If you find yourself repeatedly pressing the “snooze” button your alarm, chugging down several caffeinated beverages throughout the day, or getting drowsy in the middle of a presentation, you should definitely work on improving your sleep!
I was fortunate enough to take an introductory psychology class from the author of “Power Sleep,” a guide to the benefits of getting enough sleep, while I was in college. We’ve all heard of the recommended 8 hours of sleep, though the book actually suggests 9.25 hours as the optimal sleep time each night for better performance. It discusses the most effective napping strategies, suggestions to improve jet lag, and success stories from athletes and scholars that made efforts to sleep effectively. Did you know that missing out on an entire’s night sleep can affect your reaction rate as much as someone who has a blood alcohol content of 0.05%? The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that one in every five serious motor vehicle injuries is related to driver fatigue. Disruptions in your sleep schedule can also cause your body to release more cortisol, a stress hormone that signals your body to store fat. Lack of sleep can also decrease your memory several days after learning a new skill.
Sleep is the body’s mechanism for repairing itself. Not only do you need to get enough sleep, you need to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. I know that this sounds hard, especially for college students and young adults that spend a lot of late nights studying or partying, but it really does make a difference. Attempt to go to sleep and wake up at around the same times each day. Most adults are sleep-deprived and actually carry a “sleep deficit:” the more sleep that you miss out on, the more that you need to make up. Going to bed just 15-30 minutes earlier every night can help you “pay off” some of this sleep debt. Start heading to bed earlier tonight if you find yourself constantly drowsy. While sleep is important, however, you should avoid sleeping away most of your day when you could be fitting in more fulfilling activities – try to stick to a sleep schedule rather than “recovering” by sleeping away your entire Sunday to make up for what you missed on Friday and Saturday nights.
By managing your sleep, you might be able to save some money, improve your health, and improve your appearance (“beauty sleep,” anyone?). Think of all of the cups of coffee or little snacks that you purchase to keep yourself feeling energized. By improving your sleep, you can eliminate those habits, which can add up in the long run. The average American employee spends about $1100 each year on coffee, according to a Workonomix survey by the Accounting Principals. T.S. Wiley and Bent Formby describe the relationship between a lack of sleep and the increasing prevalence of obesity in society in their book “Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, And Survival.” Lack of sleep also causes blood vessels to dilate, creating dark circles under the eyes, according to dermatologist Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco. Sleep can also help you feel better by reducing feelings of anxiety and stress and by improving immune system function.
If reading this post has already made you sleepy (hopefully it wasn’t boring!), perhaps you need to slip into a bed a bit earlier tonight. 🙂