Do you get enough sleep?
A long time ago for an area business journal, I wrote a profile about a high-ranking executive who moved through her life at warp speed. I no longer recall her name and company, but I still remember her motto:
I’ll sleep when I die.
Even if we don’t come out and say it so directly, many of us act as if that’s our motto, too.
I sure did.
Until several years ago, I didn’t fully appreciate the value of sleep, chalking up my lack of it to being a night owl. The pattern started in high school, was solidified in college, and simply became a given once working at newspapers where I sometimes had late deadlines.
How I wrecked my life in less than 5 hours
When I became a mom, my ingrained night owl chose late night and wee-hours as “get it done time” and “me-time” after I tucked our son into bed. This meant I overslept in the morning, and we were rushed and harried. I am sure I yelled a little, and maybe even a lot. Most weeknights, I was getting only 3-5 hours of sleep and trying to make up for it some on the weekends.
When my son was in kindergarten, he developed a way to wake me up, with an announcement and making a beeping noise as if he were my alarm clock: “Mom! Wake up! It is day. We don’t sleep in the day!” He would pounce on my bed.
This ritual became a thing, and we laugh about it now. But secretly, I’m still embarrassed at myself. Here was my little kid, getting himself up AND trying to get me up in the process.
It took a lot for me to change.
I was drinking too much coffee and having anxiety attacks while driving. So I went to my doctor, who sent me for a heart monitor and a stress test to determine if I had heart problems. I did not.
But my health was suffering. My relationships started to suffer. And I lost myself, by trying to do and be too much. Only later did I connect the dots that many of my issues were related to a lack of sleep. It was the most visible example of how I wasn’t caring for me.
Benefits of sleep
Experts say we need 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Sleep deprivation leads to increased stress on the body, including “increased blood pressure, impaired control of blood glucose, and increased inflammation,” according to studies at Harvard.
Want to be healthier? Get more sleep.
Want to lose weight? Get more sleep.
Want to be more productive? Get more sleep.
We may know from experience that our attention span, decision making and memory all suffer when we are sleep deprived.
Numerous studies also have shown that poor sleep leads to an increased risk of chronic diseases and health problems, including increases in weight gain. Poor sleep increases the secretion of cortisol, the “stress hormone,” and the secretion of insulin following a meal. Higher levels of insulin are associated with weight gain, a risk factor for diabetes.
I finally realized that I had to start taking care of me, too, and not just everyone and everything else. Sufficient sleep, regular exercise, wholesome foods and positive relationships are pebbles we toss into a pond, creating ripple effects for the rest of our lives.
Sleep isn’t a luxury.
It’s a priority.
How much sleep do you get on average? What prevents you from getting more, or better, sleep? What changes do you want to or need to make in this area?
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