Why You Should Still Set Your Alarm Even When You Don’t Have To

How Sleep Applies To Emotional Intelligence. By Dr. Melissa Bouassaba

I hear many stories of peoples’ perceptions of working from home meaning no alarm clock, wearing pajamas all day, no make-up, not having to do your hair.  And while these are all good for a while, eventually… we are creating bad habits that can have long lasting physical, emotional, and psychological effects. 

On the contrary, I have also heard people say how much better they feel when they stay on their schedule and still maintain their normal daily routine, even if at home. 

Even when not in times of crisis, stress is constant.  Financial, relationships, career progression, children, aging parents, illness, death, natural disasters, and the list could go on.  But during these times we must be even more diligent and intentional regarding self-care including, but not limited to, sleep. 

There are many self-care habits to develop and practice that will limit the effect of these stressors on your physical and mental health and well-being. 

  • Sleep – proven to have physical, mental, and emotional benefits including improved mood, better attention span, better memory, improved athletic performance, better grades, and many, many more. 
  • Exercise – there is much research on the positive effects that exercise has on eliminating stress and anxiety. As little as five minutes of exercise can result in mood improvement.  For some exercise works just as well as antidepressants.
  • Prayer – add “meaning” to what we experience in life and aids in making sense of it all.  For many it is a way to cope with stress an outlet of stress and anxiety, and can induce peaceful thoughts even in trying times. 
  • Meditation – a practice which results in peace and relaxation, relieving stress and provoking a balanced perspective on life

Without sleep we will perish.    

How much sleep?

It is estimated that adults need at least eight hours of sleep for adequate results, and teenagers need at least nine.  The younger the age, the more sleep is needed. 

  • 5 stages of sleep
  • Transitional phase – falling asleep
  • Non-REM, where we spend nearly half of our sleep time
  • Deep Sleep – slow wave sleep
  • Deep Sleep – more slow wave sleep (rejuvenation, growth hormone release, bone growth, appetite control hormone, improved blood flow promoting restoration and nutrition to the body
  • REM – approximately 20% of sleep, dreaming, mind regeneration occurs here

In order to claim you have achieved adequate sleep (mind and body rejuvenation), you must have slept long enough for your body must complete all 5 of these stages at least 4-5 times per night, which can take up to 9 hours for an adult, depending on the person.

Circadian rhythm – your body’s internal clock

When you maintain a sleep routine, your body will adjust to the routine and it will be easier to fall asleep at night and to wake up in the morning.

Why is it important to sleep at during nighttime hours (darkness)?

Melatonin is a hormone produced by our bodies that maintains our circadian rhythm, mental acuity, and decreases the risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.  This hormone is mostly produced in complete darkness during the nighttime hours.

Things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene:

  • Keeping your routine – even on the weekends!
  • Maintain a quiet, peaceful, and relaxing bedtime ritual
  • Avoid napping
  • Exercise every day – even if only a short walk – get your body moving
  • Sleeping temperature – ideally between 60 and 67
  • Make sure your environment is conducive to sleep – comfort, dark, and quiet
  • Avoid caffeine, smoking, alcohol, and heavy meals at night
  • Avoid cell phone and laptop before bed.  These “delay your body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm), suppresses the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and makes it more difficult to fall asleep.  This is largely due to the short-wavelength, artificial blue light that’s emitted by these devices (sleepfoundation.org).” The more devices are used in the evening time, the harder it will be to fall asleep.  The consequences are decreased length and quality of sleep, which has detrimental long-term effects. 

Some major consequences of poor sleep hygiene:

  • Decreased immunity
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Obesity and weight gain
  • Depression
  • Poor concentration
  • Poor grades
  • Poor athletic performance
  • Poor social and emotional intelligence

Ways sleep helps build emotional intelligence:

  • Sleep helps us manage our emotions
  • Sleep builds empathy – this occurs in the part of the brain that is rejuvenated during your REM sleep every night, the last few hours of your full 8-9 hours of sleep.
  • Sleep sparks creativity

The amygdala is the emotional part of our brain.  Without adequate sleep, we put our prefrontal cortex (our rational brain) at risk for emotional hijack, and we decrease our ability to control this phenomenon.  According to Kivel (2018), one study compared two control groups, one sleep deprived, and one not and their response to images that ranged from neutral to negative.  “the sleep derived individuals showed well over a 60% increase in emotional reactivity in the amygdala.  The well-rested group showed only a modest degree of reactivity.”

“We can think of REM sleep like a master piano tuner, one that readjusts the brain’s emotional instrumentation at night to pitch perfect precision, so that when you wake up the next morning, you can discern overt and subtly covert micro-expressions with exactitude (Kivel, 2018).”

Simple things such as facial expressions can be affected by lack of sleep which can completely distort a person’s perception of our response. 

Many of us try to justify why we don’t need to sleep 8 hours of sleep, or why it is okay to stay awake all night and sleep all day.  It sounds cliché, but if you don’t take care of yourself you cannot take care of others.  Most of us have at least someone how is depending on us to remain well. This can be done by ensuring we receive adequate sleep and maintaining a healthy sleep schedule. 

Cherney, K. (2019, November 14). Medical information and health advice you can trust. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/

Kivel, S. (2018, October 22). How Sleep Primes Your Brain For Emotional Intelligence. Retrieved from https://www.keystepmedia.com/sleep-brain-kivel/

National Sleep Foundation. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/why-electronics-may-stimulate-you-bed