Understanding the Role of sleep
If you think you’re managing just fine on four to six hours of sleep, but you just don’t feel up to par—you’re not sleeping as well as you used to; you’ve gained weight around your middle; you feel like your hormones are out of whack and you have no sex drive; you feel irritable, you forget things; and your body is in pain—you are probably underestimating your body’s need for sleep.
Sleep plays a far more critical role than most people realize. When you’re sleeping, your brain remains very active, regulating a number of activities and performing maintenance that helps jumpstart you the next day. The number of hours that you sleep and the quality of sleep affects the amount of work the brain can accomplish. Without deep, restful sleep, you may feel like you’re dragging all of the time. For women, this is analogous to a dried out pot of flowers sitting on your porch in desperate need of water—droopy and sad. For men, it is like driving a car in desperate need of an oil change, ignoring the signals, until it’s too late. By then, it’s far more expensive to repair it. Even skimping a little on sleep over time may rapidly lead to serious mental, emotional, or physical problems. The quality of your sleep is as important as the quantity and also affects how you will function the next day—your mood waking up, your cravings, your mental acuity, your creativity, and your physical strength, as well as fluctuations in your weight and blood sugar.
No other activity provides as many benefits as sleep, and sacrificing sleep for anything else is simply not worth it. Ultimately, it comes down to the choice between productivity—getting just one or two more things done—and sleep.
The good news is that sleep is restorative. You can reverse the effects of aging by getting enough sleep over time. Contrary to what you might have heard, is not all downhill once you hit thirty—sleep rebuilds you every night and renews your brain and body daily.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
According to the National Institute of Health, the average person today gets six and a half to seven hours of sleep. But given today’s hurried, jam-packed schedules and overly complex lifestyles, it would not be surprising if the average person gets only six hours a night, if that.
According to research and extensive sleep studies that examine optimal brain and body functioning, we need seven and a half to nine hours of sleep for rest, recovery, and rebuilding nightly, and more if we are stressed—especially emotionally. Children and teenagers require more than that, as they are still growing and developing neurologically, and their brains need more time to rebuild.
How do you know if you are sleep deprived?
If you are getting fewer than eight hours of sleep each night, chances are you’re showing signs of sleep deprivation. You may not even realize how much it’s affecting you. Here are some telltale signs that you’re not getting enough sleep:
- You need an alarm clock in order to wake up on time
- You rely on the snooze button
- You get drowsy after heavy meals or when driving
- You have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning
- You feel sluggish in the afternoon
- You fall asleep within five minutes of going to bed
- You get sleepy in meetings, lectures, or in warm rooms
- You need to nap to get through the day
- You fall asleep while watching TV or relaxing in the evening
- You feel the need to sleep in on weekends.