking Dead

  1. This post was a useful start guide to being cured from being the walking dead. The bubbles are my favorite, coupled with a good book. I would have never made the relationship between the walking dead and us who do a thousand and one things a day with a limited amount of sleep. Very helpful post!

  2. this post topic was different i would not compare our generation to the walking dead, i know our generation still today do not get enough sleep because we do so much thing in a day. Also, many of us live in New York which mean the state that never sleep. I agree with this blog because we do so much in our lives and in the day, we never get the thing we want to do done because we have to sleep. Most people know and doctors said it we post to sleep eight hours of sleep in order for our body to function better and get a better rest and wake up new, fresh and ready for the next day. I also believe if people knew how to time manage their time better in the day. then thing can get done in the day or make a plan or be more organized with with their schedule. Maybe that way people can find better way to get more sleep in their daily life.

  3. Great post! I do think that we are an exhausted society and enough sleep is essential for us to actually function. I’m going to say that yea I don’t get enough sleep and that’s really bad for my health. But with work and school work always piling up its incredibly hard to find time to do it without being behind on something. So it’s either no sleep but get my schoolwork done,or being well rested and behind on school. I think its that we as a society is an overworked one. We always to be doing something or else we are lazy, but whats wrong with taking nap once and a while.

  4. Speak the truth! I can’t even remember the last time I got a full uninterrupted 8 hours or gone a whole day without at least one energy drink to at least keep me functioning until I can make it home. These days I either try to catch up on sleep while on the bus or get to campus at the crack of dawn and sleeping there so I don’t have to worry about waking up to late. It’s funny how technology and methods have become so advanced and supposedly make things more easier and simple yet our plates are more stacked and stress inducing than ever.

  5. Wow, this was a great post! I totally agree.. Sleep is crucial for me, if I don’t sleep well I really can’t function the next day. So even if I have thousands of things to do or problems to “solve” I try so hard to sleep early because otherwise the next day I won’t be able to get things done anyway. It’s very hard for me to fall asleep, first thing : my son, he is so hyperactive. My night routine starts with turning the lights off,closing Windows, putting my son to bed and the then I go to my bed with some light music and a candle next to me. Then I start thinking and thinking and can’t stop thinking.. So, that’s when I have to stop my brain and try to relax or I could be up all night. I usually forget many things, I remember at night so I have my phone next to me and take some notes. In that way I try to clear my mind, relax and get a good amount of sleep. I Didn’t need to do all this things feew years ago. Is a long process now, maybe i have more things going on than before, or because I have a son and my I have a light sleep now. I don’t know what changed, it could be everything, but I have to go through this process because it’s worth it!! 🙂

  6. ‘THE WALKING DEAD’ This is a very great title for this article .I never thought this was about sleeping until I started reading it. This is a very interesting and true article because sleep plays a vital role in good health throughout our life. as students sleep is vital for learning and memory.It is more difficult to take in new information after a sleepless night. no one can deny the fact that most people put sleep at the bottom of their list. For, instance I work a 12 hour shift and go straight to school from work. after school I have to make sure all my assignments are completed , shop for groceries and prepare some food before I go to bed. Sometimes, I only sleep for two hours because I will have to go back to work at night again. This makes me feel sleepy in class so therefore, I am also part of the ‘THE WALKING DEAD’!!!

  7. As a college student I found sleep to be a luxary that I personaly can not afford. I am told to maxamized my time and get as much done as possble in order to succed. At this very moment im fighting my eyes so they donot to close. I agree, we dont get enough sleep in our life. I know I would say If i get 6 hours in good.

  8. Sleeping disorder is a huge problem in this technology world. Work, entertainment, and even noise from industries are huge factors for sleeping disorder. People get this disorder by staying up every night to watch movies and also play video games. But working at the night is the big cause or factor for this sickness. People avoid sleep for work. This has led to most of the sleeping disorders. As I was reading the article The Walking Dead, the author made it clear that sleep is very important for physical well-being and also for growth. This article is very good and as l was thinking about the article, I related to medicine. Sleeping is good medicine that makes us feel comfortable. It is not sour and we don’t have to put syringes in our body to get this medicine. So l think this medicine is also the best in the world and we need to make good use of it. L have learnt a lot from the article. So I will sleep well and hope people should see article and have good sleep too.

  9. After, reading this article, I thought that it was about the possible of real zombies coming to life and causing destruction. However, I was in shock when I read that if a person does not get enough sleep, they could actually look like a real zombie. This article sure does make a perfect reference to it. In addition, this article has taught me the importance of finding enough time in someone’s schedule to sleep. I have also learn some of effects that the human body gets without enough sleep such as lack of attention and concentration. I am guilt myself for not getting enough sleep and stay up late at night watching YouTube videos and playing video games. To me, It was a pity worth staying up catching up on some of my hobbies.

