Tuesday, March 24, 2009

You Deserve Some Cognitive Consolidation Time

One of my favorite things: big words--especially when they mean specific things. Which is probably why I like medical jargon so much. Words like staphylococcal just look so pretty when you type them . . .


So my new love is actually three words: Cognitive Consolidation Time. Want to know what it means? Well, actually you can scrunch those three lovely (partially alliterated!) words into three little letters: nap.

I learned the phrase (say it with me now) "cognitive consolidation time" from Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's book, Sleepless in America: Is Your Child Misbehaving...or Missing Sleep? and while I'm still wondering how many of our parenting issues are sleep related, one thing I know for certain: I deserve a nap.

That's right, you heard me. I used DESERVE and NAP in the same sentence. According to Kurcinka, and some science, in order for your brain to process (or consolidate) all the stuff it's received it needs to shut down. How does the brain do this? Through sleep!

According to wikipedia, when we sleep all sorts of important things happen. When we don't sleep our bodies don't heal and our immune system slows down--some scientists even believe that people who don't get enough sleep actually end up shorter.

Of course the big news on sleep is how it affects the brain. Brain development, like the synapses and stuff, occurs when we are asleep. Memory functions and related cognitive functions like decision making and reasoning processes are also negatively affected when we lose sleep. This is what Kurcinka was talking about with cognitive consolidation time. According to Kurcinka's research, when we sleep our brains sort through all the decisions and reasons and, well, stuff of our days. When we don't sleep our brains can't sort and end up feeling jumbled. We get moody and anxious. Even depressed. (There is an established link between bipolar disorder and sleep.)

So, what's a person to do?

It's ironic, really. As I've been writing this my toddler, who has obstructive sleep apnea, has been waking up every twenty-ish minutes. It's taken me two hours to get these few paragraphs slammed out because I have to keep calming him down and putting him back to sleep. A lot of nights are like this for him. My two girls have nightmares and I usually end up sleeping on the couch with one or more little people tucked in next to me. I haven't gotten a solid night's rest in six years. Which is exactly why I'm writing this; to remind myself that I DESERVE a nap. The body has a natural dip in the early afternoon and I take advantage of it as often as I can. When the toddler goes down for his nap I turn on a movie for my girls and check out. You should too.

So, sleep more. Whether that means going to bed earlier or taking an afternoon nap (what would my husband's boss say if he found my husband power-napping in his cubical, I wonder), sleep more. Defend your sleep time. Don't feel bad when you lay down in the middle of the afternoon (or, if you've just had a baby or surgery, the middle of the morning and the middle of the afternoon). Even if it's Sunday and you have that quotation from President Benson about sleeping on the Sabbath running through your head, try to rest. Just tell people you are doing some important brain exercises. If they looked confused, just smile and say, "I'm taking some cognitive consolidation time." Hopefully, by the time they figure out what you mean, you'll be off to dreamland.

*This guy knows how to sneak in some zzzz's*


Kelly said...

When President Benson says not to use the Sabbath to make up for sleep lost on Saturday, he's not saying don't nap. I'm sure he is saying you can have a more sacred Sunday if you're not partying yourself to exhaustion the day before and then spending Sunday sleeping it off. That's not what Sunday is for. But napping for young mothers should be mandatory -- because sleeping on the couch with kids who wake up every twenty minutes is no party.

Elizabeth-W said...

What Kelly said.
Anyone who isn't getting 5 hours uninterrupted sleep doesn't just deserve a nap, she needs one!
I do love the new term.

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