How Important Is It To Manage Your Sleep?

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Sleep is often managed poorly and we often force ourselves to working long hours in order to maximise productivity.

Too many times I have found myself scrambling to meet the demands of a busy schedule.

Juggling so many roles and responsibilities my life tends to be hectic. Sometimes it gets downright chaotic.

My default solution was to get by on less sleep. It seemed like the only answer.

Reports said that Margaret Thatcher, when prime minister, ran the country sleeping less than four hours a night.

Catching ZZZ’s is for wimps.

If she did that, I should be able to be productive on five fours.

Then I discovered that even minimal sleep loss can take a substantial toll. It affects your mood, energy, mental sharpness and ability to handle stress.

So I was not performing any better by burning the midnight oil.

Worse, over the long-term can wreak havoc on your mental and physical health.

sleeping man
“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.” – E. Joseph Cossman

Want to improve the quality of your waking life?

If you understand your nightly slumber needs and how to bounce back from sleep loss, you can get on a healthy sleep schedule and kick ass when you are awake.

Why is sleep so important?

The quality of your sleep directly affects your mental and physical health and the quality of your waking life. Click To Tweet

This includes your productivity, emotional balance, health, immune system, creativity, vitality and even your weight.

No other activity delivers so many benefits with so little effort!

Sleeping isn’t a time when your body shuts off.

While you rest, your brain stays busy, overseeing biological maintenance that keeps your body running in top condition.

Preparing you for the day ahead.

Do you get your car routinely serviced?

That is how I tend to think of my nightly slumber.

Without enough hours of rest, you won’t be able to work, learn, create, and communicate at a level even close to your true potential.

Regularly skimp on shut eye or your ‘routine servicing’ and you’re headed for a major breakdown.

And that could be mental or physical.

The good news is that you don’t have to choose between health and productivity.

By addressing any bedtime problems and making time to get the nap you need each night, your energy, efficiency, and overall health will go up. Click To Tweet

“My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do.” – Francine Jay

In fact, you’ll likely get much more done during the day than if you were skimping on your shuteye and trying to work longer.

Yes, I had to learn this through trial and error.

Myths and Facts about Sleep

Myth: Getting just one hour less bedtime per night won’t affect your daytime functioning.

Fact: You may not be sleepy during the day, but losing even one hour of rest can affect your ability to think properly and respond quickly.

It also compromises your cardiovascular health, energy and ability to fight infections.

Myth: You can make up for lost sleep during the week by sleeping more on the weekends. Click To Tweet

Fact: Although this sleeping pattern will help relieve part of a sleep debt, it will not completely make up for the lack of sleep.

Sleeping later on the weekends can affect your bedtime-wake cycle.

It is then much harder to go to bed at the right time on Sunday night and get up early on Monday mornings.

Myth: Your body adjusts quickly to different rest schedules.

Fact: Most people can reset their biological clock, but only by appropriately timed cues.

Consequently, it can take more than a week to adjust after traveling across several time zones or switching to the night shift.

Myth: Extra sleep at night can cure you of problems with excessive daytime fatigue.

Fact: The quantity of sleep you get is important, sure, but it’s the quality of your sleep that you also have to pay attention to.

Some people sleep eight or nine hours a night but don’t feel well rested when they wake up because the quality of their nap is poor.

How many hours of sleep do you need?

There is a big difference between the amount of sleep you can get by on and the amount you need to function optimally.

sleep time
“Sleep is the best meditation.” – Dalai Lama

According to the National Institute of Health, the average adult sleeps about 6.7 hours per night.

In today’s fast-paced society, six or seven hours of bedtime may sound pretty good. In reality, though, it’s a recipe for chronic sleep deprivation.

I get it. You are able to operate on six or seven hours of sleep.

But would you feel a lot better and get more done if you spent an extra hour or two in bed?

Sleep requirements vary from person to person, but most healthy adults need between 7 – 9 hours of bedtime per night to function at their best.

Children and teens need even more.

Think that up to age 5 they should get between 10 – 13 hours and at age 17 8 -1 0 hours per night.

And despite the notion that our sleep needs decrease with age, most older people still need at least 7 hours of shuteye.

Since older adults often have trouble sleeping this long at night, daytime naps can help fill in the gap.

The best way to figure out if you’re meeting your sleep needs is to evaluate how you feel as you go about your day.

If you’re logging enough sleep hours, you’ll feel energetic and alert all day long, from the moment you wake up until your regular bedtime.

Think six hours of sleep is enough?

You might want to think again.

Researchers at the University of California, discovered that some people have a gene that enables them to do well on six hours of bedtime a night.

This gene, however, is very rare, appearing in less than 3% of the population.

For the other 97% of us, six hours doesn’t come close to cutting it.

The importance of deep sleep and REM sleep

It’s not just the number of hours you spend asleep that’s important, it’s the quality of those hours.

Sleepy teenager
“A day without a nap is like a cupcake without frosting.” – Terri Guillemets

If you spend enough time sleeping but have trouble waking up in the morning or staying alert all day, you may not be spending enough time in the different stages of sleeping.

