Sleep deprivation is reaching near epidemic levels in our constantly connected always online world. Glowing screens pervade our every moment from work, to education, to entertainment. Buzzes, beeps, and notifications trigger stress hormones in small doses constantly throughout the day and night.
When night time hits we struggle to disconnect.
When was the last time you spent the hour or two prior to going to bed completely disconnected from light and notification emitting devices? When was the last time you slept for 8 hours and woke up without needing an alarm clock? Do you believe that such sleep habits are impossible luxuries to a hard worker like you?
Arianna Huffington’s new book The Sleep Revolution sheds light on our unhealthy relationship with sleep. Proper sleep is not a luxury. Not only is proper sleep part of the human condition, it is a requirement for sustained success and health.
Not sleeping is not worth it.
The extra hour you stayed awake in order to squeeze out that last minute project may cost you an entire day of sub-par performance. So did you really accomplish more? Maybe a couple late nights have helped you catch up on some work, but over time that loss of sleep can catch up to you and have productivity killing consequences.
Sleep keeps you healthy
Sleep is your mind and body’s time to repair, flush toxins, and process the information you’ve consumed throughout your day. Not getting proper sleep disrupts these important processes and can lead to many negative effects for your mind and body. Lack of concentration, a suppressed immune system, and bad judgement are just three examples on a long list of what sleep deprivation can do.
Just 17 hours awake is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.05. If you‘re awake for upwards of 21 hours your equivalent blood alcohol content can reach 0.08 or more. There’s a reason most workplaces don’t allow you to be intoxicated while working, so why would they want you to work sleep deprived?
But you get 5 hours of sleep each night and feel just fine!
Are you sure you feel fine or are you just so used to being tired that you consider it normal now? Long term sleep deprivation can go insidiously unnoticed, slowly causing detriment to your health. Over time this can lead to some very serious issues, both mental and physical. The list includes but is not limited to: heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes.
Do you have a healthy relationship with sleep?
Do you view sleep as an unfortunate chore that must be attended to once a day? Do you squeeze out every last minute of your day, everyday? Consider disconnecting from your devices 30 minutes or more before you plan to sleep. Avoid caffeine use any time after noon. When establishing your bedtime, aim for 7–9 hours of sleep.
Try viewing sleep as an enjoyable break you get to take every day.
While sleeping you are totally disconnected and free from worldly problems. A time just for you and your mind. Enjoy your sleep. Your mind needs it, your body needs it, and most importantly you need it.
What are some ways to get better sleep?
Disconnect from electronic devices a minimum of 30 minutes prior to your sleep time. Staying disconnected for an hour or two before heading to sleep is even better. When you do find yourself staring at screens during the night, be sure to install blue light reducing filters, such as f.lux. Avoid using blue light emitting light bulbs such as “cool” or “daylight” colored bulbs. Stick with warmer colors, such as pink himalayan salt lamps.
Make your room as dark and cool as possible.
Use blackout curtains, cover up bright alarm clock displays, and even tape over the small blinking lights on your smoke detector. Keep your room cool, between 60-67 degrees fahrenheit has been shown to be optimal for sleep. If snuggling under covers helps you sleep, the cooler temperatures will be perfect.
Should I used sleep aids?
While sleep aids can help with your sleep temporarily, they should not be relied upon. Utilizing sleep aids over time has been shown to alter your brain chemistry. When you do try sleeping without them, after prolonged use, your brain may not produce the proper chemicals to induce sleep, i.e. melatonin. Pharmaceutical sleep aids have risks and side effects and should only be used temporarily, aided by the proper instruction of a physician.
So, are you getting enough sleep?
It can be a challenge, creating a proper sleep routine in our always connected world. Like any healthy habit, the benefits of good sleep increase over time. There are well marketed temporary solutions out there, but a healthy routine will serve you far better in the long run. Do yourself a favor tonight and turn down the lights, turn off your devices, and get comfortable for a full night’s rest.