Tag Archives: memory loss

Only child considers the sleep factor

Only Child looking like she could use more sleep

“To sleep, perchance to dream,” William Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet. Forget the dreams; I’m having difficulty finding time to get ENOUGH sleep. But as some of my business gaffes last week show, I need more sleep because the lack of enough is affecting my cognitive abilities, my memory and making me anxious. I know I’ve hit on this topic before but it’s important enough to revisit.

The biggest gaffe (now corrected) is I mixed up dates for a one-day Blogging Your Memories workshop I’m teaching at the Riverdale Public Library branch in Toronto Oct. 5. I thought it was Oct. 3 and so put Oct. 5 as one of the dates for a Crafting Your Personal Memoir Writing course I’m running. Until I saw my library workshop posted on the library branch’s website. Oops.

Research shows I’m not alone in this Oops, not-enough-sleep factor.

A 2007 study conducted by Harris/Decima found that 90 percent of Canadian women don’t get sufficient shut-eye at night. Sixty percent of these sleep-deprived women live in Ontario, 59 percent in Quebec and the lowest number lacking enough sleep, at 50 percent, live in Maritime Canada. Why are we women not getting enough sleep? And the men are faring better. Stress (62 percent for women vs 53 percent for men), uncomfortable room temperature  (61 percent for women and 43 percent for men), and insomnia (35 percent for women and 25 percent for men).

And according to an earlier (2003) National Sleep Disorders Research plan, not spending enough time in the land of nod affects cognitive tasks, i.e.  the functional activity patterns between brain regions is altered. See http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/prof/sleep/res_plan/section2/section2.htm.

And your memory – or maybe that should be MY memory – too little sleep affects our working memory, according to a Wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_deprivation 

This article states that EEG studies show if you get less sleep then you have less reaction time, your focus and your alertness decrease, and your accuracy nose-dives. Amen to that.

I think it all started years ago when in high school I burned the midnight and later oils cramming for exams. It didn’t do me much good.  Since then I have had times when I did get sufficient sleep. When I was pregnant with my son, I had to go to bed soon after 7 p.m. or I yawned the rest of the evening. But it was also the time I could get up by 7 a.m. and be wide awake. Not anymore. If I have to get up early I’m often dragging myself around until I get a few shots of coffee inside me. Of course later in the day I want to nap, but I press on with work because I have a backlog of editing, writing, etc., not to mention house stuff, to do – despite prioritizing. But that’s another story.

Now, I’m still dragging myself around late late at night (you don’t want to know the time) finishing up  house chores or organizing my next-day’s work schedule.

Two nights ago, I declared war on not getting enough sleep. That workshop/course date mix-up did it. Now. I’m trying to get my 7 1/4 hours of nightly sleep. That seems to be the magic number for me. I think I have to do as I did a few years ago when I would “kill” for my sleep and if anyone or anything stopped me from getting to bed by 11 p.m., let’s just say I didn’t feel kindly towards them.

Maybe it’s also an age thing – hormones, or no hormones, who knows. That Harris/Decima study didn’t mention anything about the ages of the women who were sleep-deprived. Or maybe (more likely) we women and men, too, are just doing too much; it’s stressing us out, and depriving us of sleep.

I’ve said “no” on a few things the past few weeks, and am trying to focus on one thing at a time – not always succeeding. More walking and continuing with my constant gardening (when not working) would also help. When winter comes I can shovel snow for exercise. Yeck!

I think I’ll continue concentrating on getting more sleep…and maybe perchance to dream about some ideas to cut down on the overwhelm in my days.

Anyone else have any ideas?


Sharon Crawford

Only Child Writes


Filed under Balance, Burnout, Cognitive disorders, Concentration, Life demands, Memory loss, Only child, Overwhelm, Prioritizing, Sleep deprivation, Stress

Only Child sleep deprived

Only Child trying to stay awake during the day

The signs are there. I’m forgetting where I put stuff. I’m finding stupid mistakes in my work (Clients please ignore this and read on). Sure, stress and too many distractions in the day are factors. But the biggie, according to sleep experts, is not getting enough zzzzs each night.

