“I’ll sleep when I’m dead” / “Sleep is for the weak” / “Sleep is overrated”
We have all heard these quotes spoken as a “badge of honor” at some time, maybe even from ourselves. But did you know that skimping on sleep is serious business and sleep deprivation is associated with shorter lifespans? As health and wellness guides, it is our responsibility to share with others how important sleep really is.
Skimping on sleep… what’s the big deal?
- Decreases cognitive function -> brain fog
- Decreases efficiency of our brain’s waste clearance system called the glymphatic system. The glymphatic system brings in nutrients and clears waste products from our brain. At night, during sleep, our brain shrinks about 18% and cerebral spinal fluid increases volume… basically it’s like a colonic for our brains. This only happens while we sleep, so if you’re skimping on sleep, you’re letting the garbage pile up and it’s more difficult to clean up the junk from your day -> higher risk for cognitive impairment and dementia.
- Decreases immunity -> increased inflammation
- Increases anxiety, anger and stress levels -> impatience and overreacting
- Increases fatigue and poor decision making (like eating an entire bag of chips or cookies or grabbing an 800-calorie coffee drink at 3p to make it through our last clients)
How much sleep is the right amount?
Each individual is different; however, most people need between 7-9 hours of sleep each night. You are your own experiment (n=1). Try various times to see how much is just right. Too little is bad but sleeping too much has been associated with poor health outcomes also.
Simple ways to sleep better:
- Lose the phone/iPad. Read instead of scrolling. Use an old-school alarm clock.
- Caffeine consumption: are you a fast metabolizer or slow? If you are slow, you may want to limit caffeine to only in the morning.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time… even on weekends. Our circadian rhythms love, well, being in a rhythm… a scheduled routine.
- Limit alcohol consumption, especially before you go to bed. At some point, we’ve all had a “night cap”, but alcohol doesn’t help us sleep but disrupts our sleep cycle.
- Keep the bedroom dark, quiet and cool. And make sure your body temperature is not too hot or too cold.
- Write in a journal before bedtime. Put down your “to-do” list, what you’re anxious about, what you’re grateful for. Sometimes, writing a few sentences allows us to let go of the day and gently float into sleep.
- Exercise regularly. Moving your body daily, but not too close to bedtime.