In today’s fast-paced society, important things like sleep now tend to be viewed as luxuries. Popular phrases like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” are bandied about while sleep-deprived zombies almost wear their tired and run down states as a badge of honour.
When did it become cool to not sleep? And I’m not even talking about insomniacs or people with sleep apnoea. Living in a constant state of sleep deprivation can have serious health consequences. Research has shown that lack of sleep can not only compromise your life, it can also affect memory, learning, creativity, productivity, emotional stability, physical health and may even shorten your life.
Poor sleep can also be attributed to depression and substance abuse. Metabolism can slow down and if not counteracted by increased exercise or reduced calorie intake, can add up to weight gain over time. Ever noticed you feel hungrier on the day following a poor sleep? I thought so.
So how much sleep should we be getting? The American Psychological Association advises that most healthy adults are built for 16 hours of wakefulness and require an average of eight hours of sleep a night. This can vary from person to person however. On one hand, a person may find that they function without sleepiness after only six hours, whereas someone else may not perform at their peak unless they’ve sleep ten hours.
To ensure you get the right amount of sleep for your body, it is important that you develop routines around sleep and bed time. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day (even on weekends) forms a solid foundation from which your body can expect to rest. Avoiding the obvious stimulators such as alcohol and caffeine four to six hours prior to bedtime also assists in getting to sleep.
If you struggle to get more than seven hours per night, commit to going to bed just 20 minutes earlier. Once your body enters a relaxation zone and learns to expect this is bedtime, you may find you can fall asleep earlier than before.
If you have trouble falling asleep, it helps to make your bedroom a sanctuary where you do not watch TV or work. Save the bedroom for reading, sleeping (and other things!) only and keep the work and other distractions out. This will allow your body to disassociate from those things when getting into bed. Try to get your eight hours in every night and you will wake up feeling more rested and better equipped to tackle the day ahead. Your health depends on it.