Are you getting enough sleep?

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We’ve all heard plenty of statistics about the devastating effects of sleep deprivation.

This post won’t be heavy on statistics, partly because stats can vary widely and I’m confident that what I’m presenting here supports my argument for more rest.

And also because statistics can be boring and might put you to sleep.

Oh, wait

(If you’re reading this close to bedtime, feel free to stop and go to bed. No, seriously. Your sleep is more important than finishing this post right now.)

If you think I’m referring only to extreme sleep deprivation (pulling all-nighters) as “devastating,” understand that chronic sleep deprivation (even just a little too little on a routine basis) hampers proper functioning.

Over the years, studies have presented evidence of:

  • Impaired physical performance. Athletes who sleep adequately have been shown to perform better than those who don’t, and the same holds true for all sorts of activities. Some studies have compared sleep deprivation to drunkenness above the legal limit for alcohol. Do you want to be on the same highway as a driver who’s had too much to drink … or too little sleep? Or, worse, do you want to be that driver?
  • Impaired judgment (see previous item). Maybe you’re an accountant and mistype a number, and the IRS goes after your client, who sues you. Or maybe you’re a medical student and you ruin someone’s life – and your career. Maybe you make the wrong decision in a social setting and end up pregnant by a stranger – or with a sexually transmitted disease. (Extreme examples? You be the judge – but first get a good night’s sleep!)
  • Crankiness (not that I would know anything about this 🙂 ). Relationships suffer: family, social, spiritual, workplace. A bad mood and impaired judgment can lead not only to lawsuits and diseases but an unhappy, dysfunctional household and other relationship problems.
  • Overeating and weight gain. This can be the result of hormone imbalance and cravings – and I’m not talking carrots and celery sticks. Under-sleeping can lead to a rushed schedule and food on the run, and emotional factors that lead to overindulging or unhealthful eating; It can be from impaired judgment, the need for comfort and a host of other physiological factors.
  • Immune system impairment and chronic illness. Even an excess of caffeine (coffee addiction, anyone?) can have unfavorable effects on your health. A friend’s loved one – a young man in his 20s – died because of prolonged excessive consumption of energy drinks, which included megadoses of caffeine. I know of a coffee variety called Jet Fuel; if you’re jet-lagged, choose sleep over caffeine.
  • Depression. Before I came out on the other side of my depression – in the mid-1990s – I was working a 4-to-midnight shift; I’m a morning person, and I never felt rested in those years. Besides depressed, I was cranky, angry and critical about everything around me. Do you think I was a fun person to be around? (NOTE: When I worked through the depression, I still had the crazy work schedule, so I’m not blaming it solely on sleep deprivation, but it played a role.) Fortunately for Bruce, I had worked through my depression before we started dating. He knew me in those years, though, and he worried about me.

If you are depressed, reach out to me (or someone else you can trust) and we’ll talk about ways you can get help. I’m not a clinician, but I can point you to some resources. (My pastor’s wife and a good, in-depth book and companion workbook were my lifeline; for you it may involve medication and/or another type of solution.)

IF YOU ARE SUICIDAL, seek IMMEDIATE help from your physician, your pastor or someone else you can trust, visit the confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call the Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 (toll-free numbers are also available for Spanish speakers, hearing impaired, veterans and people in emotional distress related to “natural or human-caused disasters”).

http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now

SO … HERE’S WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD.

About 10 years ago, I started requiring a Sunday nap to get through the week. It was not long after I started The Worst Job I’ve Ever Had (I still have nightmares about it). I was stuck in that 60-hour-a-week job for 11 months, and I’m convinced it would have killed me if I hadn’t broken free.

I’ll tell you that story some other time (such as: in my last week there, I was diagnosed with a heart condition that eventually led to surgery). But today, I want you to think about YOUR story.

Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you feel tired all the time, or much of the time?
  • Do you get cranky, hangry (hungry/angry) or forgetful more than occasionally?
  • Do you feel achy or breaky in your body … or your emotions?
  • Do you drag your butt out of bed – and off to work or school – every day, and the feeling lasts all day, every day?
  • Have you ever stopped to think about the amount of sleep that is optimal for your body and brain? It varies with age and other factors – small children need about 13 hours; teenagers about 9 ½ hours; and adults about 7-9 hours – so you need to figure it out if you don’t already know.

I’ve written about the importance of my nonnegotiable Sunday nap and my designation of Sunday as my Sabbath. For you it might be a different day of the week, but YOU NEED A SABBATH.

If your schedule is too busy for adequate rest, you need to figure out a way to change that. The past couple of weeks here at To Well With You, we’ve talked about margin (which includes saying NO to nonessentials) and decluttering (which includes the admonition to take a break from unproductive habits to clear some space for mental calmness). Today, it’s rest. (Next week: ways to get more and better sleep.)

Homework assignment: Ask yourself what ONE step you can take in the coming week to make a change in your sleep habits and satisfy your body and brain’s need for restorative rest. Post a comment here or on the Facebook page. Your idea just might spark a good habit for someone else.

Next week we’ll consider some ways we all can make changes, so come prepared to share your ideas and let us know how your week went. I’ll share our collection of ideas in the next post.

We’re all in this together, my friends. Now, go have a restful week. Zzzzzzzzzzz.

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7 thoughts on “Are you getting enough sleep?

  1. Usually I go to sleep right away but wake up early (3-4:30) and I’m up for the day. Often, I’m up at 1-2:30 three days before the full moon (I don’t anticipate this, it just happens). I’ve had this kind of insomnia since about age 13. I used to be able to take a short nap every day but that seems to elude me now. Mostly, I just go with this routine and get a lot done. I would do more at night but by 4:00, I’m pretty much done except for making dinner. I take 100mg Trazodone every night–if I forget, I’m up at 1:30. Taking more makes me groggy. I tried sleeping pills once–I did not sleep better and wanted to sleep at 10:00 a.m. I actually don’t experience much ill effect but sometimes I just wish I could take a nap and be revived. After 57 years of this, it falls into the “whatever” category. Looking forward to your next post about possible solutions.

    1. Candy, I have similar issues, but I think I do sleep more than you do. I also buck the conventional wisdom that says a nap that’s longer than 20-30 minutes isn’t helpful and just makes you groggy the rest of the day (and/or will keep you from sleeping that night). Everyone is different, and I try to get at least 2 hours of sleep on Sunday afternoons. I know that 20 minutes will restore and revive some people, but sometimes it takes me longer than that just to get to sleep!

      This sleep thing is serious business. Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m glad you’re able to function despite your wacky sleep cycle. 🙂

    1. I’m not sure how the math works out, Jim, but I know that I operate on more than a 2-hour deficit every week and a 2-hour Sunday nap helps me survive the workweek. I never really feel caught up, but the Sunday nap helps. That’s why it has become so important to me. Sometimes I can squeeze in a Saturday nap, too!

      Do you get enough sleep?

  2. I have had numerous patients complain about insomnia and I was rather quick to prescribe a sleep aid. Since that time several studies have warned about the health risks of using sleep aids longterm. I have taken sleep aids and they do work; however they scare me. Since being diagnosed with breast cancer I have made an effort to avoid caffeine other than an occasional coffee in the morning. I stopped reading anything or watching anything near bedtime that I might find emotional. I also occasionally take melatonin in the evening. I now rarely suffer from severe insomnia.

  3. I often sleep 4-5 hours a night. Mostly because of my crazy schedule and responsibilities. I have learned to listen to my body and take naps when I can. 1-2 times a week I take a nap at lunch. These naps are on a yoga mat in my office. I use my Jaybird to play soft sleep music. My nurse runs interference – these short naps have proven to keep me feeling rested and focused in the late evenings.
    I wore a sleep tracker for a while – that was an eyeopening experience. The tracker helped me realized just how little sleep I actually get in a week.

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