“Sleep is your superpower. It is the elixir of life, the most powerful and widely available healthcare system I could ever imagine” -Dr. Matthew Walker
You are a high performer, a head of a household, a business owner, a leader in the community or your family, and always seem to have so much on your plate. “Busy” has become a sort of status symbol in our lives these days, with an underlying correlation between busy-ness and being successful. With that, no doubt there is some sacrifices and compromises that come along with your obligations, but sleep should never be one of them.
Sleep has been a hot topic as more and more research has been being done on just how important it is to overall well-being. It is arguably the number one key to success in all aspects of life. Sleeping is a basic human need, like eating, drinking, and breathing, and like these other needs, sleeping is a vital part of the foundation for good health and well-being throughout your lifetime. Not to mention, sleep deficiency can lead to physical and mental health problems, injuries, loss of productivity, and even a greater risk of death.
Sleep deficiency is a massive problem in the United States, with people in all age groups report not getting enough sleep, and 40% of American adults have reported falling asleep during the day without meaning to at least one time per month. In terms of what qualifies as sleep deficiency as stated by the US Gov. occurs if you have one of the following:
You don’t get enough sleep (sleep deprivation)
You sleep at the wrong time of day (that is, you’re out of sync with your body’s natural clock)
You don’t sleep well or get all of the different types of sleep that your body needs
You have a sleep disorder that prevents you from getting enough sleep or causes poor quality sleep
Risks of Sleep Deprivation
Not only does sleep deficiency prevent you from functioning at an optimal level for your work, family, and personal tasks, it will also increase your risk of injury and car crashes as you won’t be as alert. In fact, drowsy driving kills more people on the roads than alcohol and drugs combined. Sleep deficiency has been linked to many chronic health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression.
The scary thing is that if you’re sleep deprived you may not know it. That is, you may be so used to getting inadequate sleep, feeling foggy and tired throughout the day that operating at sub-par performance levels may be the norm. The truth is, not getting enough quality sleep is vital for mental and physical health, quality of life, and safety.
Adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, every night. An interesting natural study occurs each and every year with 1.6 billion people; daylights savings time. In the spring, when we lose an hour of sleep, we see a 24% increase in heart attacks. In the fall, when we gain an hour of sleep, there’s a 21% decrease in heart attacks. Think about this for a moment; with just one less hour of sleep, heart attacks rise significantly. How do you imagine that risk will exponentially increase if you consistently get less than the required amount of sleep?
The shorter you sleep, the shorter your life. Less sleep does not equal more productivity. Insufficient sleep is the most significant lifestyle factor linked to Alzheimer’s disease, and has a strong link to bowel, prostate, and breast cancer. Men who sleep 5-6 hours a night will have a level of testosterone equal to someone 10 years older.
The Impact of Good Sleep
Another great quote by neuroscientist and author of “Why We Sleep”, Matthew Walker, is “Sleep is the greatest legal performance enhancing drug that most people are neglecting”. For example, our brain relays memory sequences we learn when we are awake, but over 20x faster during sleep. After a day of practicing a skill (fitness-related or otherwise) the next day after a good night’s sleep you could be 20-30% better compared to the previous day’s practice.
Sleep is the fountain of youth. There isn’t one major organ within the body or brain that isn’t optimally enhanced by sleep. The health benefits we receive by sleeping 7-9 hours each night far outweighs any creams, lotions, or surgically enhanced features. In this case, beauty sleep is scientifically proven to be a real thing!
Tips for Better Sleep
Here are some tips if you’re having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep:
- Develop regularity. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day (including weekends).
- Turn off electronics and most lights in your house at least 1 hour before bed
- Keep your room cool. 65 Fahrenheit
- Finish eating a few hours before bed. Try to go to bed not hungry, but not full either. Diets high in sugar and low in fiber also cause sleep to be fragmented, so ensure your diet is based primarily around whole, unprocessed foods.
- Melatonin can be a good supplement to use if you travel a lot, it will trick your brain into thinking you’re going to bed.