The importance of sleep
“A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things. There will be sleeping enough in the grave.” – Benjamin Franklin
I’ve often heard people paraphrase this famous quote by Benjamin Franklin, meaning there’s no time to be lazy, you can sleep when you’re dead. Similarly, “Carpe Diem” (Latin for ‘seize the day’) implies that life is too short and we need to make the most of the time we have. Though these expressions and others like them are true, they shouldn’t be taken to the extreme and undervalue the importance of sleep.
Sleep is essential for a person’s health and well-being. Most people do not get enough sleep, whether it is because they are too stressed, too busy doing other things or have a sleep disorder. Regardless of the reason, sleep deprivation has a number of immediate consequences which include significant reductions in performance and alertness, memory and cognitive impairment, poor quality of life and injury (while on the job or on the road). Long term consequences include high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, depression and other mood disorders.
Here are 6 main reasons why you should try to get enough sleep:
1) Disease: sleep deprivation changes the body’s immune function, making it more vulnerable to disease.
2) Metabolism and weight: sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by altering levels of hormones that affect appetite, and by affecting the way our body processes and stores carbohydrates.
3) Cardiovascular health: chronic sleep disorders have been linked to high blood pressure, increased stress hormone levels and irregular heartbeat.
4) Mood: lack of sleep may result in inability to concentrate, moodiness and irritability.
5) Safety: sleep deprivation results in a greater tendency to fall asleep during daytime hours which may result in injury and death.
6) Learning and memory: sleep helps the brain process new information and transfer it to our long-term memory.
How much sleep should we get?
According to The National Sleep Foundation, there is no one amount that is right for everyone, but rather, the amount of sleep required varies between different age groups and can also be very individual. They recommend that each individual assess his/her own sleep needs to find out how many hours works best for them.
Techniques to combat common sleep problems:
- Get into a regular sleep/wake schedule
- Try and wake up without an alarm clock
- Refrain from drinking caffeine four to six hours before bed and minimize daytime use
- Don’t smoke, especially near bedtime
- Avoid alcohol and heavy meals before sleep
- Get regular exercise
- Minimize noise, light and excessive hot and cold temperatures where you sleep
The bottom line is that sleep should be made a priority! Once it is, it should be easier to establish a routine that works for you and you can be on your way to being a healthier, happier more productive human being 🙂
References and resources
National Sleep Foundation: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/
NSF article: How much sleep do we really need?
American Psychological Associaton: http://www.apa.org/topics/sleep/why.aspx?item=1
Better Sleep Council Canada: http://www.bettersleep.ca/