I am sitting here trying to squeeze one last thing into this day. Why is this always the case? I am certain that most of us are trying to fit 25 hours worth of things to do into a 24 hour day. This is clearly insanity. Sleep was one of the things that I used to cut out automatically to make room for 4 other more important things. I should actually say that those 4 things were seemingly more important. Sleep seems negotiable when there are 5 loads of laundry waiting to be folded, 2 shows on the DVR to watch, a beer to drink, and family room that needs to be burned to the ground…uh I mean straightened. Alas, sleep is right up there in importance with eating right, exercising, having a good attitude, and drinking water in order to live a healthy lifestyle. I used to think sleep was for lazy people. In fact, sleep is for all people and quality sleep is crucial for helping the rest of your life run smoothly.
Sleep is not something to take lightly. According to The Harvard Women’s Health Watch, there are six reasons to get enough sleep.. followed by my 2 cents of an opinion:
- “Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.” – If you have the memory of an elephant, you might be getting enough sleep. If you are constantly looking for your keys, forgetting new names almost as soon as you hear them or needing to ask for directions to friend’s house for the 3rd time because you haven’t been there in a while, then you probably could use a bit more shut eye.
- “Metabolism and weight: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.” – In other, not so nice words, shorting yourself on sleep can make you fat and hungry. Ack!!! Enough said!
- “Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.” – Yup, I certainly don’t need any help making more mistakes on any given day.
- “Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.” – Again this is not an area of need for me. I’m quite emotional without any help from being sleep deprived. I also have no energy to spare. I need all I can get.
- “Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.” – This is not something to joke about. If getting enough sleep can keep you from exacerbating these issues, that’s reason enough to make it a priority.
- “Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.” – With all of us so stressed out these days, a strong immune system is yet another weapon against disease. That’s the kind of weapon I need in my arsenal.
Now that we know why we need sleep, we need to know how much. According to the National Sleep Foundation website…
TODDLERS/CHILDREN (12–18 months)13–15 hours / *(18 months–3 years)12–14 hours / *(3–5 years)11–13 hours / *(5–12 years)9–11 hours
ADOLESCENTS 8.5–9.5 hours
ADULTS 7–9 hours
I know you are looking at that saying “GIVE ME A BREAK!” Or something like that. Again, I will say that perfection is over rated. What I will suggest is that you try to just do better. Here are some ways I’ve worked sleep into my schedule a bit better.
- Try going to bed 15 minutes earlier every week until you add 1 more hour of sleep to your night.
- Try reading in bed versus watching TV. All those flashing images and abrupt noises don’t help you get in the mood to sleep.
- Start getting your environment quieter and darker as it gets closer to your new bedtime.
- Don’t have that glass of wine- you won’t get that deep restful sleep even if it makes you drowsy at first.
- Move sleep up your list of priorities. Something has got to give and it shouldn’t be your health.
So tonight I’m posting to this blog and committing to at least 7 hours of sleep. The laundry will have to stay in the dryer another night, the DVR isn’t going anywhere, and the Pope isn’t coming tomorrow so the family room is staying a disaster this evening. I did have a beer with dinner because I am not perfect and that’s fine by me. I know sleep is vital and I hope by now you’ve scooted sleep up at least a couple of notches on your list of things to do. My kids may have to root around in the dryer to find a pair of socks in the morning but I won’t be an emotional lunatic that can’t find the keys taking before driving them recklessly to whatshername’s house in a town I can’t for the life of me, remember how to get to.
Until next time…Live Well! – Toni Kuhel