Sleep: Am I Making it Important Enough?

Many of us know that we should get “enough sleep,” just like we know that we should save for retirement, drink enough water, or read up on the news more often. We know that we are happier if we have slept enough. We also know that we tend to look and feel ill if we routinely do not get enough sleep. But do we know how important sleep really is?

In my experience watching mothers of infants and small children, sleep is probably one of the most vital considerations regarding their child’s daily schedule. Nap-time is sacred, and young people are praised for going to bed early and sleeping through the night.

When we are teenagers, we glorify the practice of “all-nighters,” particularly amongst those preparing for exams. (This does not exclude college students.) We will stay up all night attending “midnight showings” of our favorite new films, and we will routinely browse social media sites until the wee hours of the morning.

More surprising than that, though, why do we as human beings place such little importance on sleep in the workplace? Medical residents and doctors are very often expected/forced to work long hours in order to meet demands of the job. And these are the people we typically turn to in order to learn how to become healthier! “Many hospitals’ schedules are structured in such a way that residents’ night call and long hours are an integral part of the way in which care is provided to patients.” (Samkoff, 687) It’s normal, it’s expected, and it’s just how it is.

But does it have to be that way?

I’m going to play mamma for a moment here. Not getting enough sleep has adverse affects on the immune system, causing one to become sick much more easily. It also ages you more quickly (trust me, graduate school is making me OLD) and affects one’s ability to be able to fully concentrate. Not only does sleep deprivation have negative effects on your mood, but it slows your senses as well.

Another thing: make sure you are comfortable when you sleep! As a teenager, I used to LOVE falling asleep to a movie on the living room couch. Sometimes I would just turn on a movie to fall asleep! Somehow, I just don’t think that sleep was very valuable.

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How many of us wait until we see THIS before we start getting ready for bed?

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I am not perfect at this, but here are some things that help me get to bed on time:

  • Start getting ready for bed 30 minutes before you think you should. (I usually start about 45 minutes before I want to be asleep.)
  • Turn Facebook off BEFORE you start getting ready for bed.
  • Do some exercise each day. It’ll make you sleepier at night.

Sweet dreams!

References:

Samkoff, Judith S. and C. H. M. Jacques, “A Review of Studies Concerning Effects of Sleep Deprivation and Fatigue on Residents’ Performance,” Academic Medicine 66, no. 11 (1991): 649-93.

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