I used to think I was indulgent when it came to sleep. In my early 20s, I averaged between 9-11 hours a night.
Sleep In a Workaholic Culture
In today’s society and particularly in Western culture, we are no-so-gently encouraged to work hard AND play hard. Those who get into the HUSTLE work 50-60+ hours a week to keep up with the curve while those who work the standard 40 hours or less are judged as lazy or lacking ambition. As someone in the latter camp, I’ve often struggled with this image of laziness. I’d been told be others that I wasn’t living up to my potential and I started to feel that way too. Yet, whenever I attempted to push the limits of my sleep and work habits, I found myself overwhelmed, disorganized, and exhausted. I would forget things (important dates like weddings or meetings), sleep through my alarm, and even have a hard time completing projects.
For a long time, I thought there was something wrong with me. I’d heard about successful entrepreneurs who had paired their sleep down to five or six hours a night and were thriving! Why couldn’t I do the same? But in time, as I got to know myself and my habits more, I began to accept that I needed at least 7 hours of sleep to function at my best. Opinions of others be damned!
The Insightful Video that Changed the Way I View Sleep
At the end of 2017, I watched a video that confirmed everything I had experienced as it relates to sleep. It changed the way I viewed myself and my body’s needs, all of our bodies needs to be exact!
The video was delivered by Matthew Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and writer of the book “Why We Sleep.” In the video he explained the horrifying neurological and physiological consequences accompanying lack of sleep, which include, but are not limited to.
- High blood pressure – increased stress levels, extreme mood changes, and “200% increased risk of having a fatal heart attack in your lifetime” with 6 or less hours of sleep.
- Memory loss – or rather inability to hold onto new memories due to impaired brain function.
- Lowered virility, or fertility – particularly in men, whose virility age can jump decades with chronic sleep deprivation.
- Impaired immune function – probably most worth of not is the drastic reduction in cancer-fighting immune cells (up to 70%!) after just one night of sleeping under 5 hours.
Lack of sleep also impairs muscle recovery, so if you do have a some sort of workout routine, you may suffer from muscle weakness and lethargy, which will ultimately affect your mood, your energy levels, and your ability to work effectively. Isn’t that the exact opposite of what you were going for???
Get More Sleep
The lesson, according to Walker, is that “We need about eight hours of sleep to repair the damage of wakefulness.” Hearing that from an expert, I feel zero guilt when I get a nine hour night of sleep. In fact, since I work mainly in the afternoons, I rarely set my alarm anymore. I figure
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