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Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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Is this the purpose of sleep?

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Despite massive scientific advancement in the last 50 years into our understanding of what sleep is and what it does for the body, the answer to the simple question, “what is the purpose of sleep,” has been allusive. It begs the question, is there a single purpose for why we sleep? While we still don’t know an exact answer, we do have a clear understanding that the processes of sleep actively facilitate restoration of the mind and physical self for next-day functioning. And of course, all the findings in support of this idea, support what we know intuitively: proper sleep is necessary to function well and to feel good.

Last year, a major paper was published in the journal Science describing how, during sleep, the brain removes waste products. Lead author, Lulu Xie, said:

“The restorative function of sleep may be a consequence of the enhanced removal of potentially neurotoxic waste products that accumulate in the awake brain.”

Recently, one of the paper authors, Jeff, Iliff, gave a fascinating TED presentation describing just how the brain goes about removing waste and discusses possible implications for these observations. The video is only 11 mins long but it’s packed with interesting, and dare I saw pretty, information and visuals. Enjoy!

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Monday, October 13th, 2014

I recently published an article entitled “How Much Sleep Do You Need?” for Chriskresser.com. Check out the first part below and then click on read more to go to the full article. 

As a sleep researcher and sleep educator, the most common question I get is, “How do I know how much sleep I need?” It’s a tricky question because the benefits of sleep are only partially determined by sleep duration. When people ask this question, what they really mean is, “What are the things I need to do in order for me to get all the physiological and behavioral benefits of a perfectly managed sleep-wake practice?” This article will help you answer that question, and one component of that question is understanding how much time you need to spend in bed per night. First, we need to review important fundamentals of sleep and wake regulation, otherwise the guidance here won’t make much sense. Read more.

Why Is It Important to Define Your Life Purpose?

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

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Today, we bring you another great blog from JD Moyer.

It sounds intimidating, to define the purpose of your life. It also sounds unnecessary. Why not just live? Why not just enjoy life, and take each day as it comes?

I don’t think there is any ultimate purpose to life beyond what we decide is important. I think James Altucher puts it well in this post:

“People get depressed now if they feel they are not fulfilling a purpose in life.

Here’s what I think purpose is: the universe doesn’t know anything. So it cut off tiny pieces of itself to go out there and experience things, any things, and then come back home when they were done.

That’s it. So whatever you are experiencing today, good or bad, the universe is learning and happy and grateful to you because it is exploring new things about life.

BAM!

No other purpose.”

I don’t believe in any kind of singular, universal purpose (not even the poetic purpose Altucher describes), but I do feel better and live better when I live by my own principles. What do I think is important? How much am I willing to bet on those values? How ’bout everything. All in.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, in a beautiful response to a question on a reddit (“What can you tell a young man looking for motivation in life itself?”) gets to the core rationale for defining one’s own purpose in life:

“The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation. For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.”

Love, meaning, and motivation all work together. You can discover what gives life meaning (for you) by listening to your heart (in fact I think this is the best way to discover meaning). For Tyson, increasing personal knowledge and reducing human (and perhaps also animal) suffering reflect his core values (codified into purpose, or “main philosophies” as he puts it). He advises the young man looking for motivation to decide what is important to him, and then act on it.

If the word “purpose” rubs you the wrong way, consider defining your “core values” or “life philosophy” instead. For you, what gives life meaning?

Motivation and Goals

Does motivation automatically flow from purpose and meaning? Not necessarily. Low motivation can be a sign of low dopamine in certain parts of the brain, depression, and/or overstimulation.

But jacking up the neurotransmitters involved in motivation doesn’t actually lead to productive or helpful activity unless there are already well-established habits in those areas (yes, the movie Limitless is a fantasy). For example, bromocriptine is a powerful dopamine agonist. Side effects include gambling and compulsive shopping. Reward-seeking behavior, in other words, but not really what most people think of when they think about motivation. Drugs like modafinil can enhance concentration, motivation, and cognitive abilities, but come withdisruptive and potentially health-damaging side effects. Videogames are designed to jack up reward-seeking behavior, and sometimes the dopamine boostcan overflow into other life areas. But just as easily, videogames can suck time and energy, providing the feelings of motivation and drive (achievements! points! levels!) without any real-world effects.

Goal-setting can also temporarily increase motivation, but if a goal isn’t purpose-driven, the motivation boost will be short-lived. If I don’t care about money very much, setting a “goal” to become a billionaire isn’t going to do squat. Even if I come up with a plan and work that plan like a maniac, I’m going to lose steam if I don’t actually care about becoming rich. Goals shouldn’t require motivation, they should provide motivation. And goals only provide motivation when they line up with life purpose/core values.

Here’s my own system for turning purpose into action. Feel free to steal it (I’ve stolen all the bits from other people).

1. Make a 5-year commitment that is true to your life purpose (and/or values and/or life philosophy). Where do you want to be in 5 years? As Steve Pavlinapoints out, we often overestimate what we can do in a single year, but underestimate what we can do in five years.

2. Choose a single actionable goal that supports your 5-year commitment. Give yourself a target date. If it appeals to you, set up additional rewards (completing the goal will be a reward in itself) and “kick-in-the-butt motivators” (I prefer this phrasing to “punishment”) around the goal. For example when I was trying to finish the first draft of my most recent novel, I promised myself I wouldn’t consume any alcohol until I finished (which resulted in this post, and also finishing my first draft).

3. Commit to a daily practice (don’t break the chain!) that moves you closer to your goal. If you can, complete this practice early in the day, when your willpower and concentration are at their highest. If you don’t have that luxury, just carve out some time every day. Even an hour a day of focused work will get you somewhere.

Even if you don’t choose this kind of structured approach to living your life, it’s still worth it to choose your own purpose in life. At the very least, you’ll have something to fall back on when the “What am I doing here?” question pops into your head. And oh yeah, you’ll live longer.

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