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Sleep Isn’t Just for Lazy People

Jul 19, 2022 | Blog, Lifestyle

 

Sleep has gotten a bad rap, and it is often equated with laziness. “My lazy kid slept till noon.” Or “I slept the day away and didn’t accomplish anything.” Contrast that with the badge of honor we apply to people who don’t get a lot of sleep. “I only got three hours of sleep last night.” Or “Sorry, I’m a little late, I pulled a double.” We often admire those as scenarios of resilience and grit.

 

When I was in residency, I would work over 80 hours many weeks, frequently 36 hours in a row, and I too considered it a badge of honor. I was proud of the toughness associated with it. It was near the end of my residency in the early 2000s that residency work-hour restrictions were put into place following a highly publicized lawsuit where an 18-year-old patient died following the administration of a drug that interacted with one the patient was already taking. While it was concluded that the prescribing error was an innocent mistake, it sparked the development of a law that is still in effect today: residents can work no more than 24 continuous hours and no more than 80 hours in a work week. This is still too much, but it is a step in the right direction.

Sleep is not just for lazy people. Sleep is very important, and getting this modifiable lifestyle factor right is essential to optimal health. Both the right quantity and good quality of sleep are paramount to feeling great. Sleep is the battery charger for our lives. Sleep is to your body as charging is to your phone.

Think of it like plugging your phone in before you go to bed at night. Ideally when you wake up, you pick up your phone and it is 100 percent charged. It is ready for a day of use. The body is no different. When your phone doesn’t charge fully at night, problems occur. When you wake up and discover that has happened, you know you are going to have to modify your day to make the battery last. You do the same things with your body when you get poor sleep. What is your body’s boost? Typically, it’s coffee, energy drinks, or sugary foods throughout the day. These quick jump-start items are the same thing as plugging your phone into your car for a quick 10 to 15 minutes during a commute or carrying around your charger like it’s your walking lifeline no matter where you go. This isn’t a big deal if it happens rarely, but if getting poor sleep is the norm for you, the effects on your health can be devastating.

What if your phone was down to one percent, and instead of the seven hours it needs for a full charge, you could only charge it for two to three hours? What if your phone was almost out of battery power and instead of leaving it on the charger until it was fully charged, you unplugged it every 30 minutes and used it for 15 minutes before plugging it back into the charger? What could that do to the battery’s lifespan? Even scarier, when you translate this example into our life and our sleep patterns, what’s it doing to your lifespan and healthspan?

Great sleep is the foundation to building a great day. How often have you heard, when you have an important event on the horizon, “Make sure you get a good night’s sleep”? Ideally, you should aim for this every evening of your life, not just when you have a big day to follow. When you get a good night’s sleep, it starts the domino effect of positive action that leads to your daily health and wellness.

Prioritize your sleep. Prioritize your health. There is no need to wait for Monday, or a new month or a new year. Start today!

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