Health, Success and Successful Sleeping

Like Driving on Empty

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T, MCC, SCAC

liftarn_A_person_sleeping_90x90I’ll Sleep when I’m Dead . . .
That’s how I began Sleep and Cognition, the article before this one. I went on to say:

In my hurry-up-there’s-so-much-more-to-DO experience of living, almost everything auxiliary to my current attempt to focus frequently seems like a necessary but unwelcomed interuption to what I liked to think of as “life” — as annoying as ants at a picnic. 

But I know better now where SLEEP is concerned!

The graphic below, illustrating the effects of sleep deprevation,
takes a closer look at what I meant by that assertion.

Main health effects of sleep deprivation (See ...

Wikipedia – Creative Commons License

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while you’re reading. They turn red on mouseover
Hover before clicking for more info


Not Good!

  • Sleep scientists have observed that the average sleep requirement for optimal functioning is somewhere around
    nine hours.
  • The national average is 7 ½ hours.
  • Which means that many of us regularly log even less sleep than that!

Did you know that, in the American population, anyway, we sleep about an hour to an hour and a half less than our ancestors 100 years ago? In fact, it is estimated that almost half of the adult population in the United States is chronically sleep deprived – for a myriad of reasons.

The Information Gap

A Stanford survey conducted in 2008 uncovered some daunting statistics concerning the relationship between information and health:

Percentage of those surveyed who had been exposed to knowledge about the importance of:

  • Being Physically Fit: 99.9%
  • Having Good Nutrition: 91.3%
  • Obtaining Adequate Sleep: 1.8%

Wow.  Fortunately, in the intervening two decades, those statistics have moved a bit closer to the “informed public” side of the equation, but MOST of us still don’t understand the link between sleep, health, functionality and success.

In this particular area of information, what you don’t know CAN hurt you.  Considerably – in your ability to drive your BRAIN as well as in the health and vitality of the rest of your physical body.

Does that mean that those of us who live sleep-deprived are in big trouble,

  • Well . . . we may not ALL develop all of the conditions in the chart above (or ANY of them), but some of us will, and we are all certainly at greater risk.
  • Those of us on a weight-loss diet, or struggling to maintain a healthy weight at either end of the scale, are certainly not helping when we don’t get enough sleep.
  • And if we’re right on the Type 2 line, already experiencing the early-warning signs of insulin resistance, a persistent lack of high quality sleep is likely to push us right over that line and into full-blown diabetes.

HOWEVER, when we allow our sleep-debt to mount, eventually we will develop most, if not ALL, of the symptoms listed on the upper left side of the graphic, next to the line pointing to the brain: irritability, cognitive impairment, memory lapses, impaired judgment, yawning, hallucinations, and symptoms similar to ADD.

Sleep is a necessary and vital biological function — essential to one’s physical and emotional well being. Studies have demonstrated that with insufficient sleep, our ability to perform even simple tasks declines dramatically. The “average” sleep-deprived individual, even without ADD or any of the “alphabet disorders” in the mix (especially TBI), is less alert, less attentive, and far less able to concentrate effectively.

Persistent sleep deprivation can also lead to mood swings, which result in erratic behavior all by themselves, of course – sometimes severe enough to be misdiagnosed as Bi-Polar Disorder.

Even worse, because sleep is linked to restorative processes in the immune system, sleep deprivation in an otherwise “normal” adult creates a biological challenge similar to fighting off an infection. Ongoing research is examining the effects of sleep deprivation on the immune system.


I have observed since childhood that whenever I have been unable to sleep for 24 hours or longer, I begin to see things and hear things that are, shall we say“logically inconsistent.”

(Click graphic for interview with Oliver Sachs on Hallucinations)

Sleep deprived clients have reported similar observations — things like:

  • shadows that appear 3-D (or colored)
  • sunsets that “continue” after darkness has fallen
  • house sounds that combine to mimic music of various types
    (most frequently jazz and chorale)
  • tiled bathroom walls that appear to breathe in and out
  • movement “out of the corner of their eyes,”
    when they are the only ones in the house
  • “biting” insects that leave no visible traces

Interestingly enough, most of us knew without a doubt that the things we were seeing, hearing or feeling weren’t “real” – even though they appeared so at the time (in another article I’ll explain how our brains DO that). 

  • I had one client, however, who was initially misdiagnosed with RLS
    (Restless Leg Syndrome) due to tactile hallucinations. The accurate diagnosis turned out to be Sleep Apnea!
  • A CPAP (that machine that keeps oxygen flowing during sleep)
    cured that “RLS” in a little over a week of decent zzzz-s!

We seriously need to get serious about high quality sleep!

But HOW?

That IS the question, isn’t it?

Telling us how important it is to get high quality sleep doesn’t change much of anything for the 75% of us with what I call “alphabet” disorders who struggle with sleeping! If we can’t get to sleep and we have to get up, how are we supposed to avoid that sleep debt?

There may well be some answers to that question, but first we need more information, beginning with understanding what is referred to as “normal sleep architecture.” Let’s start by dispelling a couple of prevalent sleep myths.

