Winding down your brain (DW#705)

In the days before technology (not that long ago), we used to unwind for the evening by following some basic bedtime routines: praying, taking a shower, brushing our teeth, putting on sleep clothes, reading or chatting perhaps. This routine would signal to our brain that it is time to go into sleep mode.

Things are quite different in most households today. When we include screen time during this critical "unwinding" period, we are filling our minds with information, knowledge, and thoughts. This often leads to information overload because we are filling our minds with information that our brain must process before it will allow us to sleep. In a sense, this is like drinking an energy drink or an espresso at bedtime!

So while it may seem harmless to knock out a few emails before bed, or have a short (or long) check in with social media, we are keeping our minds engaged and the message that our brains get is that it needs to stay awake and alert.

Of course, if we are watching the news...

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How much light is too much? (DW#704)

Yesterday we talked about how bright light from devices can delay the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.

It is not only technology that is to blame. Artificial light of all types can have this impact.

(Although all wavelengths of light have this effect, blue light is particularly problematic. Blue light is so good at helping us feel awake, it's used in places like factories to help night workers stay alert)

Light is usually measured by the lux (symbol: lx) measuring luminous flux per unit area. It is equal to one lumen per square metre. It is a measure of the intensity, as perceived by the human eye, of light that hits or passes through a surface.

Matthews says: "Even a hint of dim light–8 to 10 lux–has been shown to delay the release of nighttime melatonin in humans. The feeblest of bedside lamps pumps out twice as much: anywhere from 20 to 80 lux. A normally lit living room, where most people reside in the hours before bed, will come in at around 200 lux....

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Devices and the production of melatonin (DW#703)

How exactly does our cell phone interfere with sleep?

In many ways, it turns out. Let’s explore the major ones:

The blue light from technology such as phones, computer screen and televisions suppresses the production of melatonin.

Melatonin is the hormone that controls our sleep/waking cycle or circadian rhythm. In other words, melatonin signals the brain that it is time to sleep.

When our eyes absorb the bright blue light from the devices around us, the release of melatonin is delayed, making it more difficult for people to fall asleep. Reduced melatonin also makes it harder for us to stay asleep. The exposure to light basically wires our brains, increasing alertness rather than relaxation.

It is well documented in research studies that the bright light from phones, tablets and computers blocks the production and release of Melatonin after about 90 minutes of technology use in the evening.

What may be even more alarming is the finding that after five nights of exposure to...

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Let’s talk tech (DW#702)

One of the biggest thieves of sleep is technology.

Our cell phones, tablets, computers and other electronic gadgets have become such a huge part of our daily lives that it’s often really hard to put them down—even at bedtime.

We are so used to keeping our phones besides our bed that we do not consider it to be a big deal.

But it is.

Technology affects our sleep in many more ways than we realize. Whether we are surfing the web, watching a YouTube video, or even just using our phone as an alarm clock, it is impacting the duration and quality of our sleep.

So if you, like many of us, look at your phone the last thing at night, and you are not satisfied with the quality of sleep that you are getting, make the connection between your use of technology and the quality of your sleep.

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You are likely not the exception (DW#700)

Regardless of what we hear about other people needing sleep, sometimes we kid ourselves that we can get by with very little sleep (I have been doing exactly that for a long time. My recent foray into this subject is making me much more humble about my sleep needs . . .)

According to our favourite sleep expert, Mathew Walker, the odds that you or I fall into the group of people who can truly thrive on less sleep are incredibly low.

Here is how he puts it: "It is far, far more likely that you will be struck by lightning (the lifetime odds being 1 in 12,000) than being truly capable of surviving on insufficient sleep thanks to a rare gene." In other words, the chances of us trying to live optimally with sleep deprivation are essentially ZERO.

The consequences of chronically depriving ourselves of sleep while kidding ourselves that we don’t need it? Well, they are astonishingly devastating. Sleep deprivation dramatically increases the odds of getting everything – from mood...

