Sleep deprived

Photo by "motoyen" (Flickr)

Photo by “motoyen” (Flickr)

We don’t get enough sleep. That’s me a lot of the time, and likely you.

If you don’t agree with me now, I’ll ask you again when your alarm goes off tomorrow morning. 😉

A 2013 Gallop study shows that only 59% of Americans are getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep compared to 84% in 1942. My personal theory is that all our “awesome” technology has given us the warped impression that we can, with just a dozen or so more clicks, get another small handful of things done in a few short minutes. We know it’s a lie, because we’ll get pulled into something we didn’t mean to get into; a temptation that gets harder to resist when we’re more tired. On top of that, science says the blue light of the screen suppresses melatonin, the hormone released to trigger sleep. And so the cycle is perpetuated.

For me, even if my to-dos are tied up with a bow, there’s always something more appealing than sleep unless I’m cross-eyed with fatigue.

It’s nice to carve out a little extra time in the morning, too – we might get up just a bit earlier to get a jump on the day. Fast Company did a little experiment and asked people to get up two hours earlier each day and see what happened. There were reports of people feeling like they were given a gift of extra “me time” in the morning.

Why not just sleep less then if all the waking-hours activity is so compelling?

Julia Kirby’s HBR blog post “Change the World and Get to Bed by 10:00”, speaks to the fact that even a moderate amount of sleep depravation affects performance the same as drinking alcohol. She says, “If you’re coming to work consistently sleep-deprived you’re basically functioning drunk.”

There’s no question, it doesn’t serve us to electively walk through our lives cognitively impaired!

Why else put the hours into sleep?

  • If you’re stressed: It helps to decrease stress and anxiety
  • If you’re sad: It’s been shown to decrease risk of depression.
  • If you’re stuck: It can help you gain clarity around a tough decision (there’s something to the expression “let me sleep on it.”)
  • If you’re overloaded: It helps you process and retain new memories and skills.
  • If you want a long, healthy life: It can help you avoid serious diseases like diabetes and cancer and actually contribute to an increased lifespan.

It’s so often a blind spot. One of the questions I ask new clients is about their current level of stress and what they do to decrease it. The highly stressed high-achievers who have taken charge of the matter make sure to exercise and eat well, and protect some family time. I don’t hear that much from high-powered people about tucking in early.

My challenge to you: JUST PICK ONE of the following good-sleep habits to take a step to healthier sleep and all its benefits…

  1. Go to bed at night when you’re tired. The first step is paying attention to what your body’s asking you for.
  2. Take a nap on the weekend when you’re tired. You might find it’s the ultimate weekend treat!
  3. Go screen-free 2 hours before your normal bedtime. It’s what they recommend you do so that the blue light doesn’t mess with the release of melatonin. (I’m going to assign this one the highest level of difficulty).
  4. Get a good dose of bright light (preferably sunlight) during the day. This helps you be more “up” during the day and will contribute to better sleep at night.
  5. Wake up at the same time everyday, even on the weekend. You can’t make up sleep, so don’t even try. Hopefully, this will motivate you to try #1 on the list.
  6. Try one of the newest techno-gadgets in the sleep industry (start here: http://dailyburn.com/life/tech/gadgets-for-better-sleep/) There’s nothing like the novelty of a new app to kick-start a new habit.

G’night!