If there's one thing in our lives we shouldn't sacrifice, it is a good night's sleep. Getting adequate sleep has been shown to reduce stress, improve mood and even boost your immune system. Physically it can also reduce your risk of suffering from heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
So why is it, that in order to make room for the billions of things we need to do each day sleep is the one thing that most people have no problem compromising?
Sleep deprivation is on the rise, and this willingness to simply "get by" on 4 or 5 hours of sleep ultimately stems from a place of either disbelief or a mere lack of knowledge about the importance of getting a good 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. While it is important to note that with the growing trend of shift work and night shifts, adequate rest may appear to be a luxury that few can actually afford, most people remain unaware of the serious debilitating effects that a lack of sleep can produce. It's easy to recognize the physical symptoms of a lack of sleep. You're physically tired and worn out. You're lethargic and need to rely on coffee and energy drinks to make it through your day. But recent studies have now stated that a lack of sleep can also hamper your mind and affect your cognitive abilities.
Rest and Repair
When we sleep, our brain uses that time to regenerate and repair itself. When we deprive ourselves of adequate rest, our brain struggles to play catch up as we continue on with our days. Think of it as continuously exercising your muscles with no rest periods. Eventually, your muscles become too exhausted and worn out to continue to perform. In essence, this is what happens when your brain doesn't get the rest it requires. It gets worn out too.
As was aforementioned, this lack of rest and repair time for your brain can begin to effect your daily cognitive tasks. These tasks have much to do with memorization (such as remembering what you went to the grocery store for), or performing sustained tasks for a long period of time where you must remain constantly focused (such as driving or studying). It should now come as no surprise that one of the leading causes of car accidents is drowsiness. People are actually falling asleep behind the wheel.
The Importance of Scheduling
One of the most effective ways to improve your sleep habits is to maintain a scheduled sleep routine. Most people who find a way to implement a routine have the easiest time sticking to it and thus ensure they are receiving adequate sleep. Most people also find that they can get their mind and body ready for a great night's sleep by also adhering to certain repeated customs before they actually go to sleep for the night. These customs can include taking a warm bath, meditating, or reading.
Most of us recognize the importance of being physically fit. We take the time out of our day to go to the gym or exercise at home. It's only fair to us that we pay close attention to our sleep patterns as well. In the hectic world that we live in, we should crave the 7 of 8 hours we get to ourselves every night to rest and recharge, rather than look for ways to justify compromising it. At the end of the day, both our bodies and our minds will be eternally thankful.
Image: Eugene H. White