The Art Of Balancing Sleep Social Buzz And Solitude

On this past Saturday, Flourish’s cofounder and Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Carreon led the second part of our livestream series on mental health during COVID. Here are the key takeaways and show notes. You can also watch the rerun for the live session here.

Key takeaways

  1. Life hack: sleeping removes poison from your brain.

    Studies have shown that sleep removes toxins. In fact, voluntary reduction in sleep can increase the risk of having suicidal thoughts.

  2. Good sleep rules.

    • Prioritizing getting enough sleep
    • Don’t be in bed unless you are sleeping
    • Wake up at the same time every morning
    • No naps
    • If you are not asleep in 20 minutes, get up
    • No phones in your sleep room. Photons are signals to your brain to stay awake
    • No caffeine after 1pm
  3. Life hack: spend time with people.

We are social animals. Our bodies produce oxytocin, or “the love hormone,” to give us the desire to socialize with other people.

Certain rituals can create these love hormones for us. The most poignant example is weddings. One scientist studied the levels of oxytocin in various people at a wedding. The bride tested having the highest level of oxytocin. The mother of the bride came in second (sadly not the groom).

According to biologists, loneliness for mammals is correlated with our fear of death. In the wild, when a chimpanzee is left to itself, its brain signals pending death. By the way, that might be the reason that most humans also dislike feeling lonely.

The effect of oxytocin holds true for other mammals too. Prairie voles and montane voles are types of small rodents native to North America. The prairie voles are known to practice monogamous relationships while the montane voles are more the “player type”. Some scientists experimented with blocking the oxytocin from the prairie voles. These previously “faithful” rodents stopped being monogamous and behaved just like the “player” montane voles. Conversely, when scientists inserted oxytocin receptors into montane voles, they started to practice monogamy like the prairie voles.
  1. Dare to be alone.

It seems weird that we are recommending you to spend time alone right after talking about the benefit of spending time with people. The American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald believed that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

According to the French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal, most of humanity’s problems come from our inability to sit quietly by ourselves. Why aren’t we content with peace and quiet times? What do we fear of missing out on?

Does this happen to you? “I gotta be at this Zoom hangout (even though it’s the 6th of today)! There are some cool people and they will be talking about cool stuff…”

Famous historical figures including Lao Zi of Daoism and Jesus of Christianity have shown their appreciation for solitude. What did Lao Zi and Jesus figure out that many of us haven’t?

COVID has forced many of us to examine our worldviews. We recommend you to defend a corner of your schedule to rest and reflect. For Dr. Carreon, it’s the Sunday Sabbath.

  1. The right vs. wrong attitude about solitude.

Ask yourself: do you enjoy solitude because you feel content or you feel that “others don’t think I am an interesting person anyway.” The former response is probably healthy while the latter might stem from depression.

  1. What is the new normal after COVID?
Gary Cole in Office Space

Gary Cole in Office Space

On the one hand, COVID has disrupted our lives. On the other hand, this pandemic is resetting some social norms that we have taken for granted. For example, do we need to be in office for 8 hours a day to be effective? For some of us, the answer is no.

As a society, we now have a rare opportunity to rethink the world in which we want to live.

  1. Preview for next week

Dr. Carreon will be discussing the importance of exercise on your mental health. He will also dive deeper into concepts including beauty, truth and goodness as they relate to your well-being during our national crisis.

Thank you for reading. Until next time, practice the art of balancing sleep, social life and solitude.

The Flourish and Acacia Team