We live in a society where sleep is undervalued. Burning the midnight oil is not only acceptable but encouraged. We hustle through our lives, stretching the day as far as we can to make the most of it. Even with the perspective that health is a lifestyle, we may be digging our own graves by oil lamp.
In fact, a modern life can conflict directly with sleep. The screens we depend on emit light that simulates sunlight and keeps us awake. Long commutes keep us out of our house for longer periods of time and may result in less sleep as we try to balance our work and home lives.
Even the economy pushes our limits — with about 7 million people working multiple jobs and countless more driving the kids all over town and generally rushing through each hour in the day, it’s a wonder we get any sleep at all.
Furthermore, many people consider sleeping a sign of laziness. It’s hard to get enough sleep when others judge you for it.
What Is Sleep Deprivation?
Sleep deprivation is defined as getting less than seven hours of sleep each night. Some people may need more sleep than others — up to nine hours — but it’s a good idea to aim for at least seven hours if you’re getting less than that. According to Professor Matthew Walker, “no aspect of our biology is left unscathed by sleep deprivation.”
In fact, not getting enough sleep can affect your sex drive, memory, skin, weight, and judgment and can contribute to depressive symptoms. Furthermore, it can even lead to an early death: sleep deprivation can increase your chances of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and more — the same things healthy nutrition habits aim to combat.
What Can We Do About It?
The short answer: sleep more.
For many, that’s easier said than done. Perhaps the first thing that should change is the stigma. Sleep is essential. It prepares you for life and should not be used as a resource to be traded in. So, the next time you’re thinking of waking up early to fit in a run, think about the sleep you’ll lose. If health is a lifestyle, it can’t be complete without good sleeping habits.
Here are some things you can do to improve your sleep:
- Set a bedtime and stick to it every night — even on weekends.
- Schedule enough time to get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
- Stop looking at screens two hours before bedtime. The blue light from screens keeps you awake the same way sunlight does.
- Start winding down at least half an hour before going to bed.
- Regulate your sleeping environment. Most people sleep best in a cool, dark, and quiet room. Find what works for you and stick with it.
It might take some practice to get into good sleeping habits. Give it some time and evaluate the difference. Do you feel less stressed? More productive? Happier? Is it worth it? Only you can answer that, but we’re confident you’ll agree it is.