Each stage of sleep in your sleep cycle offers different benefits.

Two stages are are particularly important.

Deep sleep is the time when the body repairs itself and builds up energy for the day ahead and REM sleep is mind and mood-boosting.

You can ensure you get more deep sleep by avoiding alcohol, nicotine, and being woken during the night by noise or light.

Improving your overall sleeping pattern will increase REM sleep.

You can also try sleeping an extra 30 minutes to an hour in the morning, when REM sleep stages are longer.

Signs that you’re not getting enough sleep

If you’re getting less than eight hours of sleep each night, chances are you’re sleep deprived.

What’s more, you probably have no idea just how much lack of rest is affecting you.

How is it possible to be sleep deprived without knowing it?

Most of the signs of sleep deprivation are much more subtle than falling face first into your dinner plate.

Do you remember what it feels like to be truly wide-awake, fully alert, and firing on all cylinders? If you have made a habit of skimping on a nap, you may not.

Maybe it feels normal to get sleepy when you’re in a boring meeting, or struggle through the afternoon slump, or doze off after dinner.

The truth is that it’s only ‘normal’ if you’re sleep deprived.

You may be sleep deprived if you:

  • Rely on your alarm clock to wake.
  • Feel that you need to catch up on your on the weekends.
  • Feel you need the snooze button to get enough ZZZ’s.
  • Can’t get through the day without a nap .
  • Find it nearly impossible to get your tired body out of bed.
  • Drift off  in warm rooms, meetings, or lectures.
  • Get drowsy in the afternoon.
  • Feel sleepy when driving or after heavy meals.
  • Nod off while relaxing or watching television in the evening.
  • Be fast asleep within five minutes of hitting the sack.

The effects of sleep deprivation

You might think that losing a little bedtime isn’t such a big deal.

Surprise! Sleep deprivation has a broad range of adverse effects that go way beyond daytime drowsiness.

sleep deprived man
“The feeling of sleepiness when you are not in bed, and can’t get there, is the meanest feeling in the world.” – Edgar Watson Howe

Not getting enough slumber time affects your coordination, judgment, and reaction times.

In fact, sleep deprivation can affect you just as much as being drunk.

The effects include:

  • Premature ageing.
  • Fatigue, lack of motivation. and lethargy,
  • Irritability and moodiness.
  • Increased risk of depression.
  • Impairment of motor skills with a greater risk of accidents.
  • Reduced sex drive.
  • Decreased problem-solving skills and creativity.
  • Indecision.
  • Impaired concentration, learning, and memory problems.
  • Inability to manage stressful situations.
  • Difficulty controlling emotions.
  • Frequent infections and colds.
  • Risk of weight gain.
  • Increased risk of serious health problems which include Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, heart disease,  raised blood pressure, stroke and certain cancers.

How sleep deprivation can add to your waistline

Ever noticed how when you’re short on sleep you crave sugary foods that give you a quick energy boost? Click To Tweet

There’s a good reason for that. Sleep deprivation has a direct link to overeating and weight gain.

There are two hormones in your body that regulate normal feelings of hunger and fullness.

Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin sends signals to the brain when you are full.

When you don’t get the sleep time you need, your ghrelin levels go up. This stimulates your appetite, so you want more food than normal.

Adding to that effect, when you don’t get the sleep time you need, your leptin levels go down.

This means you don’t feel satisfied and want to keep eating.

So, the more sack time you lose, the more food your body will crave.

How to get the sleep you need

Whether you’re looking to resolve a particular resting problem, or just want to feel more productive, mentally sharp, and emotionally balanced during the day, experiment with the following bedtime tips to see which work best for you:

sleep in your bed
“Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.” – Thomas Dekker
  • Sleeping disturbance may be a symptom of a health issue, or a side-effect of certain medications. So rule out medical causes for your bedtime problems.
  • Regular exercise can improve the symptoms of many sleep disorders and problems. So get 30 minutes or more of regular exercise  but not too close to bedtime.
  • Support your biological clock by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, including weekends. So stick to a regular schedule.
  • If you wake during the night feeling anxious about something, make a brief note of it on paper and postpone worrying about it until the next day when it will be easier to resolve. So postpone worrying.
  • Caffeine, alcohol, and sugary foods can all disrupt your bedtime, as can eating heavy meals or drinking lots of fluids too close to bedtime. So be smart about what you eat and drink.
  • Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool, and reserve your bed for just sleeping and sex. So improve your sleeping environment.
  • If the stress of managing work, family, or school is keeping you awake at night, learning how to handle stress in a productive way can help you rest better at night. So get help with stress management.
  • Avoid screens, work, and stressful conversations late at night. Instead, wind down and calm your mind by taking a warm bath, reading by a dim light, or practicing a relaxation technique to prepare for slumber time. So develop a relaxing bedtime routine.

It does not matter what age you are or what you do with your time. If you want to improve the quality of your waking life make sure you get enough rest. Let’s all live an outstanding life.

What helps you to get enough bedtime?

Drop a comment below, and let me know how you keep yourself healthy. And you want to read about the perils of sitting for too long.

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David Brett-Williams