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Sleep well, think well (DW#699)

In Brain Rules, 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and SchoolJohn Medina outlines 12 principles for optimal brain health and function.

Guess which principle makes it to the top 3?


The principle he outlines is: Sleep well, think well.

He explains it very simply: Sleep loss = brain drain.

This is especially important for those of us who like to "burn the midnight oil" (students, take note!)

Medina explains: "One study showed that a highly successful student can be set up for a precipitous academic fall just by getting less than seven hours of sleep a night. Take an A student used to scoring in the top 10 percent of virtually everything she does. If she gets just under seven hours of sleep on weekdays, and about 40 minutes more on weekends, her scores will begin to match the scores of the bottom 9 percent of individuals who are getting enough sleep."

Ouch! It appears that most students would do better to sleep one more hour than to spend that time studying....

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Rest enough to do deep work (DW#698)

Before we get to today's DW, a few points of clarification from yesterday:
1) I am NOT a fan of Jeff Bezos
2) I am NOT a fan of Amazon or its oppressive business practices
And I still believe that we can learn from everyone. Although our definition and their definition of success may be vastly different, we can still appreciate the way CEOs of wealthy corporations manage their time and prioritize self-care.

I also wanted to re-iterate how blessed I feel when one or more of you engage with DWs and challenge what is expressed or hold me accountable for my words. When we build a community that cares enough to give valuable feedback and hold each other accountable, it can help us grow and remain humble and authentic - so a huge thank you!

And now, for today's DW!

Have you noticed, that you can get high quality work done in a shorter period of time when you are focused?

Cal Newport in his brilliant book, Deep Work has come up with an equation to explain this:

High Quality Work Produced =...

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Do you have more work to do than Jeff Bezos? (DW#697)

Jeff Bezos, CEO and president of, is one of the wealthiest people on the planet (who happens to be the first person worth over $100 billion). One would imagine running his empire would take quite a bit of time, right?

It appears that successful businesspeople like Jeff Bezos are now beginning to learn just how important sleep is for their well-being (and also for their employees’ wellbeing).

Arianna Huffington writes inThe Sleep Revolution that a lot of the tech companies keeping us up at night via their apps and other blue-light photon generators are now beginning to learn that when their employees are not well-rested, their bottom line begins to suffer.

Here are few examples of successful entrepreneurs that she mentions in the chapter called"Sleep and the Workplace".

1. Jeff Bezos gets eight hours of sleep every night. He told The Wall Street Journal: "I’m more alert and I think more clearly… I just feel so much better all day long if I’ve had...

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Too busy working to get enough sleep? (DW#696)

Do you ever sacrifice sleep because you have too much work to do?

You may want to pay attention to the following: (Talking to myself here).

Research shows that sleep-deprived people have to work way harder than they would have to work if they had a full night’s sleep to power them through their days.

As Mathew Walker explains, it takes twice as long to boil water on medium heat than it does on high heat. And working while you are sleep-deprived is like trying to boil water on medium heat.

Here’s how he puts it: “Under-slept employees are not, therefore, going to drive your business forward with productive innovation. Like a group of people riding stationary exercise bikes, everyone looks like they’re peddling, but the scenery never changes. The irony that employees miss is that when you are not getting enough sleep, you work less productively and thus need to work longer to accomplish a goal. This means you often must work longer and later into the evening,...

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Would you buy this pill? (DW#694)

Imagine you are scrolling through your newsfeed and you come across this ad:


Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory and makes you more creative. It makes you look more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings (yes, PLEASE!). It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and the flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and strokes, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious. Are you interested?"

Some of us would keep scrolling down, not believing the hype. Others may be much too curious (or desperate) and may keep reading, noticing that the organization who published it is not big pharma, out to make millions but instead a well-respected organization.

Matthews writes in Why we Sleep about this advertisement: "While it may sound hyperbolic, nothing about this fictitious advertisement would be inaccurate. If this were...

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