If cotton is the fabric of our lives, then sleep is the stitching the keeps it together. Sleep is the key ingredient to maintaining health. It’s is hard-wired into our bodies so much so that we cannot function without it, but that’s not to say we don’t try.
Energy drinks command billions of dollars in sales; there’s caffeine shots, caffeine gum, caffeine mints, sugary drinks, and of course energy foods. (Which is strikingly redundant, if I may say so). We buy them anyway,and consume them daily. We do whatever it takes to keep going and stay awake.
Millions of men and women don’t get enough sleep, and its not surprising. From an early age, sometimes as young as primary school, children are deprived of much needed sleep due to circumstances beyond their control: the demands of working parents, the necessity to obtain better, higher, specialized education, the bus that just happens to arrive 2 hours before school starts are all taxes on the sleep-bank of youth. It’s a tax often levied highest on those entering adulthood and the workforce. There’s no rest for the weary.
Americans have differentiated ourselves in the category of unique sleep disorders. We work harder, longer and later that most other productive 1st world nations, and yet the majority of sleep disorders go undiagnosed and untreated. How does this affect our lives, our relationships, our productivity, and our attitude? That’s a difficult question to provide a generalized answer to, but it doesn’t take an PhD to diagnose as case of severe grumpiness. We’ve all been there, or at least seen that colleague in the conference room, hands shaking, sweat-beaded brow, slurping down their third cup of coffee on 3 hours sleep.
The amount of sleep required per person varies widely. Culturally, biologically, and pharmacologically, our body clocks are all wound differently. As we age, our inner timekeeper changes too, but it’s safe to say the widely-accepted figure is 8 hours per night. Some of us are passed out by 9:30pm while others can make it through a day of work, a trip to the gym, and a Game of Thrones triple-header and still report on time at 9am the next morning.
There are, however, a few proven facts about the benefits of sleep that we ought to keep in mind before allowing Netflix to auto-play the 3rd, 4th or (it wouldn’t be called a binge unless there was a) 5th episode at 2am. A full night’s sleep can help improve cognition, specifically your ability to retain information. For older individuals, getting more than 6 hours of sleep per day can help stop inflammation linked to stroke, diabetes, heart attacks, and early aging. Sleep can affect your metabolism, and getting a full night’s rest you increase your chances of losing weight. One of the most important benefits is how sleep positively impacts stress levels because sleep releases endorphins and serotonin; chemicals produced by the brain that regulate mood, energy and metabolism.
Bad habits are tough to break. However if we seek to avoid the stimulant (Netflix) cycle, and remain attune to the signs our bodies give us, we’ll be able to provide ourselves the nourishment we need to stay healthy and strong. Sleep is nourishing. Sleep is fun. Sleep is valuable. Go get some tonight!