God's New Hairdo
By Donovan Baldwin
Okay, there's a story behind the title. It's a running joke between my wife and myself. A few months ago, I made a crack about how her hair looked one morning. Something about Elvis. I didn't get out of the doghouse for a week. Fortunately, she has a sense of humor, even if it's a little slow sometimes.
I usually get up an hour or two before she does, and one morning a few weeks after that faux pas, she came out with her hair in wild disarray (as usual). She looked sleepily at me and said, "I looked in the mirror....God's been arranging my hair again while I sleep."
Since then, we often greet each other with some remark about the new hairdo God arranged overnight.
Silly little joke, but it got me to thinking.
So often, I will go to bed, puzzling over some problem. I might be working on an article, or even worse, be completely unable to come up with one. I might be worried about the bills, or the kids (even though they're grown and gone), or retirement (which I'm halfway into anyway). I'm lost or bewildered when I go to bed, but when I wake up in the morning (and have that first cup of coffee), I have a handle on what to do. No matter how things were when I went to bed, I have a different, and usually better, take on it when I wake up.
Now, this is not particularly surprising. For years, many studies have demonstrated the ability of the your brain to solve problems while you sleep. Most commonly this consists of one group of people being given a problem to solve while awake, while another group has the opportunity to, well, "sleep on it." Many students, including myself, have used the technique of reviewing or studying right before bed. When the material is scanned shortly after rising the next day, the student often is better able to understand and retain it.
Many scientists and leaders in business and politics have used and praised the technique. One of the more famous examples is that of Friedrich August Kekule, who described a major break through in the structure of molecules coming to him as he dozed. Some studies have even shown the ability of an athelete to "practice" and improve his or her technique while asleep. Such problem solving and nocturnal improvement in both physical and mental areas is often ascribed to your brain's attempt to "make sense" of everything it has encountered during its waking periods. Very often, this attempt to "make sense" manifests itself as a dream.
In April, 2004, psychologists at the Western Psychological Association's 84th Annual Convention in Phoenix dedicated several sessions to discussing sleep, its effects on health and impact on social policy. Experts representing such institutions as Scripps Mercy Sleep Disorders Center, the University of Arizona, and the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic discussed many benefits of sleep, including its affect on health and memory. One piece of information presented was that during sleep, information is often stored in long-term memory. During sleep, your brain is at work replenishing neurotransmitters that organize neural networks essential to remembering, learning, performance and problem solving, according to James B. Maas, PhD, former chairman of the psychology department at Cornell University, and author of the book "Power Sleep". Dr. Maas went on to state that lack of sleep "makes you clumsy, stupid and unhealthy."
While sleep has many benefits which I have not gone into here, it's good to know that we can learn and grow each night while God's arranging our hair.
Copyright 2006 Donovan Baldwin
About The Author
Donovan Baldwin's interest in fitness and health began in 1970 when he first read Dr. Kenneth Cooper's "Aerobics". He has articles on weight loss at http://nodiet4me.com and at http://nodiet4me.blogspot.com.