Start at the beginning of our 10 Small Steps Toward Healthy Living series here.
What’s more important to good health: nutrition, exercise or getting good sleep?
The answer: They all three form a triangle of good health. All three affect the other, and we absolutely can’t ignore any of them if we want to take good care of our body.
But, guess which part of the triangle gets ignored for many of us? Ding, ding, ding–sleep. Sleep is like the red-headed step child of good health.
We just can’t imagine lying down to take a rest during the day when there’s SO much to be accomplished. And, how can we consider missing our favorite show at night? What about my running group that meets at 5 a.m. (“I can’t let them down”)? But, there’s so much work still be done after the kids go down. After all, we can just grab a cup of coffee in the afternoon to perk up, right? I’m speaking from a completely guilty standpoint here.
The reality is each of us should be getting around 8 hours of quality sleep a night, some a bit more and some a bit less, to feel alert and our best each day. If you don’t believe me, then just take a quick look at the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety in Huffington Post’s infographic below. The damage can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time.
On the one hand, we need sleep to survive; on the other, we often lament and resist our need for it. We feel we must “earn” a nap and may feel guilty if we “sneak” one in. We act as if adequate sleep were tantamount to indulging in a luxury. We know that good sleep, like good nutrition, is an essential component of good health, yet we don’t feel we must “earn” a salad, nor do we deem a healthy meal a rare indulgence.
This curiously strained relationship with our body’s need for sleep prompts me to reflect on what within us fuels this scorn for sleep, what spiritual dynamics might lurk beneath this epidemic.
One of my favorite and perhaps the most convicting tongue-and-cheek lines was…
How valuable our time must be if sleep is sacrificed in order for the world to have a bit more of us. The world is simply too much without us.
After reading her article a few years ago, I came away feeling a bit humbled, motivated to close my computer sooner and get to bed earlier and less guilty for “sneaking” in a nap when I’m tired, among other helpful convictions. You can check out the rest of her article here.
Today’s small step toward healthier living sounds simple. But, it’s probably not for most of us: Set aside your pride. Set aside your guilt. Close your computer. Turn off your phone and TV. Plan ahead to get in bed. (Or take some of these simple suggestions from Mayo Clinic.)
And get more sleep. (Shoot for 7-8 hours a night.) You won’t regret it.
NEXT UP: Small Step #3: Ditch the Tupperware