Ep 33: Make sleep the most important stop of your day


Sleep is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Your brain starts its real work of the day when you finally give it up and go to sleep.

Your brain functions a bit like a pit crew in a race. It knows exactly what to do and gets started the minute you pull off the road.

Learn why sleep should be the most important pit stop you make today.

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Full transcript

Hi I’m Lori Miller and this is your Mental Health Moment.

We’re all pretty keenly aware that we need sleep. Good, restorative restful sleep.

And we know that most of us need seven to nine hours.

But we have a hard time making that a priority, don’t we?

Sleep is one of those areas where we think we have the most wiggle room in our day.

It’s a constant bucket that we steal from to accommodate other stuff.

Important stuff like watching TV and scrolling through our Instagram. 😲

I guess because we’re not conscious when we’re asleep, we feel like we can get away with it. It’s almost like sleep doesn’t seem like a real thing.

I mean, other than dreaming about flying tacos, how do I know what really goes on when I sleep? 🌮🌮

For all I know, nothing happens at all.

So why is sleep so important?

Sleep isn’t an unconscious state. It is, but not like you think.

Even though you’re not moving, it’s an active state where real stuff happens.

Have you ever seen a NASCAR race?

Those cars definitely move. And they move with such great speed and power.

These are pristine, high performing vehicles, for sure. They run hard on the race track.

But not for long.

At some point, they have to pull over for a pit stop.

The pit stop is where the pit crew, some of the most well-trained technicians in the world, literally jump into action to get the car ready to perform the next leg of the race.

They do an alarming number of critical tasks in less than five minutes. It takes me 10 minutes just to put windshield washer fluid in my car.

It’s a very intentional and engaging process.

To neglect that stop in some way could be dangerous because the team will be running the race on burned out tires and overheated engines. It puts the driver at real risk for a crash.

Your need for sleep is no different.

You are a pristine creation. Your physical, mental and spiritual selves combine to form this top of the line, cherished work of art that amazes crowds with its performance.

But you need intentional pit stops to keep this machine running in its best shape.

So what does your neurological pit crew do for you while you sleep?

One of the biggest things that happens is that your brain aggressively catalogues memories from the day. This helps you process what you need to have handy and frees up space for the next day.

All the things you learned today get processed, organized and moved around so you can get where you need to go tomorrow.

While you sleep, your brain flushes away the day’s toxins with a cerebrospinal fluid wash.

It’s like a pressure wash to carry away harmful waste like old molecules and proteins. I never know what to do with those.

This little bath goes a long to way keep from gunking up the most important part of your engine.

Some research is finding this particular cleansing process may even help protect against Alzheimer’s. 👍

Sleep also keeps some of your important systems in check and functioning well.

For example, while you’re sleeping your blood pressure goes down, giving your cardiovascular system a bit of a break.

Your brain helps your body keep insulin levels in check, which can help with the risk of diabetes.

And sleep also balances levels of a hormone called ghrelin that helps regulate your appetite. Ghrelin is known as the hunger hormone. Sleep deprivation increases levels of ghrelin and makes it harder to turn down that chocolate frosted doughnut at 3:00 in the afternoon.

This is how lack of sleep is linked to obesity. Sleeping less makes you want to eat more. That’s not okay.

For bonus points, your brain can also add some new accessories while you sleep.

You can actually learn a new skill while dreaming of flying tacos!

In a study conducted at the University of Bern, researchers found that the brain can learn new vocabulary words while sleeping. Study participants could recall words that were played to them during a deep sleep phase once they woke up.

This is an exciting development that shows just how active our brains really are when we sleep.

See, your brain apparently does things you don’t even need it to do while you’re asleep!

Researchers are just beginning to understand that our brains just  do not shut down when we sleep.

Your brain is especially awake after you turn in for the night. It performs like a boss all night to keep you feeling physically and mentally ready for your race track ahead.

Find ways in this week to make sleep your most intentional pitstop of the day.

You already have a well-functioning neurological pit crew waiting for you.

What do you need to set aside to make this pitstop work for you?

For articles and videos about stress and mental health, visit my website at Lorimiller.me. You can catch Mental Health Moment on Amazon Alexa, Apple podcast, Google podcast and Spotify. Visit LoriMiller.me for info on how to subscribe.

Thanks for listening!

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