  10. Again, super interesting post. You are absolutely right when you talk about how we live in an exhausted society. My sleep schedule is completely cluttered all the time, and it results in most days with me being exhausted for the majority of that day. I have certain friends away at college who tell me they don’t go to bed until 2-3 in the morning every night. I’m sure that this is the case with most college students too, which just supports the fact that our society is always so exhausted. I found it really interesting when you talked about how we actually don’t need shampoo and soap, because sleep restores our cells. This was really fascinating to me because I honestly had no idea sleep does that for us, and just hearing that makes me want to sleep more. In your first step to getting better sleep, you said that we need to be relaxed before we delve into sleep. Well, I was going to go to bed after I read this, and reading this is actually making me very relaxed, so thank you for posting this. Now I know how important sleep is more than I ever did, and your steps to getting a good night sleep are 100% effective, and imperative for our well-being.

  11. Sleep is very important. I myself lack a lot of sleep because of school or work but thats what college students have to go through. I’m going to try your steps of having a goodnight rest. With all these social networks a lot of young adults stay so concentrated on their phones and be forgetting that the lack of sleep can have a toll on you each day

  12. I can write an essay on this subject. Society is sleep deprived and many of us do struggle with our needs and wants, while this for sure can get in the way of sleep. But as we get older in the 21st century, the demand of making money is also growing. Technology is coming out that is almost forcing us to subscribe to and place us in situations where we feel we cannot live without. And I am not talking about the new application for social media or an update on a celebrity, I am talking about day care centers where we can see our children via cameras while they are being cared by people we hire as we are working. Things like this will cost us money, time away from our families, and sleep deprived.
    I say this by my own experiences, I do not have social media, I find it difficult to spend time with my infant, wife, and dogs, no less my friends. I work extended hours all the time at work, but I have learned how to balance my time efficiently.
    As I look at myself and those I go to school with whom most if not all are in the same boat as myself, it is almost the way of life so far. We all struggle with sleep issue.

  13. This post was very helpful, insightful and useful to me. For me sleep is a problem, my life doesn’t afford me the 6-8 hours a day needed for proper sleep. Reading this post makes me realize that all those other things can wait and in order to get the rest needed we need to push those things aside and focus on what’s most important, which is sleep. My motto use to be I will sleep when I am dead, but I am now realizing if I don’t have proper sleep I might be dead before my time. I will try to incorporate some of these techniques into my daily before bed rituals to see if they will help shut my brain off earlier than normal.

  14. “Walking dead” seem to be the state I’m always in my current schedule consist of 70-hour work weeks, going college full time, and married with 3 kids and a dog. Between the time at work, spending time with the family, concentrating on my homework assignment sleep is defiantly at the bottom of the list. I know my mind and my body need to rest, relax and recuperate but there isn’t enough ours in the day. My biggest problem is separating myself from work and leaving it in the office it consumes me.
    I have found myself many time getting behind the wheel of a car and what seems like a split second I’m already at my destination. It’s a scary feeling! Sleep is extremely important in order to manage the day to day activities effectively and responsibly.

  15. I don’t know how, but for some reason I knew this article was going to be about not getting enough sleep. And it describes me to a T! I am one of these walking dead people, I just can’t seem to get enough sleep. Now that my kids are in their teens/early teens, I actually get opportunities where I can get more sleep. But for some reason I always feel like I could be doing something else or getting something else out of the way, instead of just sleeping.
    These are some great tips for trying to get more sleep! Most of them I can definitely use, except for turning the TV off before bed & trying to daydream. If I lay there in the dark, my mind would be racing all night. But I know how imperative it is to my health and well-being that I get enough sleep. So I’m going to really work on it.

  16. This topic hits home as I am typing this i have my coffee mug on my desk with a full cup in it to get me through this Friday. I could not agree more with this article to add. I am the perfect example of f someone who gets absolutely not enough sleep. I would say that i average between 4-5 hours a sleep a night on a weekly basis. With my work schedule , school schedule and then my extra circular sporting activities there is simply just not enough time in the day for me to even get close to 6-8 hours of sleep. Reading this article brings up only valid points to the fact that we all do need sleep. Me though I am one the those people who says ” I will sleep when I am dead ” i guess we will see how long i can last with this logic.

  17. This article puts into words everything I have been handling for years now. In life sometimes it feels like everything is a top priority but yet sleep is never really one of them. instead it hinders us in our minds from accomplishing all of the other more “important” priorities. We as a society need to work on our sleeping habits and patterns so that when we do go to tackle the “big” priorities, we are doing so with a fresh set of eyes and frame of mind. Lack of sleep is not only detrimental to us mentally creating out of character and irritable states, but it is also proven to physically harm humans. I think this needs to be addressed as a whole society since this is pretty much set as the “norm” i.e. the phrase “i’ll sleep when i’m dead”

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