Good News/Bad News

Well, the good new is that old saw about “You can’t make up lost sleep” is not true.

It does seem to require hours of sleep over and above the usual requirements, but, for most of us, sleep debt will resolve whether we want it to or not — we either won’t be able to stay awake, or we won’t wake up when we meant to.

When the former hits us while we are driving, or when we miss an important meeting or a mid-term exam before we have repaid that debt, that can be the bad news, too!

  • Dr. William Dement, a pioneer in sleep research, explains that sleep debt is created when personal sleep requirements, whatever they are, are not met.
  • The bad news is that, until it is repaid, sleep debt accumulates quickly, until we have little to no choice about repaying it.

Another sleep myth is the idea that the amount of sleep a person needs decreases with age. Not really! Sleep patterns and circadian rhythms change as we age, but we never outgrow our need for sleep. As we grow older, a percentage of us discover we need MORE sleep to feel fully rested.

Phases of Sleep

Throughout an [approximately] eight-hour sleep cycle, a “sleep-normal” adult alternates between two states that are VERY different: non-REM and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Again, in a “sleep-normal” adult, they alternate in [approximately] 90- to 110-minute cycles. A “normal “sleep pattern has 4-5 cycles.

Most of us associate REM sleep with dreaming and feel like we have more than a little information about that particular stage.  Non-REM sleep is not as familiar.

Sleep Cycles

FIRST, when we speak of these stages of sleep, it’s important to understand that they are delineated by the oscillation frequencies of electrical activity within the brain, measured by Electroencephalography (EEG). To make it easier to talk about, science has named certain frequencies (aka “brain waves” )

The table below summarizes some information about Brain Waves that will help you understand the remainder of the sleep series, as well as other information on the internet that uses these terms.

(It’s a graphic I put together for you – feel free to copy and to share for non-commercial usage,
but include where you got it too, please — and link back to for web-published content)


Sleep/Wake Transitions

Wakefulness is characterized by fast, low voltage EEG activity where we typically observe both alpha and beta waves.

  • Beta waves are the ones we need to activate and run our lives, by the way
    (typically in short supply in ADDers).
  • Alpha waves are the ones most of us typically access in meditative states.
    For many of us it represents a highly creative state, albeit not one
    where we get much done!

Wakefulness is that state of awareness in which we are conscious of our surrounds and have the ability to interact with them. In the period immediately before sleep, wakefulness is frequently described as “quiet wakefulness,” where the individual is resting in a relaxed condition with his or her eyes closed.

Those of us who struggle to fall asleep would be well advised to make friends with quiet wakefulness as part of the sleep process.

  • This stage is somewhat restorative all by itself, as long as we embrace it instead of agonizing over it.
  • The worst thing to do, if the goal is to normalize our sleep architecture, is what we usually DO – toss and turn, turn on a light, or get out of bed (unless it is to attempt to avoid the quiet wakefulness stage altogether with alcohol or drug use – that’s really the worst!)

A five-stage process characterizing “normal” sleep architecture cycles up and down like a wave. throughout every night in “sleep-normal” individuals.

When things are working relatively well, we typically spend 75% of our sleep cycle in non-REM sleep. Simple, unconsolidated thought processes can sometimes be reported when an individual is awakened in one of the stages of non-REM sleep, but specific dreams will not be recalled.

Falling Asleep

As we begin to drift off to sleep, Stage 1 begins. An EEG would detect the onset of sleep, even if we ourselves feel like we are “skimming along the surface” of sleep and wakefulness.

Stage 1 is actually a transition period from wakefulness to sleep, characterized by low voltage EEG and slow rolling eye movements. Only about 5% of non-REM sleep is spent in Stage 1, by the way.

  • This is the place where sleep-deprived students frequently drop their pencils or “snap back to consciousness” with a head jerk (called a hypnic jerk)
  • When we are lying down, some of us tend to drool a bit during this part, as our jaws relax and slacken.
  • Individuals who report that they are “light sleepers” (easily awakened by noise or light), tend to cycle through this stage more often (or spend more time in this stage) than “heavy sleepers” (who often say that they “sleep like the dead.”)
  • This is also a time when many of us who take longer than “normal” to fall asleep unintentionally make it A LOT harder on ourselves when we begin to ruminate over the fact that we are “not sleeping – AGAIN.”

Once we stop “skimming,” for the next 30 – 40 minutes we cycle through Stage 2 through 4. Then we sort of “backtrack,” passing through Stage 3, then Stage 2, and finally into REM sleep.

This cycles repeats 4 – 5 times per night.

Sleep changes throughout the life-cycle

REM Changes

  • Most healthy adults spend about 20 – 25% of their sleep cycle in REM sleep
    (75% in non-REM phases)
  • Infants spend 50% of their sleep time in the REM sleep phase, and 50% in non-REM sleep (deep sleep coincides with the release of growth hormones, which may explain this)
  • Many older adults spend much more of their non-REM sleep time in Stage 1.
    (As a result, they report frequent awakenings, with less time where they cycle into REM sleep) It is not uncommon for the elderly to spend only 15% of their sleep time in REM sleep

Throughout Non-REM Sleep, muscle activity is still functional, breathing is low, and EEG measurable brain activity is “minimal.”

