It may seem like lying in bed for hours and hours is unproductive – how many tasks on your to-do list could you have accomplished by getting up at 6 instead of 9 on Sunday morning? However, how you FEEL during your daytime hours is a direct reflection of how well you sleep at night. And I believe most of us – especially busy moms – are going through life operating on less than all cylinders.
Just as nutrition and exercise are essential for optimal health, so is sleep. It affects our mental sharpness, productivity, emotional balance, creativity, energy, and weight. As we sleep our minds and bodies are repairing and getting us ready for the day ahead. No other activity has such a host of benefits for so little effort. Yet we continue to cut our sleep short. Sometimes it is out of our hands (a teething baby, a toddler with nightmares) but I am sure if we looked long and hard at our habits and lifestyle, we could change a few things to ensure we set ourselves up for greater sleep success.
Are You Sleep Deprived?
There is a huge difference between how much sleep we need to get by on and how much we need to fully function on. I’ve been getting by on less than six hours for well over a year since my son was born – so much so that six hours of uninterrupted sleep seems like a luxury. But I definitely crash in the late afternoon, fall asleep watching a movie on Friday night, and have a hard time getting out of bed in the mornings. All signs of sleep deprivation. Here are some others:
* need an alarm clock to wake up on time
* hit snooze over and over
* get sleepy in meetings, lectures, or warm rooms
* get drowsy driving or after large meals
* need to nap to get through the day
* feel the need to sleep in on weekends
* fall asleep within minutes of going to bed
You may not realize you are sleep deprived because you have been functioning this way for years. You are so used to operating on six or less hours of sleep, it has become the norm. My brother is a good example of this. Last year he was fitted with a CPAP machine after being diagnosed with severe sleep apnea. Testing in a sleep clinic discovered he was waking every MINUTE, even though he had no recollection of this. Waking so often prevented his brain from going into deep and REM sleep — the most important phases. His sleep (and many aspects of his daily life) have greatly improved now that he is getting a solid night’s sleep. He goes everywhere with it — even camping.
Chronic sleep deprivation is affecting your life, even if you are not aware of it. Effects include:
* fatigue and lack of motivation
* moodiness and irritability
* reduced creativity and problem solving-skills
* inability to cope with stress
* reduced immunity leading to frequent colds and infections
* concentration and memory problems
* impaired motor skills and increased risk of accidents
* difficulty making decisions
* increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems
* weight gain
One observation my brother excitedly shared with me after a couple of months of using his new CPAP machine was that his creativity was through the roof. He suspected he had been sleep deprived for the last ten years and hadn’t realized how much he was being affected.
Here are a few myths associated with sleep deprivation:
How Much Sleep Do We Need?
Most healthy adults need 7.5 – 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Just like with exercise and eating healthy, consistency is key. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Make it a priority. Block off the time just like you would a meeting – it should be at the top of your to-do list.
Follow Laura Greenaway Fitness on Facebook to get tips on sleeping throughout April.
What is your greatest obstacle when it comes to getting the sleep you need?