To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Sleep is way overrated.

At least that’s what I used to think, before I met my wife and before I started to get older and began to feel the very real consequences of not sleeping well or enough.

I went to college for three years, medical school for four years and then did a residency in psychiatry for four more years before I could start to work as a “real” doctor. All during that time, sleep was a very real luxury that one very quickly learned could be sacrificed for something else, like last minute cramming for a final, research that helped avoid a tongue lashing by a picky attending on morning rounds, or more coffee. We were basically trained by medical training NOT to sleep. In addition to my regular academic duties, I worked a third shift lab job in the hospital, had to go to class, had clinical rotations and had to read, like, all the time. Little naps were good, but an unbroken eight hours of sleep never happened.

Somehow, and I still don’t know quite how, that lack of sleep, perceived need for sleep, and inability to understand the need for sleep carried over into private practice and starting a family. As time went on, sleep deprivation became the norm. I’m sure it deprived me of some experiences and some moments of being fully awake.

As I age, I know in my head and my heart that I need more sleep, but I still begrudge the time lost. I love to sleep, but I hate to end the day and get to bed!

Funny thing is, if I get at least seven or eight hours of good sleep now, I can tell a night and day difference. I am sharper mentally, I feel much better physically, my tolerance is better and I am more creative.

I am trying to learn these key points:

Sleep is good for me. I need to sleep. A lot more than I do. Every night possible.

Routine is important, not just for my little grandchildren, but for me too. Get up at about the same time each day. Get to bed. Let the day end. You’ll have another brand new one tomorrow!

I have a feeling that if I do NOT learn these important lessons on my own, my aging body and brain will let me know in good time….


Good morning, Facebookians, Tweeple, and other assorted readers. 

Today, your brain is going to have a lot of fastballs thrown at it.

There are going to be requests made of you that you may not be able to handle. You’re going to have to juggle multiple to-do lists and not drop any of the items or their due dates. New ideas will be foisted upon you before the old ones have been adequately processed. People will screw things up and come to you, expecting that their messes will become your emergencies. Deadlines will loom large, and setbacks will inevitably make their way into your workflow. 

What to do?

Throw your brain some changeups.

Now, if you’re not a baseball fan, let me bring you up to speed, as it were. A fastball may come at you, the batter, at ninety five miles per hour. Blindingly fast, hard to see and even  harder to hit. The brain processes this fact, gets your arms around and the bat with them and tries to make contact with the little round object whooshing past you in the strike zone and often into the catcher’s mitt. 

A changeup may come in ten to fifteen mph slower. To the batter, the pitcher is winding up and holding the ball about the same and delivering it with the same motion he always does, but there is one difference. He is holding the ball just a little differently. Just enough to take something off of it as it makes its way toward the strike zone. Just enough to get the brain off balance, to make it rethink what it is seeing in front of it.

Work and life can be like that. Fastball after fastball. Strike after strike. No connection. No contact. No hits. No home runs. 

Give yourself a few off speed pitches today. Slow things down. Fool your brain. Break the monotony. 


Simple things can jumpstart this process.

Change your wake up time. If you normally sleep until thirty minutes before you have to run frantically out the door, get up an hour early and give yourself plenty of time to get ready this morning. On the other hand, if you normally get up at five, sleep an extra hour tomorrow or the next day. 

Take a different way to work this morning. Walk or drive a different route. Take the bus instead of the train. Walk or bike if you can. Use the back roads instead of the interstate. Challenge your brain to figure out how to get to a familiar place in a very different way. 

Park on the other side of the lot and enter a building through a completely different door. Sound stupid? Try it. This simple action will change your perspective on the whole day. 

Use your computer mouse with your non-dominant hand. The first time I tried this my left forearm was actually sore and tired at the end of the day. A couple of days later it felt like I had always been a lefty Mouseketeer. It is fascinating how fast your brain will rebel against this little change at first, but them will retool its approach to get the job done. 

Cook a sumptuous breakfast for dinner. The wonderful smells of bacon and eggs and coffee and cinnamon rolls will confuse your brain and your palate at six thirty PM, but the novelty and the way your house smells will more than make up for it. 

Sleep on the other side of the bed. (If you have a partner, please check with them first. They may already think you’re a little off base, but I’ll bet they enjoyed the bacon.) Again, it’s all about perspective and how you get the same job done but just coming at it from a slightly different angle. 

Try a few of these simple ways to shake things up over the next day or two. See if you feel different. 

Challenge yourself. Get out of your rut.

Hit it out of the park.