Right on the heels of my crazy “Monday in the life” post, I want to talk about something serious. Sleep.
Often, my nights are late and my mornings are early. It’s fairly normal for me to go to sleep around 11:15-11:30 p.m. and get up at 4:55 a.m. That’s an average of a little over five hours of sleep per night. I’ve never been one to nap or need a lot of sleep and I am usually okay functioning on this schedule. I feel fairly energetic and alert throughout the course of the day.
But just because I can function on this amount of sleep doesn’t mean that I should.
I sent a friend the text message above before I going home last week. I had reached the end of my rope. The only thing that got my feet on the floor every morning the week before I left was knowing that a break was coming. I went into the visit with three primary goals.
- Spend time with my parents.
- Focus on book work.
- Rest and get sleep.
The sleep was revolutionary. I slept between 8-10 hours for five nights straight and I could not believe how much better I felt overall. Some of the noticeable effects of all that sleep included…
- My skin cleared up
- My digestion was better overall
- I ran well and recovered well from my workouts
- I slept better (no 3 a.m. wake ups which I have pretty much nightly in Charlotte)
- I was able to better focus
- My thinking felt clearer overall
Which got me wondering…I know sleep deprivation is bad for you but just how bad is it? Some of the effects of chronic sleep deprivation include:
- Greater risk for chronic health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. And these are all things that can lead to a shorter life expectancy. (Source: Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School)
- Increased occurrence of depression, anxiety, and mental distress that go away when a normal sleep schedule is resumed. (Source: Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School)
- Impaired memory and cognitive ability, a harder time thinking clearly and remembering things. (Source: Web MD)
- Greater instance of automobile and on the job injury. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates conservatively that each year drowsy driving is responsible for at least 100,000 automobile crashes, 71,000 injuries, and 1,550 fatalities.
- Weight gain. Lack of sleep can increase your appetite. (Source: Healthline)
- A weakened immune system resulting in more colds and sickness. (Source: Healthline)
The CDC recommends that adults get 7-8 hours of sleep per night and ever since I returned home from my trip I have tried to fall closer to that range. When you get up as early as I do it’s tough to get close to that 8 hour range but I am making improvements. I have been getting in bed earlier (minus Monday…you win some, you lose some) and getting closer to 6-7 hours on the weekdays and 7-8 on the weekends.
It’s a start and as I always tell my clients and students…something is better than nothing. I have set a goal for myself to give up 5:30 a.m. clients in the next year so that I can get a more reasonable amount of sleep on the weeknights on a regular basis. Waking up at 6 a.m. is just so much kinder than the 4 o’clock hour. It’s tough because 5:30 is my most demanded time slot and I’m on a waiting list 5 deep for that training time.
Talk to me about sleep. How much to you average a night? How does sleep deprivation impact you?