How many hours of sleep do you get every night? How many hours do you believe you need?
For many years, I was a firm believer that I only needed five hours per night. I gloried that I was one of those “short sleepers,” especially since I would stay up until 3 or 4 am writing or working and then get up again at 6 to go to work. After all, I reasoned I could do a whole lot more without wasting time with sleep.
That was before I heard of Matthew Walker, a professor of psychology from UC Berkeley. Part of my late night forays is watching self-help videos on Youtube, so it was inevitable that their algorithm would steer me to mind-hacking through better sleep. Wait, what? You mean I can sleep my way to a better life?
Unfortunately, being type A, and an incessant publisher, I had a hard time relating to what he said–until I realized a few salient points.
- Lack of sleep effects the memory big time. A decade ago, when I first started writing, I could not only keep track of my own storyline but also the characters, events, motivations, goals, and themes of dozens of critique partners as well as published authors who brainstormed with me on their characters. I was always able to say, “Remember when Cassie did this or thought that?” And they were like, “Huh? Oh, which book was that?” Guess what? Now, I’m the one being reminded by my editor that I did that already, or a few paragraphs back this already happened. I now have to keep cheatsheets of my own books or re-read a book and take notes if I want to continue the series. Matthew Walker cites tons of stats about the percentage of memory loss in his speeches. I won’t repeat them here, but it turns out that when you go to sleep, your brain is re-recording or cutting grooves [think of a vinyl record] to store the memory and it does it again and again and again. He talks about imaging rat brains the night after they learned a maze.
- Lack of sleep makes you emotionally raw. Have you noticed how easily you fly off the handle if you’re tired and bedraggled? How little things that normally won’t bother you will make you go ballistic? Or you get weepy at stories that are only a tiny bit sentimental. Or like a never-ending earworm, you have a worry worm circling your heart filled with anxiety? Matthew Walker tells us that dream sleep is incredibly “therapeutic,” in that it allows you to supposedly unemotionally process the stories of your life and create links to previous stories or experiences. I’m not exactly sure what my recurring and frustrating dreams about broken computer code and or not realizing I have a final exam when I’ve cut all the classes and not done the homework are all about. Maybe it’s PTSD from my academic and computer related work. Recently, though, I’ve been having escape and rescue dreams involving me saving small children and babies under attack. We’re always running and hiding in underground tunnels while terrorists are hunting us or fleeing in disguise in the backs of trucks or buses or safe houses. Don’t try to analyze that! I’d rather have fun foodie dreams where I can eat all the cakes and cookies and goodies without gaining a single calorie. But according to Walker, these dreams are calming my emotions, so I’ll be grateful that they’re only dreams. And the babies or toddlers [who I don’t recognize, but could if I met them in real life] are adorable. The ones last night were twins. My husband had the heavier boy and I had the lighter girl who had a full head of black hair and large brown eyes who called me “Yaya.”
- Lack of sleep shortens your life and predisposes you to Alzheimers. Yikes, he has proof. According to his studies, sleep is the best blood pressure medication. Sleep also cleans up the “glop” that gathers in the brains of Alzheimers patients. Lack of sleep also shrinks the testicles big time and lowers both men’s and women’s testosterone levels. And of course there’s the immune system. We all know that sleep builds it, and these days, it’s so important.
He’s so adamant about sleep that he says there is no one healthy who gets less than seven (7) hours of sleep per night. Watch the entire video, but let’s start with the testicles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1yGw_hfEfk&t=790s
Looks like I’m going to be getting more sleep. I plan on going to bed two hours earlier, or at least not staying up past midnight. I’m also going to cut down on caffeine after lunchtime.
He also gives one big tip on what to do if you WAKE UP in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep. He says not to lie there worrying because you will be training your body that bed is for worrying and not sleeping. Instead, get up and go to another room. Put on a dim light, not bright, and read a book. Then when you’re feeling drowsy, put the book away and go back to bed. An alternative is to listen to an audiobook but do not lie in bed. A change of position is needed so your body associates bed with sleep and one other activity only.
You knew I had to bring in my books somehow, right? I have eighty-four (84) published books to help you get better sleep, including three (3) free audiobooks and nine (9) free ebooks. [Go to https://www.rachelleayala.net/free-books for the free audiobooks and ebooks and https://www.rachelleayala.net/books for my booklist] I’m also in a lot of the Authors Billboard boxed sets. Start with five (5) free Authors Billboard Fabulous Freebies. Choose between sweet and steamy books. Did you know Alexa can also read your ebooks to you? Tell her to read in a low voice and before long, you will be back in dreamland and hacking your mind and life to better health and happiness.
Check out Matthew Walker’s full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1yGw_hfEfk
Happy Sleeping! – Rachelle Ayala
Rachelle Ayala is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Her foremost goal is to take readers on a shared emotional journey with her characters as they grow and become more true to themselves. Rachelle believes in the power of love to overcome obstacles and feels that everyone should find love as often as possible, especially if it’s within the pages of a book.
Her book, Knowing Vera, won the 2015 Angie Ovation Award, A Father for Christmas garnered a 2015 Readers’ Favorite Gold Award, Christmas Stray received a 2016 Readers’ Favorite Gold Award, and Playing for the Save got the 2017 Readers’ Favorite Gold Award in Realistic Fiction.
She is also a writing teacher and founder of the Romance In A Month writing community. She lives in California with her husband and has three children and two birds.