Want better sex? Better memory? Better life? Here’s the secret

April 2, 2015 Originally published on SFGate

What, you need to hear it again?

OK then. Another study. Another obvious conclusion. Want to improve your libido? Be a more vital and awake, energized lover? Want to, simultaneously, be more productive and focused, healthier and happier, nicer to animals and children and trees?

That’s easy. Get a decent amount of sleep. Regular, easeful, deep.

There are zero benefits to not getting enough sleep.

There are zero benefits to not getting enough sleep.

Heard that before? Of course you have. Sleep deprivation is linked pretty much every malady you can name, from heart disease to diabetes, obesity to joining the GOP. Problem is, this is America. Sleep is a luxury. Sleep is an afterthought. Sleep is for wimps and slackers and under-achievers. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Right. Funny thing though: You’re dying from lack of sleep.

It’s true, no? We’ve been beaten by miserable Puritanical demons to believe obsession, overload, exhaustion matter most. Work is the only way to prove your worth, to succeed, to earn God’s reluctant thumb’s-up. You aren’t really a good American unless you’re working 100 hours a week, numb and miserable, skin like a mushy banana, spine like mangled rebar and no one really likes being around you. Also, Ambien and depression and regular, low-level panic attacks. And oh yeah, no sex drive.

Maybe you just forgot? Maybe the awesome benefits of regular, deep sleep slipped your mind? It’s possible. Fatigue can do that. Do you want to remember things better? Improve your memory? Details, factoids, your kids’ names?

That’s easy, too: Take a power nap. Ten, 20 minutes, early afternoon. Boom. Sharp and clear, your thoughts they will be.

Yes, they’ve proven that, too. Another study. Again and again. Isn’t it ironic? How we drive ourselves insane, pump ourselves full of stimulant and efficiency apps and To-Do lists, to succeed, be more loving and energetic, when the real secret to it all is to get some rest?

It’s an epidemic, you know, this lack of sleep thing. This rabid addiction to our work, our screens, all that harsh light blasting into your retina day and night, disrupting your body’s circadian rhythms, slowly killing you.

Did you know millions of people now keep their phones within arms’ reach at all times, day and night? Did you know the last thing millions see before they close their eyes at night isn’t the face of their lover, their kid, their cat or a fine book, but a glaring little screen? Did you know the very first thing those same millions see in the morning? Exactly.

Look over here: It’s a dozen – or is it a hundred? – apps in the App Store, all designed to help you fall asleep better, faster, more efficiently, via all kinds of techniques and tricks, some helpful, most silly.

All the cutesy sleep/meditation apps. Look! Cartoons!

All the cutesy sleep/meditation apps. Look! Cartoons!

Do you enjoy the irony? We are creating technology to offset the effects of our technology. A sleep app on your device to treat the negative effects of that same device. So meta!

I know what you’re thinking: Someone’s bound to make some cash on this epidemic, right? Great business opp! How about Andy Puddicombe, a swell young bloke who apparently trained as a Buddhist monk but who’s now back giving TED talks and launching snazzy websites to make the ancient, humble, impeccably non-commercial practice of meditation into a hip, cash-churning startup. You go, America!

Headspace, he calls it. Deluxe website, cute, non-threatening cartoon graphics (don’t be scared, Christians), a fancy app, a monthly fee (of course). “A gym membership for the mind,” it says. All to help you do the easiest/hardest thing in the world: sit still and shut up for a minute. Only 13 bucks a month! To do, essentially, absolutely nothing! “You don’t even have to sit cross legged, burn incense, or chant mantras!” the site cheerfully exclaims – except, of course, you sort of should, except that there’s a reason for that kind of thing and they’ve been doing that stuff for thousands of years and it sort of works better that way.

But who cares? Who has time for lineage and honoring the ancients? I got sh-t to do, man. Meditation is all about what you get out of it, right? The goal? I meditate so I can de-stress, sleep better, get back to work and get more stuff done. Isn’t that the point? Isn’t that always the point? Why do anything unless I get something measurable out of it? Unless I can praise myself? Compare myself with others? Track my minutes on my wearable? Tell everyone about it? Post it on Facebook and try and validate my worth in yet another way?

Take my money. Give me the answers. I am hereby calm and happy. Wait, aren’t I?

Read more here:: Want better sex? Better memory? Better life? Here’s the secret

Mark Morford

About Mark Morford