Sleep: In Defense of Slumber

 
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Catch some z’s. Get some shut-eye. Steal forty winks.

For those of us who find sleep elusive, the mere hint of slumber represents nothing more than wishful thinking.

In our fast-paced world, we seem to work more and more hours…which quickly gobble up our precious sleep minutes. And something else has occurred over time. Sleep, in some circles, has somehow become synonymous with laziness or indulgence.

Rather than being viewed as restorative and vital, it is all too often looked upon as wasteful and even perhaps a sign of weakness. You know the scenario: the competitive go-getter on his or her way up the corporate ladder doesn’t need sleep. They should be tireless, endlessly energetic, ready to roll at a moment’s notice. Sleep is secondary.

Seriously?

Truth be told, sleep is necessary as it fuels both our minds and bodies, enabling us to work to our potential and be more productive. Insomnia and sleeplessness can contribute to a lack of energy, inability to focus, and an overall sense of tiredness and being rundown.

In her recent book, Nodding Off: The Science of Sleep from Cradle to Grave, author and researcher Alice Gregory notes that sleep allows “toxins to be cleared from the brain,” aids in “learning and information processing,” and helps us “recalibrate our emotions too, allowing us to cope with the stresses of exams and life.”

In addition, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health reports that “ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increase risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke….and also increases the risk of obesity”.

Clearly, the time has come to view sleep as a priority rather than merely a concept…and begin taking steps to making it a reality. Typically, for adults aged 18 to 64, experts recommend 7 to 9 hours of sleep.

Some helpful strategies for getting more (and better!) sleep include:

  • Setting a regular bedtime routine and sticking to it…even on weekends. Changing this routine can throw off your body’s sleep-wake rhythm.

  • Turning off the computer, cell phone, and TV before bedtime and dimming the lights. Hopefully, this will send a signal to your brain that it is time to wind down and go to sleep.

  • Avoiding the following no-no’s before bed: caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and heavy meals/snacks (a light snack is usually not a problem). Note that caffeine can affect you for up to 8-10 hours after ingestion, so even afternoon coffee or sodas can be an issue.

  • Maintaining a cool temperature in the bedroom or sleeping area is recommended.

And remember, the next time you decide against burning the midnight oil at the expense of a good night’s sleep, DON’T APOLOGIZE! Sleep is a critical part of maintaining optimal physical and psychological health.

Especially in light of how hectic and busy our lives have become, each of us needs…and truly deserves…a restful night’s sleep. As scientist Walter Reisch has been quoted as saying, “Tired minds don’t plan well. Sleep first, plan later.”

 

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