Lifestyle

The Most Important Thing You (Probably) Aren’t Doing

You aren’t going to like this blog post. You are going to doubt that you can actually start doing what I’m going to tell you about. You are going to look at your life and say, “There is no way that I can do that with everything I have going on in my life.”

I’m here to tell you that you MUST start doing this and as quickly as possible. You need to start getting enough sleep.

How Much are you Sleeping, Really?

The CDC did a study that shows 1/3 of adults do not get enough sleep. Enough sleep is defined as a minimum of 7 hours for adults 18-60. Do you even know how many hours you sleep? If you get in bed at 11pm and out of bed at 6am did you sleep for 7 hours? Probably not once you factor in reading email, watching tv, or reading a book.

I have sleep apnea. I was diagnosed around 5 years ago. I thought I was sleeping 7 or 8 hours a night, but the truth is I was waking up 77 times EVERY HOUR! I was basically never sleeping. I now have a machine that keeps my airway open while I sleep, but it also tracks the actual time I am sleeping.

I’m sure there are some heroes reading this who say, “Well, I don’t need that much sleep to function.” Try sleeping for 7 hours a night for a month. What’s the worst that could happen?

Why Sleep is so Important

Lack of sleep can affect many areas of your life. According to the National Institutes of Health:

“Quality sleep – and getting enough of it at the right times — is as essential to survival as food and water. ”

and

“Sleep affects almost every type of tissue and system in the body – from the brain, heart, and lungs to metabolism, immune function, mood, and disease resistance.  Research shows that a chronic lack of sleep, or getting poor quality sleep, increases the risk of disorders including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity.”

Did you catch that: Sleep affects almost every type of tissue and system in the body.

How to get more Sleep

So, how do you get more sleep? Assuming you don’t have a medical condition that prevents you from getting a good night’s sleep, I have learned an important truth: Getting enough sleep is a choice. (If you suspect you might have a medical condition; by all means go to the doctor and start working on a solution.)

When I got my Automatic Positive Airway Pressure (APAP) machine I thought all of my sleeping issues were over, but they weren’t. Just being able to breathe when sleeping didn’t mean I was sleeping more, just that I was sleeping when I went to bed. I was still only getting 5-6 hours of sleep a night.

Sleeping more is a choice. I plan to sleep 8 hours per night. That means I go to bed as early as necessary to make that happen. I spent sometime with a morning news anchor a few years ago and asked about how hard it was to get up at 3:30am every morning, and her response was, “I learned to respect the shift.” That means she was going to sleep by 8 or 8:30 every night.

If you truly want more sleep you must choose to get more sleep. As an adult you have the ability to make choices about where you spend your time. If you believe sleep is important, choose it.

Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t stay up late on occasion and watch one more episode of a show on Netflix or catch the end of a football game. Sometimes I have work events that cause me to be out late or vacations that involve later nights or earlier mornings.

For the most part, however, I rearranged my life to ensure that sleep was a priority. The late nights are fewer and farther between. The times I know I have to be up early to catch a flight I go to sleep earlier. And the things I sacrifice to sleep more? I don’t miss them, they weren’t as important.

Photo by Lauren Kay on Unsplash

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