There are still only 24 hours in a day, but we're dedicating fewer of those hours to sleep. With pressures to meet work deadlines and family demands, plus technological distractions, we are putting off sleep at our health's expense.
Our Sleep Culture Celebrates the All-Nighter
Adults between the ages of 18 and 64 should be getting between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, according to The National Sleep Foundation. But more and more of us are skimping on shut-eye.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that in 2005, 35 percent of people were getting fewer than seven hours of sleep a night. As of 2013, that number had increased to 41 percent according to a Gallup poll. Chances are the trend will continue into 2016 as people still put sleep off so they can be more productive.
Despite the importance of a full night's sleep, there is a stigma around people who insist on getting a full eight hours per night.
We say we wish we could afford to spend eight hours a night sleeping, but we're too busy with [work, kids, working out, travel, insert other reason here] . But the truth most of us don't want to admit is that we don't make it a priority. After answering emails late into the night, we find ourselves watching one more episode on Netflix to unwind. We stay up late scrolling through social media pages or playing another round of WII Golf to let off some steam.
For some of us, late night is the only time we get to ourselves, and sleep is just one more thing that's getting in the way of that. Perhaps we've started to view it as another daily obligation that must be fulfilled rather than something we enjoy. But this is a dangerous way of thinking because it's putting our health and long-term happiness in jeopardy.
'Sleep when you're dead' will send you to an early grave
We rally around the idea of 'powering through' late nights with little sleep. It's something we learn in school when we stay up writing term papers, and it's something we continue on the job. We respect the person who shows up at work the morning after taking a red-eye with a coffee in hand, but we're less likely to celebrate the person who makes sleep a priority and consistently shows up well-rested.
In this culture, why would people value sleep? Why should we set aside time in our busy schedules to do something that's not conventionally productive? Actually, there are a lot of good, scientific reasons why:
1. It keeps us alert
Any time we get less sleep than our bodies need, we build up a 'sleep debt.' This 'debt' is the accumulation of adenosine, a natural chemical produced by the body that gets broken down when we sleep. No sleep, no breakdown. And the more adenosine in your blood, the more desperate your body becomes to sleep. This leads to inattention, drowsiness, and slower reaction times.
The National Sleep Foundation estimates that drowsy driving contributes to 100,000 accidents and 1,500 deaths a year.
2. It improves our health
Making an effort to get a few more hours of sleep can help us avoid getting sick and even make us less susceptible to chronic diseases like hypertension and high blood pressure, obesity and type 2 diabetes, the Harvard Medical School reports. Plus, getting a good night's sleep is one of the best ways to feel more energized and enjoy an active lifestyle.
3. It makes us feel better
Not getting enough sleep can make us feel more emotionally charged, less patient, and even depressed. With seven hours or more a night, we become more emotionally and mentally resilient. Additionally, our memories strengthen.
It's not easy to change something so ingrained as our attitudes toward sleep, but we need to commit to making rest a priority. Here are some small changes we can make to get more good sleep each night:
- Turning off electronic devices an hour, or even half an hour, before bed
- Switching off mobile phone alerts
- Going to sleep 15 minutes earlier
- Getting up at the same time every day
We spend one-third of our lives asleep - or we should. And that time should be spent doing just what we're meant to do at night - resting, restoring, rejuvenating.
If you spend your nights tossing and turning, rather sleeping soundly, your mattress and pillows might be to blame. Contact us to learn about new sleep systems that are specifically designed to help you catch more Zzs.
Image: postgradproblems, 2016 http://postgradproblems.com/what-its-really-like-working-the-graveyard-shift/