Is Sleep Really That Important? – A Call to Snooze

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When I started bumping up the importance of any steps that would be helpful for my health a few months ago, sleep was one of the first things I made adjustments to. I knew that based on the mere personal experience I had each day of being mildly to very fatigued quite a bit of the time, it only made sense that staying up until 1-3 a.m. every night was not serving me, even though I stayed “busy” to the very minute before going to bed. It always seemed like I have sooooo much to do! It also didn’t feel like I was really making a significant dent by staying up that late, but I did wind up in the emergency room for high blood pressure in the midst of the late night habit…

That got my attention!

I know, it seems like common sense, but you get involved in something, want to complete something, or finally have the time to get to those things that you really wanted to do, or drink up some delicious time to yourself for whatever you want to do… and it’s time to go to bed!! And, since we are now adults, and our mamis and papas aren’t in control of our lives, we get to decide when that is!! Unfortunately, we often override not only what we hear from the experts in health care about what is optimal for us to do relating to diet, exercise, rest, relaxation and stress reduction, but we also get really good at disregarding our own inner wisdom. That voice or nudge from inside that tells us off and on, “That was too much sugar for me!”; “Having caffeine that late makes it hard for me to go to sleep and also makes for a crappy night’s rest after that!”; “I am really exhausted, I just want to go to bed NOW!”, “Eating late makes me gain weight and doesn’t feel as good as when I eat earlier.”; and “I can deal much easier with daily challenges when I get the right amount of sleep, do exercise I enjoy regularly and have some fun in my life!”

So when I saw there was a health summit this past week on the topic of sleep and many of the facets relating to it, I decided to check it out. I have not yet listened to all of the 30 or so interviews with experts on such topics as “Is There Such a Thing as Beauty Sleep?”, the “Link Between Fertility and Sleep”, “Kid’s Sleep Problems (and Parent’s Nightmares!)”, “How Meditation Cured My Insomnia”, and the “Importance of Sleep to Overall Health and Wellness”,  just to name a few. They also covered topics related to hormones, chronic pain, energy levels, stress, autoimmune function and weight loss, and how sleep plays a major role in all of these. (You can check it out here.)

I learned a number of things and plan to listen to all of the interviews to see what other nuggets of wisdom I can learn, but I wanted to pass on some of the important things about sleep that might not only benefit you, but get you curious enough to learn more, and look at your families’ sleep habits to see if it is time for a sleep makeover at your house.

According to the National Institute of Health (read more here):

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.

The way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.

The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.

They go on to say “sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.” And, that sleep is shown to improve your brain function and helps you to pay more attention, make decisions and be creative. Whereas, being deficient in needed sleep contributes to obesity, “an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.”

Parents need to know that their children require getting deep sleep to prompt their bodies to release the hormone that promotes normal growth in both children and teens.

Another biggie is the impact of sleep on your immune system. Turns out our immune system relies on us getting a good night’s sleep to stay healthy. So if you are sleep deficient, you are much more likely to have problems staying healthy through all the cold, flu and other common infections that come around regularly, as well as other sickness.

In addition to the above, not getting enough sleep makes us plain old cranky! And it doesn’t matter our age! Of course if you have a baby or young child, you are very familiar with how the day goes if your Sweetie does not get their nap, or it gets cut short for some reason…  : (   Everybody’s day is affected. But it is also true that it is hard on adults like when you are trying to parent while short on sleep, you are less patient; if you are working through planning, finances, or some challenging topic with your partner, you do much better through it all if you get plenty of rest.

The above is just a small piece of how important sleep is, so why is it that we regularly compromise so often on something this important to our health, longevity, success and happiness? We seem to be very unaware of the significance of getting enough quality sleep and simply don’t think it matters that much.

We can “get by”, we can “catch up.”

So many other things seem to be a lot more important than getting enough rest. However, upon review of the power and impact of sleep on our health, happiness and longevity, it seems pretty important for ourselves and as role models to our children/grandchildren to re-visit the topic, and reconsider how high sleep is on our priority list. I know for myself, I am feeling noticeably more energized and optimistic about life, AND my blood pressure has gone down! YIPPEE!! I was even able to reduce the amount of medication they put me on. (In fairness, I also started more regular exercise and meditation again as well as doing a pretty restricted healing diet, and some spiritual healing processes, but the overall benefit has been easily worth all the modifications, and I feel confident that getting more and consistent rest has been a large part. I am simply happier about life!)

I think you and your family are worth it! I think the benefit the world would experience is worth it!  Come on – recharge your batteries!!

To learn more about the importance of sleep, check out the book by Dr. Michael Breus, who hosted the Sleep Success Summit, entitled “Good Night:  The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program To Better Sleep and Better Health“. To learn more about how to sleep better, dreams, sleep disorders or sleep and workplace productivity, visit Dr. Breus’ website, The Sleep Dr.

Blessings to you and thank you for all the loving parenting you do; it makes a better world, one Sweetie at a time. Now it’s time for a nap….   : )

Hug attached,

Koolma  : )

How much sleep do you get a night & do you feel great & fully rested when you wake up?  Have you had time periods of getting plenty of sleep and not getting enough sleep – what do you notice about your health, life enjoyment & relationships during these times?

We’d love to hear from you!  Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section so we can help each other; remember, we are all in this together!

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