You have probably heard (and possibly quoted) Ben Franklin’s saying that “There will be plenty of time to sleep once you are dead.” While this quote is funny, and Mr. Franklin doled out a lot of excellent advice during his lifetime, I have to disagree with him on this point. Sleep is actually very important, and therefore needs to be made a priority – while you’re still alive.
In case you are not convinced that it is important to get enough sleep, let me briefly list a few issues that can crop up from lack of sleep:
- People who sleep less tend to eat more, making it more difficult to maintain a healthy weight.
- Want to know what it feels like to have dementia? Then feel free to continue depriving yourself of sleep. Lack of sleep reduces your cognitive reasoning skills, including memory, ability to concentrate, as well as ability to make decisions.
- People who sleep less are more likely to become ill. If you are not getting enough sleep, your immune system is not as strong.
- Sleep is beneficial to your mental health. If you are not sleeping well, you are more likely to be irritable, and also have more difficulty dealing with stress.
It’s possible that lack of sleep can lead to other health issues, as well, such as an increased risk of breast cancer or heart attack.
Since getting adequate sleep is so beneficial to your health (and lack of sleep is so deleterious to your health), it is of the utmost importance that you allow the sandman to do his work.
The first step to ensuring that you get enough sleep is knowing how much sleep you need. Every person is different, but the average adult needs between 7.5 – 9 hours of sleep every night. So if you feel like you only need 5 hours of sleep per night, you are probably wrong. Try getting a full night’s sleep, and you will probably find that you are better rested, capable of thinking more clearly, and feeling pretty amazing.
The second step towards ensuring that you get enough sleep? Time management. Good intentions can quickly get eaten up by things you feel you have to get done, things you actually have to get done, and things that you know you don’t need to do, but end up becoming involved in, anyway.
I am not saying that you should never do something frivolous and fun, just that you should first ascertain the amount of time needed to accomplish all necessary tasks, make sure to keep that amount of time free to fulfill those tasks, and most importantly, make sure to use that time to get the necessary duties done. An easy way to begin more effectively managing your time is to create a list at night before falling asleep of all of the errands you need to get done the next day. Then, in the morning, figure out approximately how much time these errands will take, possibly adding or subtracting errands as needed. As the day goes on, cross the accomplished errands off of your list, and make sure when you do other actions throughout the day, that you will still be able to get to bed soon enough to get your full night’s sleep.
Sometimes, despite your best intentions, you might find yourself having difficulty falling asleep. Lying in bed with your eyes closed, trying to relax, is better than using your energy (possibly by consuming unnecessary calories), but it still is not as good for your body as sleep. If you cannot get to sleep, here are a couple of tips that might help:
- Stay out of the bedroom, unless you are trying to go to sleep. Only using the bedroom for sleep helps to train your body and mind so that you can get a full night’s rest.
- Develop a wind-down routine. Creating a set of habits that end with sleeping in your bed will help you sleep well on a regular basis. Remember – habits become ingrained in your life, and are difficult to break. So use this truth about habits to your advantage, and develop habits that are to your benefit. Take a bubble bath. Do 20 minutes of relaxing yoga and meditation. Read a book for half an hour. Then, go into the bedroom (which is for sleep only), place your head on your pillow, and allow your mind to clear as you slip into slumber.
- Do not eat 2-3 hours before falling asleep. Eating too close to the time that you fall asleep can cause you to sleep poorly, or suffer indigestion. Additionally, those extra calories are not kind to your waistline. You will be happier and healthier if you make sure not to eat right before you fall asleep, and then make sure to eat a nice breakfast every morning.
So maybe the saying should be: “There never feels like enough time for sleep, but you need to make the time for it, anyway.” Not as pithy as Mr. Franklin’s saying, perhaps, but much more conducive towards a healthy mind and body.