Getting Enough Rest: Why It’s So Important for You (and Your Kids!) to Sleep

Summer’s Story

Summer, a freelance author Minneapolis, has struggled with insomnia and sleep deprivation for many years. In her story, she shares that “When I’m really sleep deprived, really simple activities can become overwhelming. I struggle with cognitive sluggishness, which interferes with my work.”

Summer’s problems are common, and it seems like we are all tired all the time. As she notes, most of us are operating at a sleep deficit, and that can come to seem “normal.”  

Therefore, Summer had to learn how to give herself “permission to take her sleep seriously.”

This is an important lesson. We all need to learn to take our sleep seriously.

We’ve all had the kind of bad day where we are operating at a sleep deficit. After a sleepless night, we can be groggy, slow, grumpy and unfocused.  This can make our lives very unpleasant.

We All Need to Sleep

Not getting enough rest is all too common in our busy world.  What we need to remember, however, is that the consequences of lack of sleep go beyond grumpiness and a bad day. Not getting enough rest is dangerous and bad for your health.

Lack of sleep is so punishing for you, your body and your brain that psychologist, doctors and human rights organizations consider it a form of torture. Why? Because sleep is a basic biological necessity for humans.  

Most people can go without sleep for up to 24 hours without lasting effects. After that, however, if a person continues to be deprived of sleep, severe physical and mental damage can happen.

For most of us, this dire situation will not be relevant. However, the milder, and still harmful effects of mild sleep deprivation can still cause problems. Read on to find out why it’s so very important to put sleep first!

What Are the Signs that You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep?

The grogginess and lack of focus we all feel after a poor night’s rest are signs of mild fatigue. But these are just a few of the effects of not getting enough rest.

Here are some of the other signs of mild fatigue:

  • Lack of alertness

Even missing as little as an hour and a half of the sleep you need can make you less

alert and focussed.

  • Impaired memory

Because lack of sleep impairs the way your brain works, if you don’t get enough sleep,

you’ll have a hard time processing and remembering things.

  • Moodiness

As your brain struggles to cope, you will feel increasingly angry, irritable, sad or

frustrated.

  • Relationship stress

The mood changes that you begin to feel as you are sleep deprived can make it difficult

to relate to others, both at home and at work.

If you become chronically sleep-deprived, not getting enough sleep over a long period of time, other symptoms may start to show up:

  • Premature skin aging

The old adage about “beauty sleep” is actually true. Chronic sleep deprivation can

Lead to dark circles under your eyes and premature wrinkling of skin as your body

produces more of the stress hormone, cortisol, which breaks down the collagen in your skin.

  • Weight gain

Chronic sleep deprivation has been shown to be linked to obesity. In fact, the less you

sleep, the more likely you are to become obese, and the less you sleep, the heavier you are likely to become.

  • Increased risk of diabetes

Sleep deprivation can lead to glucose intolerance (a precursor to diabetes) and diabetes.

  • Increased risk of heart attack and stroke

Lack of sleep increases your blood pressure and create extra stress for your

cardiovascular system. This stress can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

  • Developmental problems in children

The bodies of kids who are chronically sleep deprived do not release the hormones

necessary to promote normal growth.  Deep sleep is necessary to trigger key hormones

that boost muscle mass and repair cells and tissues in children.

When you don’t get enough sleep, all of these symptoms are your body’s way of letting you know that you need to change your habits and put your sleep first!

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

So you can see why it’s important to you, and your body, to get enough rest. But how much is enough?  The answer to that depends on your age.

The recommendations for sufficient sleep are:

Age       Hours of Sleep

Infants 4-12 months12-16 hours a day
Children 1-2 years11-14 hours a day
Children 3-5 years10-13 hours a day
Children 6-12 years9-12 hours a day
Teenagers 13-18 years8-10 hours a day
Adults 19 years and older 7-8 hours a day

Infants and very young children will get some of their sleep in the form of naps.  It’s important, however, to make sure everyone in your family is getting enough sleep so they can stay healthy and happy!

What Can You Do to Put Your Sleep First?

So what can you do if you (or your family) is not getting enough sleep? One of the key things to do is change how you make sleep a priority.

It’s essential to put a good night’s rest at the top of your list of things that are absolutely necessary.  We are all far too busy with work, school, hobbies and sports. It’s very important to remember that sleep needs to come before these things- not as an afterthought.  

Here are some tips on how you can adjust your day and make a sleep plan.

-Start a Sleep Routine

Establishing and keeping a sleep routine is a very important way to make sure you keep your sleep cycles regular and stable. To make a sleep routine, designate a time after which no electronic devices can be used. Set a specific time when tooth brushing, showering or other hygienic activities must happen. Then set a time that you and your family will do one last quiet activity (meditating, listening to music, a bedtime story). And finally, set a bedtime.

Once you’ve set this routine, you must keep it. Moving away from your sleep routine, even on the weekends, will disrupt your body’s sleep/wake cycle.

As part of your sleep routine, experts suggest the following steps:

  • No overhead lights after 7pm
  • No electronics after 8pm
  • Eat a lighter supper (your heavy meal can be lunch)
  • Exercise early in the day, not late in the day
  • Take a bath
  • Don’t read or watch tv in bed- use your bed only for sleeping
  • Don’t take in any caffeine after six hours before bedtime.

A Big Problem- That You Can Fix!

Something like 30% of all adults get less than 6 hours of sleep a night. This is not good news for them, or those around them.  

Sleep deprivation makes people less effective at work and cause a whole range of physical and psychological illnesses. Some estimate that sleep deprivation costs American hundreds of billions of dollars a year in lost productivity, medical expenses and property damage.

More than 100,000 car crashes are caused each year by sleepy drivers because the effects of being sleep-deprived are similar to those of being drunk.

The good news is that you can help yourself, and those around you by establishing that sleep is important.  Set a good example for your friends and family by setting and maintaining a sleep routine!

You will feel better, look better and have better relationships if you get enough sleep. So take your sleep seriously, and train yourself to get some rest!