I’ve always thought that sleep was an inefficient system – needing to lay down for a whole 8 hours. But nature doesn’t care what I think – sleep is what it is, and it is what we need.
What happens when we don’t get our needed sleep? People who sleep less than seven hours a night are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, asthma, arthritis, depression and diabetes and are almost eight times more likely to be overweight. Per author Greg McKeown (Effortless: Make it Easier to Do What Matters Most), people who got less than six hours of sleep per night saw a decline in their motor skills and their cognitive abilities and nodded off more frequently. This is your brain on too little sleep.
Getting more sleep can be a great gift we can give our bodies, our minds, and even, it turns out, our bottom lines (productivity). “We spend a third of our lives asleep so how can we make the most of it?” says McKeown.
You have probably read about turning off devices and lights an hour before bed. You may have also heard about a hot bath or shower and that is no old wive’s tale. A hot bath or shower 90 minutes before bedtime allowed people to sleep sooner, longer and better because the warming action of the bath allowed the body’s core to cool down for sleep. Exercise in the evening may have the same affect for some, but others find it wakes them up.
I am a nap believer. How about you? Research shows that naps can improve performance, logical reasoning, and symbol recognition even in well-rested people.
Once I learned as a Biology major in college that memory is consolidated during sleep, you can bet I embraced the nap in the library, especially before exams since I needed as much information in my memory banks as possible. In fact, naps can be as beneficial for some types of memory as a full night’s sleep so this is 15-45 minutes well spent.
As a student I also learned that we can concentrate effectively for 90 minutes. So instead of fighting to continue studying after that point, I learned to take a break and come back refreshed for the next 90 minute session. McKeown advocates that we “break down …work into three sessions of no more than ninety minutes each.”
So why are we are conditioned to feel guilty when we nap instead of “getting things done”? Our stressed out society will need to learn to embrace sleep as one way to help us cope with stressful situations. I am a believer in “Sleep on it” because when things seem tough I always find a new perspective and attitude after some sleep. In fact, research has shown that most Americans (you included) would be happier, healthier and safer if they were to sleep an extra 60 to 90 minutes per night (apa.org). (Resource: https://www.sleep.org/https://www.sleep.org/)
How have you experienced the benefit of a good night’s rest?