Sleep Hard: It’s Not For The Weak Of Mind
We know what it’s like — huge exam yesterday + paper due today + another exam tomorrow — sleep is not part of that equation. We’ve pulled all nighters and walked around campus like zombies in an ardent attempt to perform well in courses that have occupied our lives for months. We’ve been awakened in the middle of the night by emergency work calls, and by friends who neither know how to say goodnight nor care to (we all have that friend). We’ve become accustomed to this sort of lifestyle, accepted it, universalized it — sleep is put on the back-burner and professional/social success come first.
When we sacrifice sleep, as it turns out, we sacrifice our sheer well being. Seems like a no brainer. Health is wealth — if not our health, what do we really have? Our decisions and habits today will affect our minds and bodies as we age.
According to a recent article on the Huffington Post, lack of sleep is associated with an increased risk for dementia. In an interview with Claire Sexton, a post-doctoral research assistant at the Oxford Centre Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Brain, Arianna Huffington asks critical questions about the American ‘sleep is for the weak’ mentality. According to Sexton, poor sleep quality is associated with an increased rate of decline in brain volume over three to five years, raising the likelihood of developing dementia later in life.
We’re always seeking ways to improve our lives. We change our diets, read more and stress less, but we often fail to commit to improving the one area in our lives that is absolutely critical to our overall present and future well being.
Americans’ sleep patterns are so destructive that the CDC has called insufficient sleep a “public health epidemic,” citing chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity as consequences. Sleep, the NYT reports, plays a crucial role in the maintenance of our brain’s psyche. As our body rests, our brain acts as “mental janitor,” eliminating all the wasteful/negative thoughts that accumulate throughout the day.
Despite our inclination to forgo sleep, we need to seek practical solutions. For starters, skipping that glass of wine before bed, eliminating large meals before bed, and adapting to a regular nightly routine are important basic steps to incorporate. If the goal is to achieve success, our bodies must be able to function at their optimal capacity. Getting sufficient rest is intrinsic to better our immune systems, maintaining clarity of the mind, and leading a productive and healthy lifestyle.