The title of this article is how Robb Wolf basically sums up the importance of sleep. That it just might be the reason so many of us fail to be as tough and resilient as we should be. To top of off, not only is it such an important and powerful determinant of our health status and future trajectory but as a society we Rodney Dangerfield it: it gets no respect!
If there’s one thing in health that we know a ton about (including how vital it is) without really knowing some important details (and subsequently basically ignoring as a health variable), it’s sleep.
- we have to sleep
- what happens during sleep to the body and brain and how important it all is
- we function optimally when we sleep enough and well
- we function continually worse when we don’t sleep enough or well
- sleep need is different for everyone and it changes over time and by circumstance
- people either realize it matters but don’t act like it or they think they can be healthy in spite of bad sleep habits
We don’t know:
- what exactly sleep is
- the main reason we do it
- how to determine exactly how much we need
- how to measure our sleep need status, particularly when we are in mild debt
- how exactly we should make up sleep debt when we have it
- how to convince people to take it seriously
This puts us in an interesting place. Although we universally agree how important it is and what happens when we do it, the theories behind what exactly sleep is, why it happens and how much each person needs vary greatly.
Definitions and reasoning theories range from body rest to brain cleanup to sleep being the default state of the body. All present decent to solid cases but, to this point, no one has really been able to identify the true definition of sleep. The best answer we have is that we sleep because, for lack of a better term, we’re tired.
Recommendations for sleep range from 6-10 hours a night but that really doesn’t help most of us that much. We all sort of know that inherently. As far as measuring sleep debt and status, there’s a bunch of research and gadgets out there but nothing is that practical and accurate.
So we know it’s important and we should do it well for good health but we’re not quite sure what it is and how much we need.
More important to most people, we don’t have a way of really knowing when we’re not sleeping enough and how much it is hurting us.
So where does that leave us practically?
Give Sleep Some Love
If we can’t define it or know how much we need but know how important it is then our best bet is to try to sleep more/better and take our chances. Good estimates are that most people are under slept moderately to severely and my best estimate is that almost everyone I know, myself included, needs to sleep more or do it better. There’s a laundry list of health issues out there that are either caused directly or indirectly by lack of sleep and the list is growing by the day. So, honestly, the best answer is that most of us just simply need to sleep more and sleep better.
Sleep Is Good, But Good Sleep Is Better
How can we sleep better? By doing as many of the following things as possible…
- Stop thinking it doesn’t matter. If you think it doesn’t matter or you can get by without negative impact you’re wrong. I don’t say that often.
- Make it a priority. We can’t always sleep as much as we want but if we have the choice we should try to do it as well as possible.
- Get outside during the day. If you can get sunshine in the morning and afternoon, even for a few minutes, it makes a big difference in helping your body distinguish night and day.
- Turn off the lights at night. After sunset, try to have fewer overhead lights and more lamps.
- Ease up on the stimulants. This includes all kinds but mostly refers to caffeine, sugar and electronics. Make sure things like Night Shift are turned on your iPhone and iPad.
- Get dark. Make your bedroom as dark as possible. That includes all those LED lights from TVs, DVRs and clocks.
- Get cool. The cooler the better. Most of us sleep best at a room temp in the mid 60s.
- Exercise smartly. Move during the day as much as you can and workout to your ability but be wary of the two extremes: none at all or too much/too intense.
- Get your blood sugar under control. The better your diet and blood sugar is regulated the easier it is to sleep and not wake up due to drops in blood sugar overnight.
- Medicate sparingly. So many medications negatively impact sleep, particularly alcohol. Use only what you need and nothing more.
- Create a routine. Try to have a consistent way you do things and stick to it the best you can.
- The earlier the better. Sleep you get before midnight is more restful that sleep you get after midnight. That means 10-5 is more restful than 12-7.
The more you do the better and they all build and play off each other. If you do most of these, heck, even some of them, you just might notice a tremendous difference not only in how you feel but in how your health functions, including very tangible things like weight loss and energy.
It’s one of the Bare 5 Pillars and is one of the most undervalued pieces to the health puzzle. Sleep is potentially the most influential piece to health in the grand scheme of things. Everything works better with rest and everything works worse without it. Lack of sleep and/or quality sleep can be the root cause of a host of problems and magnifies every other problem we face, giving us very little wiggle room with our lifestyle. Conversely, when it is in check, our bodies have the ability to adapt to our antics and overcome nearly everything we might do, giving us a lot more latitude to misbehave when we feel like it. If nothing else, this last concept should have you rethinking your late night Netflix binges.
The bottom line on sleep is we all to think Nike: just do it.
Thanks for reading, have a great day!
When you don’t sleep- you are charging debt. Some people have big credit limits and others don’t but once your credit runs out you will start paying the price. Once interest starts accumulating, the creditors start calling and bad things happen.
Youth = flexible credit and high limits. Life starts doing the opposite of building credit, it starts to lower your limit because the body knows your ability to recharge and pay off that sleep only get less with increased age, responsibility and physical ailments.