Sleep for organizing

Part 2
We all have heard that we should get a “good night’s sleep ‘, right? But what is a good night’s sleep and why is it so important?

We know that sleep is essential to the health and well-being of all humans. In fact, a chronic lack of sleep can lead to death. We know that there are 2 types of sleep. NREM (Non-Rapid Eye Movement) accounts for up to 55% of adult sleep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) accounts for up to 25% of adult sleep. We also know that the body has a built in timer for sleep cycles, referred to as the circadian rhythm.

NREM takes you through the stages from just relaxing into deep sleep. Many of our sleep problems, such as sleep walking, bed wetting and night terrors are experienced in this stage.

REM is when you dream. In this stage, the brain turns what you have learned and experienced during the day into long term memories. (See

The circadian rhythm is controlled by the circadian clock which uses the amount of daylight to signal the body’s production level of certain chemicals that lower body temperature, cause drowsiness and inhibit waking body processes. (For more specific information look up suprachiasmatic nucleus, pineal gland, melatonin and adenosine.) The human body is genetically programed for a 24 hour sleep/wake cycle.

So how much sleep do you need? Studies have shown that we need somewhere between 7-8 hours of sleep each night. The exact amount will vary by individual, and by age. However, the belief that you need less sleep as you age has been found to be incorrect. The aging process itself just alters the ability to sleep for extended periods (that’s why you see so many of the elderly napping).

What are the impacts of too little sleep? We have all experienced them from time to time. Habitual lack of sleep may be associated with increases in hypertension, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease and has been associated with weight gain. Sleep loss contributes to a lack of sustained attention, lack of energy, lack of enthusiasm, irritability, impaired judgment, memory lapses and impaired thought processing. It is in these mental and emotional impairments where we find the breakdown of organizing ability.

If a person is going to be able to organize their environment, they need to be able to define and categorize what they see and decide on its place in their life. When there is a lack of sleep it is harder to let go of the useless and insignificant stuff which comes into our lives on a daily basis. When we can not make a decision on an item, it just gets set aside to be dealt with later. This creates a snowball effect and before we know it, our environment has gotten out of control. And there are many other ways that organizing abilities are impacted.

OK, now how do we break the cycle? We need to organize ourselves to get the right amount of sleep and we need to know what that amount is. Start by getting 7 or 8 hours a night and see if you need more or less. Sounds simple, but it isn’t. In order to fit enough sleep into your schedule, you will need to make it a priority. Decide on the time you need to be asleep from the time you need to be getting up. If you take 45 minutes to get ready for work and you need to leave the house at 8 to be on time, the you need to be up by 7:15 (latest). Which, in turn, means you need to be asleep by 11:15 (latest) to get a full 8 hours of sleep. Notice that you must be asleep at that time, not getting to bed. To figure that, you need to know how long it takes you to unwind and start falling asleep.

Organizing for sleep may take a lot of effort, but the benefits to your health and overall lifestyle are worth it!

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