Or maybe you can’t even remember…
So then, what’s happened to the importance of sleep? Why is it that sleep is the first thing that is sacrificed when our lives become chaotic, busy, and “booked”? Why is it that we insist on giving up the only time we have to completely relax ourselves in a deep state of rest that cures both body and mind in ways modern science can only fathom? What’s going on at both the individual and societal level that’s causing the lack of sleep, I wonder?
Attitude – These are the people who believe that they can “sleep when they’re dead” because they have much more important things to do. Making time for sleep is of no priority, let alone in the back of their minds. These people tend to be labeled the “go-getters” or the attackers of life. Unfortunately, this is also a societal attitude toward work that perpetuates the over-achiever’s sense of self-efficacy. People think that they need to achieve more in order to be productive (with some even thinking that they need to do so to feel worthwhile as human beings). While it is good to have priorities, I believe it is of further importance to make more time for sleep because it allows you to function better throughout the day by regulating your hormonal systems. Incidentally, a good night’s sleep can enhance one’s creativity by giving your subconscious time to work on the material. So really, you can actually do more on a good night’s sleep (more on that later in this post).
Technology – with the advent of modern technology, there’s always stuff to do that will keep anyone up late at night, whether it’s facebook, netflix, or playing games on your phone. The options are endless, really, and once you find something you love on the internet, there’s a little chance you’ll actually pull yourself away from it to hit the sack. Electric light bulbs keep us up at all times of the night now, too, despite the fact that the sun may have set hours ago. The effect? Hormonal dysregulation, meaning that your body has a hard time adjusting to your new waking hours because it wasn’t designed to stay up much longer past sunset. This can cause you to sleep less, have sleepless nights, feel generally exhausted, and suffer from anxiety and depression (your body’s out of whack, and you expect to function at full capacity? Think again.)
Alright, so maybe your video games or that school assignment or that TV show on netflix are more important than sleep. Then again, maybe not…
Consequences of lack of sleep:
Here I speak from my own experience, and since we are all human beings, I cannot imagine that our experiences would drastically differ in regards to one of the most basic animal functions ever. When I don’t sleep right, my body goes into a lousy state involving increased moodiness, stress, hunger, and worry. I feel as if every emotionally charged situation is heightened (I make a bigger deal out of it than it really is). I find it harder to function in general due to an inability to mobilize myself quickly. Importantly, lack of sleep makes me hungrier than I normally am because my body is trying to get more energy to meet the daily demands. Additionally, my workouts suffer from a lack of robustness because of my depressed energy state. That’s never any fun. Even more sad is the fact that I experience a lack of interest in things throughout the day. What’s that? You wanna go out tonight? Yeah I’d love to but I feel like crap, sorry.
Let’s end this on a good note: what can quality sleep do for you?
So much. I wasn’t joking when I said that modern medicine can only marvel at the remedial effects of sleep on both body and mind. Psychologically, your brain is chugging along on all of your problems, worries, and concerns (it’s actually been theorized that dreams are the manifestation of your brain practicing how it would react in made-up events in case they ever happened in real life as a way of preparing you for the unexpected). Also, your brain is making new neuronal connections to reinforce what you learned from the previous day (which is why it’s important to get a good night’s sleep before an exam!). Physiologically, your body is repairing muscle damage (say, from exercise) and tissue and organ functioning (to make sure your internal system is still functional). Your body is also balancing all of your hormonal systems to keep them humming along so they’re ready for all of the activities of tomorrow, which for all you know might involve something as boring as eating cereal to something as insane as dodging a car. Taken together, sleep allows you to be more productive with your time by managing its energy systems in an efficient manner without you having to think about it. Isn’t the autonomic nervous system just wonderful? I think so.
Given the curative effects of sleep, why wouldn’t you want to get some? I guarantee you will notice wonderful changes in your life even just by increasing your current amount of sleep by half an hour (really!). Give yourself a real break, one that is uninterrupted and cherished by your brain and body. You’ll thank yourself to took the extra time off in the long run.
Go get some sleep people!
p.s. out of curiosity, how many hours of sleep do you need to be at your best? Let us know in the comments below!