THRIVE by how you SLEEP

The phrase, “you are what you eat” makes for a nice bumper sticker, but it is incomplete.  I prefer a more correct expression such as, “you are what you eat and you thrive by how you sleep.” 

Sleep plays a central role in overall wellness, but usually finds itself in the backseat in order to make room for other priorities in life.  Skipping on sleep can prove harmful to the next day’s productivity, and erodes long-term wellness.  “Disordered sleep can affect blood pressure, heart rate, mental status, hormonal and immunological function, and a host of other critical aspects of our normal physiology,” a 2019 US News article about sleep said. “So many of the common diagnoses in the cardiovascular, pulmonary and even neurological categories may be triggered and influenced by disordered sleep.”

Sleep is a crucial time when the body recalibrates and restores itself for the next day.  Shortcutting your sleep shortchanges your body’s ability to stay in tip-top shape.  The human body is an incredible biological wonder!  It is comprised of complex systems that literally keep you alive every day.  The least you can do is give it a chance to rest properly at night.

Burning the candle at both ends

The idiom “to burn the candle at both ends” sums up the unhealthy habit of sleep deprivation quite well.  “To burn the candle at both ends means to exhaust oneself by working too much, going to bed late and getting up early,” according to the grammarist.com. “When one burns the candle at both ends, he is living a frenetic pace. Eventually the candle in question came to symbolize one’s life force, and burning the candle at both ends meant to use one’s life force too quickly, to exhaust oneself by working too much.”

When we view sleep as our “life force”, the importance of quality nightly slumber is heightened. With this paradigm, I find it ironic when people unnecessarily cut short a good night’s sleep in order to sneak in an exercise routine.  Obviously the motive is to improve health and wellness, but messing up one’s sleep in order to do so defeats the purpose.  I like to think of sleep as one of three sides of a triangle.  The other two sides are healthy diet and good exercise. 

How much sleep is enough?

The National Sleep Foundation has put an immense amount effort into solving the age-old question of how much sleep is enough sleep.  They brought together a panel of eighteen scientists who conducted a multi-year study on the topic, and their findings resulted in the following suggested sleep time recommendations:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
  • School age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours (new age category)
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours (new age category) 

When I first read through the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendations, I thought to myself, “Yeah right! How am I supposed to get that much sleep?”  Yet, I was determined to give it a try.  With just a little planning and discipline, I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to fit a healthy sleep pattern into my already-hectic life.  And here’s the great secret: I didn’t have to remove one thing from my daily routine.  I just needed to manage my time better.  It really is more about time management than prioritizing activities.

Here are some suggestions to help you make an easy transition to getting more sleep at night

Comfortable bed and pillows

1. Have a comfortable bed and pillow

Insist on the absolute best in comfort for your bed and pillow.  Resist the temptation to go too cheap on these essentials.  During your life, you will spend an enormous amount of time in a bed.  Trust me, you will NEVER regret spending the extra money for the right mattress, pillow(s), and bedding.  Quality over cost is paramount when it comes to your bed.

Avoid devices before bed

2. Leave electronics out of arms-reach and pick up a book

Electronics suck the life out of your day. They will also inhibit the ability for you to fall asleep in a timely manner because your mind is engaged with sensory overload on social media channels, internet browsing, and other apps. Instead, opt for a good, old-fashioned book. A long-form, multi-chapter book works wonders in your quest to get to sleep.

Melatonin supplement

3. Take a melatonin supplement

Electronics suck the life out of your day. They will also inhibit the ability for you to fall asleep in a timely manner because your mind is engaged with sensory overload on social media channels, internet browsing, and other apps. Instead, opt for a good, old-fashioned book. A long-form, multi-chapter book works wonders in your quest to get to sleep.

4. Stick to a bedtime

In order for me to get enough sleep, I need 7-9 hours every night. Eight hours is my sweet spot. I have to be on the road for work no later than 7:30 a.m., and it takes me 45 minutes to comfortably get ready. . . So with a daily wake-up of 6:45 a.m., I would need to BE ASLEEP by 10:45 p.m. Once I crawl into bed, it takes about thirty minutes before I fall asleep. This means I should be getting off to bed by 10:00 p.m. (NLT 10:15 p.m.). Is there anything unreasonable about a 10:00 p.m. bed time? No.

I suggest you do a similar mathematical exercise to determine the best bed time for you.  Once you do, stick to it.  Don’t allow other things to creep into it.   Your body will thank you.

On May 4th, the world will “celebrate” Star Wars Day: May the 4th Be With You, a pun derived from the catchphrase “May the Force be with you.”  So with that same the Jedi spirit, may the force be with you as you increase your life’s force through more sleep and may you find increased health, wellness, and happiness for the long haul.

Good night.