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Posted on Wed, 13 September, 2017

Do you pay enough attention to sleep? Chances are you probably don’t. It’s an easy thing to take for granted, especially when you’re young and you believe yourself invincible. Everyone’s had the all-nighter to prepare for an exam or maybe because that party was too fun to leave. Everyone has had to pay for it the next day, or even two. The bill always comes due, even for sleep.


For as long as I have been practicing therapy (13 years), there has been academic discussion based on research for the importance of sleep. Usually concerning the regeneration all our bodily systems go through and more recently in the effects on brain function when sleep is insufficient. There is evidence to suuport lack of sleep causing obesity, ADHD where there isn’t any naturally, mood disorders to name a few.


Who has insufficient sleep? A lot of us it turns out. The current culture of the American work world often creates a dangerous cycle of high stress to keep up with performance expectations fueling little sleep as the brain churns out high levels of cortisol for anxiety. We also call that a negative feedback loop. There’s no winner in this cycle. Neither the individual, the company plying for more work from the individual, nor the individual’s family who’s on the short end of the stick for that person’s full emotional or physical presence.


Another group receiving more and more attention for the impact of sleep are the adolescents whom we parents yell at for staying up too late and being obscenely tired the next morning. That is a set up for failure, as we know from scientific evidence the adolescent circadian rhythm shifts to stay up later and sleep longer. Yet we fight them and the resulting uphill battle no one can change. Until now.


A precious few school districts are changing school start times to allow for better emotional functioning from a healthier sleep schedule. Hallelujah!!! It’s not perfect but it’s a huge step in the right direction. I’m proud to say that my children’s pediatrician, Nelson Branco, MD, was an important force in driving this reality home to two Marin County school districts, Novato Unified School District and San Rafael City Schools.  My home district of Novato Unified adjusted start times 25 minutes for the middle schools and an hour for the high schools! Although my middle schooler is not sleeping later, he is happier at not having to rush so much, setting a totally different tone for his day.  The effect of moving the start time of school is profound.


In my professional opinion, if we are to maximize the changes this sort of scheduling shift can have, we do it big. We flip after school sports to before school sports, with practices occurring around 10am, games can still be in the evening so parents can attend. School would start 12:30 with lunch, then classes, which would culminate around 5:30pm. In order to address a shorter academic day, school hours would be more efficient, with less redundancy and more practical application. Several of my middle schooler’s teachers are advocating for no homework: if they understand it, there’s no reason for busywork”.  This is not reality, yet.  I am still hoping.


I totally agree. It takes much of the stress out of learning, out of the home and places the responsibility for learning directly between the teacher and student. If extra work needs to be done, it should be with someone, not struggling alone with homework they still don’t understand. My high school had tutorial periods to work with teachers on concepts from class still lingering in the “don’t get it” column – it worked brilliantly.


I tell my clients not to dismiss their nutrition, activity level or sleep habits too quickly. They each have enormous impact on well being, including mental health. And if one thing could be bottled as a wonder drug, it would be sleep. In sleep, our cells regenerate, allowing everything to work properly. We dream in sleep to consolidate emotional material for use in the future and making sense of the past.


Addressing sleep problems should incorporate your general practitioner, possible sleep studies and a therapist for inclusion of cognitive behavioral tools to address mental sides of things. It is not always necessary to go straight to chemical sleep aids, which can cause dependency; it may be sleep apnea, chronic fight-flight response from traumas or life transitions.

When someone is chronically tired, whether it’s your spouse, your kid or your employee, start to look at systemic reasons for it and change what you can. Then ask them to change what they can.




Jodi Klugman-Rabb is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Marin and Napa Counties. She specializes in connecting with clients on a humorous and practical level, helpful when specializing in ADHD, trauma and anger/communication skills. She uses EMDR to treat traumas and fears of all types. She is a wife of 18+ years and the mom of two funny and awesome kids. Connect with Jodi on her website or


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A blog written by a hip, sometimes irreverent shrink who’s been around the block and calls it like it is

Humor is a great way to make sense of the world around us - and a little psychological perspective never hurt

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