We lead busy lives and they are filled with demands and stress. Whether we’re fighting traffic or fighting with our kids, it’s easy to get stressed by the things that go on around us.
Some stress is healthy. Too much stress is unhealthy. Unfortunately, the demands on us to pay our bills, keep up with the Joneses, provide for our kids, and save for retirement mean stress, stress, and more stress!!!
When we get stressed, we get short tempered, our heart rate goes up, our defenses go up, and our resistance to infection and disease go down.
A number of things help us manage that stress, including eating right, getting plenty of exercise, and – of course – getting adequate rest. Not only does it help our stress level, it keeps our mind functioning. Studies have shown that not enough rest has the equivalent affect on our ability to think as alcohol. Someone who goes without sleep one night has the same kind of focus and reaction time while driving as someone who has consumed too much alcohol.
Not getting enough rest means increased stress, reduced ability to think and react. These things alone should make you want to get the right amount of sleep each night!
How much rest is the right amount? Although we periodically hear of someone who is able to go with only 2 or 3 hours of sleep each night, it’s usually someone incredibly wealthy and famous and brilliant and beautiful.
Then there are the rest of us!
Going without sleep is hard on our body and our mind. It’s similar to a computer: A computer can operate 24 hours day but there are functions it does when it boots up and shuts down that clean it up and ensure it runs better when it is running.
Our bodies are the same way; they need to rest in order to shut down and reboot. Our bodies need 8 hours of sleep each night in order to give us sufficient time to recharge our batteries.
Do you get that much? Few people do. In fact, many people live on 4 – 6 hours of sleep a night and then try to “catch up” on the weekends. Unfortunately, sleep is not like going to the bank: you can’t make deposits and withdrawals and hope to balance the books at the end of the month. Sure, when you’re tired, you tend to want to “catch up” but otherwise, you can’t build up a sleep account to cash in later. You need to sleep 8 hours each night.
I recognize that seems to be nearly impossible for many people. They claim that they have too much to do to sleep 8 hours a night.
Consider this, though: When you’re rested, you actually get more done. That’s why efficiency experts suggest that you take breaks through the day. It’s because you get more done by (for example) working at something for 50 minutes and taking a 10 minute break than you would by trying to work at it for an entire hour at one sitting! That’s because our minds work better with rest.
I’ve been using the terms “rest” and “sleep” here interchangeably so I should make a clarification:
Our bodies need both.
Our bodies need to sleep 8 hours at one time through the night. During the day, we need to rest (and even to have a quick 15 minute nap in the afternoon).
This seems like a lot to most people but remember that you wouldn’t consider running your car for 24 hours a day without expecting it to overheat… and yet, many people run their bodies for decades this way and are surprised when they overheat!
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