SLEEP. For many, sleep is something we only dream of (no pun intended). When did this happen? We used to know for a fact that it was important to get 8 full hours of sleep in order to be healthy. Now, we treat the activity of sleep as an option. A luxury that we are not always worthy of.
This mindset must change!
We, as a society, are doing ourselves a big disservice by not taking the benefits of sleep more seriously. Our minds and our bodies need the down time. We were not designed to go 24 hours a day. Our bodies are machines that needed to be treated well and maintained at the highest level if they are going to perform at the demanding pace we require day in and day out.
The article, Sleep: A Dynamic Activity” by the American Sleep Association (ASA), states:
Until the 1950s, most people thought of sleep as a passive, dormant part of our daily lives. We now know that our brains are very active during sleep. Moreover, sleep affects our daily functioning and our physical and mental health in many ways that we are just beginning to understand.
The article goes on to say (and I’m paraphrasing), that sleep is necessary for survival. It’s our body’s dear friend. Sleep helps the nervous system work properly, allows us to have more focus during our waking hours, and heightens our creativity, give us sharper memory, and better physical performance. When we become sleep deprived we can suffer from mindless eating, mood swings and even hallucinations. That is only scratching the surface.
In the two minute video, The Perils of Getting Too Little Sleep by National Geographic, they give the simple scientific explanation of the connection between getting too little sleep and the increased potential for developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life. I really hope you will stop reading right now and take a peek.
Although we may know all of these facts, why do we still treat sleep as an option or even a necessary evil? While we all wish for more hours in the day, the truth of the matter is that we get 24. Period. It has become common place for us to say, “I will just do that after the kids go to bed” or “It’s easier if I just stay up late and get that done” or “I’ll get up a few hours early and take care of xyz” but all of these options are robbing us of the precious sleep that our body needs, craves, and deserves.
So what can we do about it?
Make a schedule: Really try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Being consistent will train the body in what to expect and when to expect it. Creating this sleep-wake cycle will help you achieve a good night’s sleep….night after night. Doesn’t that sound amazing?
Time you meals (and drinks): Going to bed too full or too hungry is no going to help you sleep well. Neither is drinking too much before bed or consuming alcohol or caffeine. Frequent bathroom trips creates disturbed sleep patterns so try to monitor your consumption of food and drinks for the hours leading up to bedtime.
Make it a habit: Creating a ritual each night helps give your mind and body the hint that it’s time to prepare for sleep. Many people go to bed and continue to use their phone, read from an electronic device, or play stimulating games. Try creating a more relaxing routine; one that might include a hot shower/bath, reading, prayer or meditation.
Sleep is not the enemy. Sleep is not keeping you for doing “just one more thing” but rather that one more thing is keeping you from the sleep you need to keep your mind and body healthy. Make yourself a priority. Make sleep a priority. Your body will thank you with improved energy, better moods, and overall wellness.