By contrast, REM sleep has sometimes been referred to as “paradoxical” sleep because brain wave activity looks similar to an awakened state. Periodic eyelid fluttering, muscle paralysis, and irregular breathing, body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure distinguish REM from non-REM sleep stages.

As most of us already know, [most] dreaming takes place during REM sleep.

In upcoming articles in this Series, we’ll take a closer look at the dream-state, and begin to explore Non-REM Sleep – four stages that range from light dozing to deep sleep — and so much MORE! So stay tuned — there’s A LOT to know, and a lot more to come. Get it here, while its still free for the taking!

Note to Readers: For those who love the quicksand of hyperfocus (as do I!), some of whom have emailed me “complaining” about the Series approach, try to keep in mind that I must spend some hours every day making a living that will keep the internet working and a roof over my head — and it’s always a pleasure to have some time to bathe and eat!  

While I love you for wanting more from ME, take time to click the links I provide for you in every article, to explore some of the related articles on this site, as well as some of the items I read before I sit down to write. That alone will keep you pretty busy until I can post again! (Don’t forget to run your mouse over the article itself – there are a lot of good links within each article as well)

Graphics gratitude: Sleeping by moonlight:
Candle burning @ both ends:
Sleep Deprivation graphic thanks to Wikipedia
Hallucinations: part of the cover art for Sach’s book by the same name,
RadioWest’s graphic for their Sachs’ interview, linked to the graphic

As always,
 if you want notification of new articles – in this Series, or any new posts on this blog – give your name and email to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right.  (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too) STRICT No Spam Policy

If you’d like some one-on-one (or group) coaching help with anything that came up while you were reading this article (either for your own life, that of a loved one, or as coaching skills development), click the E-me link  <—here (or on the menubar at the top of every page) and I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

Articles in the Sleep Series
(links turn red & “click” only once the article has been published)

Other Related Articles on

Sleep-related article ’round the ‘net

BY THE WAY: I revisit all my content periodically to update links — when you link back, like, follow or comment, you STAY on the page. When you do not, you run a high risk of getting replaced by a site with a more generous come-from.

About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

7 Responses to Health, Success and Successful Sleeping

  1. Pingback: Sleep Awareness and Health | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  2. Pingback: Sleeping with the Enemy: Mom’s N-24 | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

  3. andy wolmer says:

    I would love to meet you

    Liked by 1 person

  4. andy wolmer says:

    great information


  5. I’m finally trying to play catch-up on readings. (but I didn’t get too far but one post!) You have so much to offer, all your articles are informative. I sincerely appreciate your writings. I’m taking one post at a time.

    Tomorrow I might not remember what I read, so I’ll just read it again! As long as I hit the “Like” button I know I’ve read it before. That’s how I know where I left off! LOL It’s cheap entertainment for me … reading and re-reading everything!

    Sleep is a hot topic for almost everyone. I never realized how important it was until TBI. Prior to that I just “burnt the candle at both ends” according to my mother! After TBI I can’t function at all without sleep…yet there are so many sleepless nights. I know most TBI can’t, so I certainly know I’m not alone.

    I had a sleep study done and I slept the entire night, but NO REM time. I was told many people with brain and spinal cord injuries don’t have REM. After I started treatment 3 years ago, one thing I noticed I started having dreams that I could remember! My sleep has since drastically improved.

    Now that I shared this, I wonder how you are doing with your treatment? I’m hoping your sleep changes … and that would be totally new to you. What a difference that would make, but most important I’m concerned about underlying health conditions that happen when rest and sleep does not happen.

    I know you have a big month upon you and please make yourself the #1 person to take care of! You wrote all about sleep, and who sleep the least? Be good to yourself. Take care and stay safe, Edie

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are SUCH a doll – and Happy Easter!

      Yes, I am working on Easter Sunday – trying to finish the next Impulsivity and Self-Control article before midnight (because the illustration at the top is Marshmallow Peeps, so I REALLY wanted to post it today!)

      It has taken MUCH longer than I thought, mostly because WordPress is giving me FITS again (it keeps bumping me out when I try to save an edit, making me re-sign in, but then the sign-in script rotates immediately back to a blank sign-in screen instead of signing me in.) So I end up having to shut everything down and begin again — many MANY times per article anymore — grrrrrrrrr! (yes, they know, but they don’t care – they respond with busywork that I know enough to know won’t change a DARNED thing — even though I DO try it every once in a while out of desperation).

      I’m stubborn, but I may have to give up until whoever it is that is causing this stops doing whatever they are doing to cause it. It rarely happens during the day shift.

      VERY frustrating to try to stay tracked!

      ANYWAY, I’m glad to hear your sleep is improving. Yay! You deserve it.

      I haven’t heard anything from CP about my test results, so I have to follow-up to see if perhaps he was planning to handle it at ACO in Atlanta. Meanwhile, I DO sleep, but not at hours that leave me much of a life when the rest of the USA is awake, so getting to church this morning was a pipe dream. ::sigh::

      Have a GREAT rest of the eve.


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