Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sober Day #60! Revisiting the Power of Sleep

Yesterday I had an interesting reminder of the power of sleep!!

In my former drinking life, I was a 4-5 hour a night sleeper.  At the time, I felt like this was sufficient to 'get by' on.

In the first weeks of sobriety, I was up to 8-10 hours of sleep each night- mainly because of going to bed very early to avoid evening temptation to drink.

Over the last weeks, however, my sleep time has been shrinking again as I get more enthusiastic and drawn-in by some of my sober evening activities: Just one more square for this quilt, just one more set of glass beads, maybe another chapter of this book... and bedtime creeps later and later.

Everyone 'knows' that sleep deprivation leads to multiple dysfunctions, including slowed reaction time (physical and mental), less creativity and flexibility, and often less optimism.  On the other hand, however, most of us, while acknowledging that this is true for others, somehow think of ourselves as 'immune' to this effect.

There is a notoriously poor connection between one's subjective assessment of fatigue or sleepiness, and objective measurements of these.  (How do you objectively measure sleepiness?- one way is the Multiple Sleep Latency Test).  This means we often think we feel 'fine', are doing just 'great' after our sleep-deprived nights- whereas in reality, we are not functioning so well.

How did my life remind me of this yesterday?  By way of a game!

A few months ago, surfing around about 'successful aging' topics, I came across an online site called Luminosity.  It has a set of game-like activities purported to keep brain agility challenged.  One signs up for a nominal feel, plays different games as assigned, and sees scores comparing oneself with ones own former performance, as well as compared to age-based peers.  The website emails a daily reminder to visit and play the 5 games it has assigned to you for that day.  I find it a lot of fun.  And as a highly competitive person, I love seeing my scores in various categories improve day-by-day.  I almost always have a new Personal Best or at least a Top Five score on most of the games each day.

Yesterday, my performance was sub-par.  I didn't even hit the Top Five score for any of the games.  Hey, What's up?

Later in the day, it occurred to me.  The night before was a very short sleep night- only about 4 hours, because of getting to bed a little late, and having to get up unusually early for a must-keep commitment.

I think these games are an unusually good discriminator of reaction time and brain connection time, since they depend on quick responses requiring both mental and physical agility.  I hadn't noticed any other performance deficits for yesterday.  I wasn't depressed, unusually drawn to alcohol, having trouble driving or any other actions I usually think of as resulting from sleep deprivation.  But here was concrete evidence that apparently short sleep, even for just one night, DID impact my ability to function 'on all cylinders'.

So:  I am re-committing to getting at least 7 (and preferably 8 or more) hours of sleep each night.  I think Enough Sleep is also important in helping me meet this 100 day challenge, and figure out what I want to do after that.



  1. I adore Luminosity. You should have seen my scores while I was still drinking! lol

    PS: Thanks for being a part of my seat belt :) I wouldn't make it without my blogger friends!

    1. Yeah, I'm guessing no-alcohol makes those scores quite a bit better, lol!

  2. Sounds like a good site. Don't need it to know that I am appauling on anything less than 8 hours and preferably 10! I was always greedy when it came to sleep :)

    1. I've always been a bit dense about how far I could push myself physically-'suck it up and carry on' is kind of the motto of surgical fields here. This unacknowledged sleep deprivation may have been another reason I fell into the habit of alcohol- yet another reason to tend carefully to my sleep in sobriety!


I'd love to hear about your journey, and hear your take on my journey. Comments are very welcome!!