If you’re reading this post, you’re probably using a PC or even more likely, a smartphone. You’ve been directed to this page by a search on Google or you clicked on a link you saw on a social network. The topics that SlowSleep explores are rather unique and until a few years ago, you would have had to spend entire afternoons in a library to find reliable information on them.
There’s no question about it: the internet has simplified our lives. More precisely, electronics has simplified it. Or better: “Internet of Things” will simplify them even further.
Simplicity and resting
Overthinking is conventionally associated with hyper-vigilance. People who think too much risk creating more problems for themselves than they can handle. And when the light goes off at night…they’re mind keeps on running on a loop and they can’t fall asleep. A simple-minded person, instead, will only get anxious when faced with “real” problems. He or she will go to bed with a sense of perfect lightness and will have no trouble falling asleep. And yet, there is a certain level of complexity that is not just useful, but even necessary to live – and rest – well.
The Italian version of Wikipedia uses the following words to describe the plot of the movie Idiocracy: “due to the higher fertility rate of stupid people, the average IQ of the human population drops so low as to be a treat for mankind survival ”. OK, let’s take a break now and take a deep breath. What if, we are becoming too stupid? If the extent to which electronics and the internet have made things super-easy for us had a “backside” to it that was somewhat dangerous for our intelligence?
The right level of complexity
Without challenges, complexity or problems, and without the time it takes to solve complicated issues, we are destined to become more stupid and – even if we do not realize it – to have problems in sleeping well. The Brits refer to an ideal level of stress balanced between excitement, challenge, danger and creativity with the term “flow”. When a person is running with the flow, it means he or she is growing and enjoying life. The flow is the ideal dimension in which we should live, a sort of “training ground” that allows us to constantly improve while stretching our body’s ability to produce energy to its limit. It would probably be good for us if life was a bit more complex again, given how accustomed we’ve become to the over-simplification introduced by electronics. We no longer know what it’s like to hop from one store to the next in search of a particular item, or what it means finding our way around a crowded city center and mentally locate our whereabouts. We no longer know how to read information with a critical mind and some of our faculties are fading away because life no longer presents us with certain challenges. This makes us slightly less intelligent; our brain is designed to face new challenges every day and if we don’t train it to do so, our lives and even the dynamics of our sleep will be negatively affected.
Does a brain that is more active help a person to sleep better?
Yes, it probably does. At least, the results of some studies would seem to suggest that the number of “spindles” produced when we sleep and that induce deep sleep are linked to a person’s cognitive intelligence, which we use to solve problems. These “spindles” are electric shocks triggered in the brain that can be detected by an EEG. A light sleep phase with several spindles is likely to produce a more satisfying deep sleep.
Putting a limit to simplification to enjoy a more balanced life and to sleep better
Enjoying the benefits of new technology and having things made easy thanks to a smartphone, online shopping and websites seems almost essential. However, it doesn’t mean that we cannot give up on all these aspects. Here’s a list of behaviors we should apply at least once a week to train our so-called “fluid” intelligence and restore balance to our brain functions (which are otherwise numbed by automation and the fragmentariness of obsessive clicking):
- finding our way around the city or an unfamiliar neighborhood without the help of a smartphone
- reading at least four printed newspaper articles before voicing an opinion on a given topic
- spending 30 minutes a day relaxing in total silence and with our smartphone switched off (and no, “air” mode doesn’t count, the device has to be completely switched off)
- engaging in minor manual works
- solving a riddle or crossword puzzle
- setting a goal for next week and doing everything you can to achieve it.
A good exercise to get reacquainted with (and in control of) our bodies is to listen to ourselves breathing while lying down in bed, just before going to sleep, and the quality and effectiveness of this exercise improve incredibly on a 25mattress.