Sleep is NOT overrated!

If you’re someone with a busy schedule, you might look at sleep as a necessary evil that takes you away from other things that you would rather be doing.

Embrace sleep! Sleep is almost as essential as air, the only difference being that the effects of sleep deprivation occur over a long period of time while the effects of air deprivation are almost immediate. You can’t survive without either.

Sleep disorders are associated with:

  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Thought impairment
  • Fetal and childhood growth and development limitation
  • Increased risk of accidental injury
  • An overall decrease in the quality of life

Here’s the problem with not getting enough sleep on a regular basis—it feels normal to you. If you frequently feel tired by mid-afternoon (or earlier), you might shrug it off to the work you’ve done that day or the long hours that you keep. Too often though, that tiredness is due to not getting enough sleep the night before.

My previous career had me up every day by 4:30 a.m. I often didn’t get home until 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. After some time for decompressing from the day and taking care of things like preparing for the next day and going through mail, I didn’t get into bed until midnight or 1:00 a.m. I felt tired every day, so much in fact that it was rare to go through a day without one or two naps in my car. This was my “normal.”

When I changed careers and started getting seven to eight hours sleep every night, the difference wasn’t only obvious, it was staggering. I felt more alive than I had in years. My mind was sharp and my thinking became more creative. I no longer felt tired during the day. I was happier and felt less stressed.

A big reason that some people are sleep deprived is because they don’t sleep well. They plan for seven or eight hours of sleep, but they either can’t fall asleep or their sleep is interrupted and they get little if any “deep sleep.” This can be caused by food or drink that is consumed during the day, or from a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea.

My good friend Ken usually sleeps until mid-morning, despite getting into bed around midnight. He told me that it almost always takes two to three hours for him to fall asleep. This seemed kind of odd to me, until I spent several days at his house recently.

Ken doesn’t drink water. He prefers milk and green ice tea. Over the last six months, he’s reduced the amount of milk he’s been drinking, which means he drinks more green iced tea. He drinks it with lunch, he drinks it with dinner, and he drinks it to wash down his pills at night.

Green tea averages about 25 mg. of caffeine per 8 ounce serving. Ken was downing the stuff in 16 oz. tumblers. He was consuming several hundred mg. of caffeine per day. Caffeine has a half-life of about six hours, in other words, it stays in your system for a long time relative to the length of a day.

The tea product he consumed is sweetened with sucralose, an artificial sweetener that is associated with disturbed sleep.  He’s now brewing his own decaffeinated tea and using stevia as a sweetener. I’ll report back to let you know how he’s doing.

There are other substances that affect sleep. For me, it’s wine. Every time I drink wine, I fall asleep almost instantly, only to find myself wide awake at 2:00 in the morning. I no longer drink wine for that reason. Wine is good, but sleep is more important to me.

The point of this blog is for you to understand that getting sufficient sleep isn’t optional. If you’re not sleeping well, you’re likely paying a price for it and should consider doing something about it. I could give you a list of things that will help you to sleep better, but a better choice is for you to discuss it with your physician. You might even consider a physician who specializes in sleep disorders.

If you were starving for air, you would seek help. Don’t treat sleep any differently. Sleep is essential to your survival long term.

Sleep is not overrated.