Are You Sleep Deprived?
Kitty J. Boitnott, PhD, NBCT
Certified Life Strategies & Stress Management Coach, Career Coach, Lifestyle Educator
Do you ever feel that sleep is a luxury that you can’t afford? Most of us don’t get the sleep we need in order to perform at our optimum level. That means that most of us are mildly to severely sleep-deprived much of the time.
We tell ourselves that we don’t have time to sleep. There is too much to do! You can catch up on the weekend.
The trouble is, however that not getting the sleep you need during the week can cause serious health consequences that you may not even know about; in this case what you don’t know CAN hurt you.
The causes of sleep deprivation are plentiful. Stress certainly plays a part. Hormonal changes in women create challenges to sleeping through the night. (Uninterrupted sleep is just as important as sleep in general if one is going to perform at optimum levels.)
Everyone needs a minimum amount of sleep in order to be healthy and well. Research indicates that adults need an average of six and one-half to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Some people need more. Teenagers and children require much more.
One little known benefit of sleep is that while asleep, the brain cleans out harmful toxins, and some researchers say that this cleansing may help reduce the risk of Alzheimers. Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Rochester, says that the brain acts as a “dishwasher,” washing away harmful waste proteins that buildup between brain cells during waking hours.
In her book, Thrive, Arianna Huffington attributes sleep deprivation and exhaustion with the fact that she fell a few years ago. That incident precipitated the wake up call for her that resulted in her latest book, which focuses on well-being along with other points of wisdom. According to Huffington, a large component of developing a sense of well-being is ensuring that you get enough sleep.
I recommend that you consider the importance of sleep and the known dangers of not getting enough: high blood pressure, increased risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, poor mood, and even weight gain. If getting enough sleep is a challenge for you, I urge you to consider creating a bedtime ritual that may help you relax so that you can get to bed earlier and sleep more restfully throughout the night.
What sort of ritual do I mean? Start with setting a bedtime that is commensurate with the amount of sleep that you need. You know this by going to bed and waking up on your own feeling refreshed. It may be a little as six and one-half hours for some of you. For others, it may be as much as nine hours. You figure that out, and then calculate backward. If you need to get up at 5:00 a.m. in order to get to work on time, count back the needed number of hours. If you need eight hours of sleep and have to get up at 5:00 a.m., then you need to go to bed at 9:00 p.m. I know, I know…you are thinking “whaaaaat?” But trust me. Your health and well-being are far too precious for you to be deliberately putting either at risk, and in order not to do that, you need to sleep.
If 9:00 is your bedtime (or whatever time you pick for yourself) start preparing ahead of time. Turn down the lights in your house. Turn off the TV. Turn off all the electronic devices in the home. Read a magazine article or a book instead of something with a blue light pulsating behind the words. Send your brain the signal that it is night time and therefore time for sleep. If you need to, drink a glass of warm milk or a cup of chamomile tea. Melatonin as a supplement is okay to take…but avoid sleeping pills which will just make you feel hung over in the morning.
Avoid exercising too close to bedtime. Avoid caffeine after 2:00 in the afternoon. Also avoid wine or alcohol. While a glass of wine before bedtime may make you feel sleepy, it will also cause you to wake up a few hours later in the middle of the night because it is a stimulant.
Make your bedroom a sanctuary intended strictly for relaxation and rest. Get rid of the work desk, your computer station, and even your television set. Don’t have your smartphone sitting on your nightstand. Leave all reminders of work or worry outside the bedroom door.
Be intentional about setting this ritual around your bedtime. Enroll the kids and create a ritual for them, too. Include your partner, if you have one. If your partner has a different sleep need, adjust accordingly, but don’t forget, you are creating this bedtime ritual for your own good and your own long-term well-being.
You need your sleep the same way you need food and water. It’s just that simple. Do yourself a favor. You will find that you have more energy to get you through the day without that slump that you sometimes feel mid-afternoon because you didn’t get the zzz’s that you need in order to be fully alert and ready for whatever challenges life throws your way. Sleep is an underrated need, but it is, in fact, a need. You now know the benefits, however, so you no longer have the excuse of saying you didn’t know how important it is.
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If you or a friend or family member is looking for a job because they are out of work, between jobs, or underemployed, contact me for information about the “disruptive job search” methodology that is taught atCareerHMO, the “cure for chronic career pain.” I am now working as a career coach with CareerHMO and am looking for people who could benefit from the program and the fantastic resources that are available throughCareerHMO and its sister site, Careerealism.