I didn’t sleep a wink all night

Last night, it seemed like I was awake for the full 8 hours I lay in my bed.

I tossed and I turned, and my thoughts were going fast and furious around and around in my head.

It’s been a very busy week, you see. I’ve been out more often than I’ve been home, and I’m leaving the family this weekend for a National Meeting, so I had to make sure I had everything ready.  Last night I spent a lot of time thinking about what I needed to bring, and what I had to remember to do today.

But there were clues to show me it wasn’t all like it seemed.

Clue #1 – I’m well rested. I had no problems getting up this morning and I’m fully functional.

Clue #2 – eeeewwww…. I drooled on my pillow. I don’t do that consciously!

Clue #3 – I didn’t hear my son get up at 6:30am.

Medical people call this Sleep State Misperception. The idea that you didn’t get as much sleep as you thought you did.

The first time I ran into it was when my hubby kept poking me when *I* thought I was awake to inform me that I was snoring and to cut it out. And I said to him “I wasn’t sleeping… I was just thinking!!” “Snoring.” he assured me.

Since then I’ve formed a theory. Not sure if it’s the same as the scientists’ theory, but here it is:

You know how neurosurgeons keep you awake while they’re performing brain surgery, so they can make sure they’re not doing any harm and/or getting the right spot?

I think our brains do the same thing. On nights when the brain has to do some heavy duty synapse connection/disconnection or has some major filing to do, it holds our consciousness more lightly than on other nights. We think we’re awake, and therefore our consciousness can report to our brain “neurosurgeon” that we are in fact all right amidst the reorganisation, culling, and filing.

We think we’re awake. But we’re actually asleep.

What made me think of that, you might be wondering. Well, another little study I read somewhere talked about why small children need naps during the day, and why small naps are effective even for adults during the day.  These small sleeps help our brain download and process what we’ve learned.

If we don’t have a sleep during the day, then that downloading and processing has to happen sometime, doesn’t it?

credit to Public Library Association

synapses in our brain (credit to Public Library Association )

And the other thing that gave me this idea was that small babies grow millions of synapse connections and cull them as the connections become more efficient and better used.  Us adults may have fewer connections, but those connections still need to be maintained, used, created and culled as necessary. The brain’s gotta do that sometime, and I’m betting it’s mostly done while we’re asleep.

So I’m guessing that my brain was actually extremely busy last night, while I was sleeping.  Because even though I thought I got no sleep at all, the reality is that I slept through all eight hours of it.


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About Broot

Thoughts about learning and life that are lost in a sea of blogs.

14 responses to “I didn’t sleep a wink all night”

  1. solodialogue says :

    Ooh, what a cool pictures of synapses! I had no idea a 6 year old had so many and there are so many less (!) when we reach 14. Wonder how many of mine are left now?

    This is particularly fascinating to me as the mother of an ASD child whose synapses do not function the same way neurotypicals’ do. The first 2.5 years of my son’s life, he did not sleep straight through a night -ever and then was diagnosed with asthma. So, I wonder if the lack of sleep contributed to the synapse difference… Just a thought.

    Hope you have a good trip – (assuming you travel for this National Meeting where you will be away from the family)! (Again with the mystery!)

    • Broot says :

      That’s an interesting theory, too. I like it!

      Thanks, I did have a good trip. A very productive meeting. 🙂 Happy to be home with the hubby & kids now though!

  2. Dianna Graveman says :

    Very interesting! I will never view a “sleepless” night the same way again.

  3. Jenn @ You know...that Blog? says :

    I have had a few nights like that – and waaaaay too many where I’m pretty sure I was awake and fully aware of everything going on around me… *sigh*… usually the snoring of my husband, the drip of water outside my window, or any other disturbance.

    Interesting theory though, you could be on to something!

    • Broot says :

      well the deciding factor is whether you feel well-rested or still exhausted when you wake up. Still exhausted? Then you were awake. Well rested? Then you were asleep. 😉

  4. JennTheGamerMom says :

    I love this theory!

  5. novelnaive says :

    I had an early morning meeting this am and I am not a morning person, so when I wasn’t “sleeping” well last night, I fretted even more that today would be a long day. I woke to that early alarm(key word, woke – I wasn’t already awake as I have assumed) with less problem than my normal wake time. Thanks for giving a name to my battling consciousnesses. I enjoy your writing – we are so similar and different at the same time. Best of luck.

  6. Anonymous says :

    So if I feel like I didn’t sleep at all, I actually slept? Because I felt like I was thinking all night (at 11:00pm), then five minutes later, I looked at the clock and it was six o’clock. I didn’t feel like I slept.

    • Broot says :

      Depends. Do you feel all crunchy like you didn’t sleep? Or do you feel able to take on the day? If you feel able to take on the day, yep, you slept. If you’re having trouble functioning, you didn’t. I’m going to bet that you were asleep and didn’t know it! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.

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