Slowly I’m sleeping my way to the big 8 hours of nightly sleep. That’s what these sleep experts say we need to function properly each day. Previously I had read that 7 hours worked and found that if I slept for 7 1/4 hours I was fine. Trouble is, the nights of that amount of sleep were few and far between. I get to bed way too late (too many things to do) and no, I don’t get up too early. However, when this relentless rain we’ve been receiving  this week stops for more than a few hours and the temperature climbs, I want to get up an hour earlier to go out into my garden before sitting in front of the computer. So, I have to work back from the other end – when I go to bed.

Surprisingly, I usually don’t have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. On the few occasions when I wake up during the night I generally nod off within a few minutes. A disclaimer here: I do not take drugs to sleep  or calm down, but occasionally take the natural supplement Valerian  Root to relax. It doesn’t interfere with daily functions.

My big problem is finding time to get enough sleep – something I first encountered in high school when I stayed up late studying for exams and set the alarm for 6 a.m. to continue studying. I still didn’t cover everything in the curriculum and would face the exam with trepidation.

I’m not alone in this not-enough-sleep lifestyle. Many of us “sleep-walk” our way through each day. A study by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia confirms many people are akin to the living dead in their reactions to  getting insufficient nightly shut-eye  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21368739. The CDC did an analysis of  information from a 2005-2008  National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Statistics gleaned here  on sleep deprivation are:

Adults  20–39 years  – 37.0%

Adults 40-59 years – 40.3%

Adults aged 60 years and over – 32.0%

I fall into this latter group so these somewhat lower statistics surprised me, mainly because of what my friends of the same age have told me, i.e., they go to bed late, wake up at 5 a.m. and can’t return to sleep so get up and read the newspaper and check e-mail.

The other jolt from this study is the main repercussion found from lack of sleep – 23.2 % of US adults had difficulty concentrating on doing things. When you consider everything people do daily, it gets scary. Driving and operating machinery come first to mind. But what about traffic controllers? There have been instances of airplanes circling the runway because of no traffic controller response except maybe a series of  snores. Even those of us who write and edit for a living lose our concentration fast. It seems to take longer to grasp something than normal and we miss bad sentence structures, wrong words in manuscripts and reports we edit (Clients, please snooze now). I’ve even dozed off for a few minutes and woken up startled to find my hands sitting on the computer keyboard.

Something has to be done. Bottom line is we need more sleep but how to get it? Some experts say to cut the TV viewing but that isn’t the only culprit. We stay out too late at social events. We work too late – and heaven help the night shift workers – they have it worse, but that’s another story. We try to cram too much into a day (guilty here). We need to either extend our sleep time in the morning or just get to bed earlier. I’m still don’t believe that on weekends you should get the same number of hours of sleep as weeknights (i.e. don’t sleep in). But if you do sleep in weekends, you need to get more than five or six or even seven hours of sleep during the week.

So, I’m trying to train myself to do less “housework” each night. I have the habit of doing the dishes late and then I get sidetracked from getting to bed by clearing papers off the table, sorting the unwieldy pile of unread magazines on the coffee table, sorting old newspapers, flyers and dumping them in the big recycling bin outside, and even reading said newspapers and magazines.  The list goes on and I’m not even fully awake at the time. Do I really have to do this now? should be our mantra. Ask yourself: will the world end if you don’t (supply your own task) tonight? Remember the three D’s – delay, delegate and dump. Being an “only person” here, the middle D often raises the question “Who?” But I’m using the other two “D’s” more.

Another option is power-napping for 20-minutes during the day. But that doesn’t mean we can forego a good night’s sleep. If we don’t get more sleep, our society could turn into snoring zombies.

Now that would be rude.



Only Child Writes

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Filed under Concentration, Health, Life demands, Memory loss, Only child, Prioritizing, Sleep deprivation, Time management