Imagine I told you that I had a new pill I had developed. It would improve your mood and your ability to pay attention. It would reduce your appetite and help you to be more active and lose weight. It would lower your cholesterol, improve your blood sugar, lower your blood pressure, and lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, depression, and attention deficit disorder.
If you took the pill, you would be less likely to get into a car accident, or be injured on the job. If you gave it to your children, they would have similar benefits, as well as improved test scores, better school attendance, decreased impulsive behavior and risk taking, and overall be more pleasant to be around. Moreover, there are no side effects and the cost is zero. Oh, and it will help you live longer.
Interested? Me too. Here’s the great news: these are all benefits of getting more sleep at night.
You may feel like there aren’t enough hours in a day to go to bed earlier, or that you really want to stay up and catch up on that show you’ve heard so much about. I am not suggesting anything drastic: I’m challenging you to get just thirty minutes more a night.
I promise you that you can find the time. For whatever reason, our culture has come to glorify sleep deprivation for teens and adults. However, getting adequate sleep is like a superpower that can make you feel better, be healthier, and live longer.
(“SuperLéo (boy of steel)” from AP Photographie on Flickr. Click the photo to go to the original)
Sleep is a biological function, like breathing. We can only restrict our breathing until we pass out, but we are able to restrict our sleep for lifestyle demands. This has resulted in an epidemic of sleep deprivation in our country. According to the CDC, about 40% of adults are getting an insufficient amount of sleep at night. The results are even worse for high school aged students: 90% of them aren’t getting enough sleep.
(“Sleepy parket” from clement127 on Flickr. Click the photo to go to the original)
How to know if you are getting enough sleep:
There are many complicated ways to measure sleep need. I’m going to propose a simple one:
How do you feel in the morning when it is time to get up? Do you wake up before your alarm, or even without an alarm? Do you feel refreshed in the morning? Other than a brief interlude of sleepiness after lunch, do you feel wide awake during the day? Are you getting between 7-9 hours of sleep at night? (Note that the amount of sleep you need may vary from your peers. I feel great with 7.5 hours of sleep; my wife and her sisters need about nine hours). If the answers to all of these questions are yes, you likely are getting an adequate amount of sleep.
My own story:
For better or worse, I’m a bit of a night owl. I really enjoy staying up late and reading, working, exercising, or even gaming online with a group of friends who include a minister, a lawyer, three physicians, and various other professionals. Lately, I’ve noticed that I’ve been staying up later and dragging a bit in the mornings. I get up reluctantly between 6–7 AM in the morning, and I need to caffeinate on days when I commute longer distances. I feel it is time to make a change.
This year, I’m making it a New Year’s Resolution to get 30 minutes more of sleep each night. Will you join me? Many people choose losing weight, exercising more, or improving relationships. Sleeping more will help with all of these goals.
I picked 30 minutes because it is attainable, for me and for you. It may not sound like much, but it is almost an extra half a night of sleep per week, or two extra nights of sleep per month for the average adult.
Throughout the month of January, I’m going to share as many tips as I can think of in a series of brief blog posts on this topic. I hope to have input from some friends as well. Some of them will be applicable to everyone; some will be specific to parents of younger children, or teenagers, or other groups.
Do you want to feel better and less tired? Will you join me on this journey? What is keeping you from getting enough sleep? What has helped you get more? Please comment and let’s start a conversation on this. Use the hashtag #30moreminutes on social media and share your story.