We have all heard it before; “sleep is for the weak”, “the early bird gets the worm”, “I will sleep when I am dead”. I am sure you have spoken to people that claim they thrive off of 4-5 hours of sleep a night. We celebrate, even admire these people for being so strong and focused, a shining example of “success”.
Today’s society works more than ever. We have more debt, more responsibilities, fewer kids, more chronic illness, depression and obesity. We are also society who sleeps fewer hours than any other in past history. Could our lack of sleep be causing this downward spiral of our health?
An adult between the ages of 18-65 needs on average 8+ hours of quality sleep a night, teenagers 9+, school aged children even higher requiring on average 10+ hours of sleep every night. Not getting this is correlated to many diseases, premature aging, inability to lose fat, moodiness, irritability, accidents, domestic violence, depression, motivation, willpower, memory and even suicide.
When considering the 4 pillars of health (sleep, nutrition, exercise and stress control) sleep is the most important pillar on the list. There is a greater benefit to you in choosing eight hours of sleep over setting your alarm after only five just to crush it at the gym. If skipping journaling, meditation, etc. from your nightly routine means you can add an extra hour of sleep each night then that is what you need to do. Staying up into the wee hours to prep your food for the week ahead is not worth it if it means giving up two hours of precious sleep.
Preparing for a good night of rest takes some effort, possibly a few changes to your daily routine. However these small changes will positively impact your daily life when implemented on a consistence basis.
Power off electronics at least an hour before bed time. The soft blue glow that electronics emit plays havoc with your wake/sleep cycle. Read a book, listen to relaxing music, or have a conversation with your partner instead. Dimming all the lights in the house 2 hours prior to bed can help signal your brain to make melatonin, the hormone that brings on sleep.
Limit your caffeine intake during the day by cutting out all caffeine after lunch.
Do you stare at the alarm clock all night? This can make your mind race about the day ahead. Cover it up, put it in a drawer, under your bed, somewhere out of view.
Set your body clock. Go to bed and get up at roughly the same time every day. If you need to add an hour of shut eye try going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until you reach your goal. Exposing your eyes to 15 minutes of unfiltered sunlight first thing in the morning also helps with regulating your internal clock.
All other healthy lifestyle choices are full of debate, Vegan vs. Paleo, body building vs. crossfit, yoga vs. tai chi, the list goes on. However these battles are all over determining the best way to fill a need. There is no other way to fulfill the need for sleep other than sleep. Make it your priority.