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Sleep Matters, 8 Hours is Not Overrated

If it’s late at night and you’re reading this blog post, get those Z’s instead! Otherwise, keep reading 🤣

Boy sleeping in a bed

Who’s getting their Z’s?:

It’s kinda common knowledge that we need 8(ish) hours of sleep. What’s not general knowledge: why we need it. The truth is though, not everyone is getting those Z’s 🙁

Did YOU know…

  • More than one-third of U.S. adults sleep less than seven hours per night, on average.

  • 57.8% of middle schoolers and 72.7% of high school students get less than the recommended amount of sleep for their age.

  • 30.8% of parents and guardians say their school-age children are not getting enough sleep, according to a survey.

But maybe… if we knew why sleep was SO important, these stats would be looking a little better!

Why do the Z’s matter for day-to-day life?

You know those days you have to wake up really really early to catch a flight or get to work on an early day and you feel so yucky. Your mind isn’t thinking straight, driving sounds impossible, and your appetite is nowhere near existent. Maybe you’re nauseous, eyes barely open, and you press snooze on the alarm with an audible “UGH.” Yeah, we’ve all been there.

A lot of it is as simple as that… you just don’t feel great. The effects can be extremely tangible and concrete. You know exactly how the lack of sleep is affecting you. And other times, you don’t! In fact when lack of sleep is screwing with your brain you don’t always know. Your brain does! But unless you really think about it, you might not!

Sleep is necessary for so many day-to-day life tasks. And some are pretty obvious, but others you might not have really thought about…. So let’s think about it!

  1. Attention: When we don’t get enough sleep, our attention span declines the next day. Attention is necessary for pretty much everything we do, from driving to reading! Our reaction time will be lower. For example, “going without sleep for 48 hours impairs cognitive abilities to the same degree as having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.1%, above the legal limit for driving in every state," (Harvard).

  2. It helps us feel refreshed: Who wants to be yawning through meetings with their head bobbing like a bobble head?

  3. Energy Conservation: It makes a lot of sense that we don’t have energy when we are sleep deprived. This is because sleep helps us replenish chemicals that make us feel alert.

What about mental health?

Sleep plays such a huge role in our mental health. There is a very strong link between mental health disorders and sleep problems, and this relationship is bidirectional - meaning it goes in both ways and they both affect each other.

Lack of sleep can worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression and lead to much lower energy levels and motivation. Through studies, high quality sleep has been shown to lessen symptoms of anxiety. This is thought to be due to the ability of deep sleep to restore and replenish many of the functions of the frontal cortex and limbic system which impact our emotions. Due to this, sleep is often used as a clinical recommendation!

Lack of sleep increases levels of neurotransmitters and chemicals in our brain that cause excessive stress and emotional dysregulation.

So get those Z’s!! 🌝

What about Z’s for your brain long term?

High quality sleep has a lot of long-term benefits for our brains! It can actually reduce the chances or severity of neurodegenerative diseases and neuro-cognitive decline… crazy right!

Here are some statistics and interesting facts:

  1. “Researchers in Europe … examined data from almost 8,000 participants … and found that consistently sleeping six hours or less at age 50, 60, and 70 was associated with a 30% increase in dementia risk” (Harvard).

  2. Sleep deprivation can increase the levels and malformations of the proteins Beta-Amyloid that are associated with Alzheimer’s Disease (NIH)

  3. Many Patients with Parkinson's Disease report decreased symptoms after a good night of sleep.

What if I can’t sleep? Or what if I don’t have time to sleep?

We’ve all been there… rolling around trying our best to fall asleep. And it seems like the longer we try, the harder it becomes!

Of course this can happen occasionally, but when it becomes a consistent norm and insomnia is really messing with your day-to-day (or night-to-night) it is definitely worth reaching out to an expert!

In those easier moments where you can’t sleep here are some suggestions though:

  1. Listen to instrumental music or an insomnia playlist to either put you to sleep or before bed. It can make a huge difference!

  2. Try a deep breathing exercise. Box breathing or slower, intentional breathing can really help lower your heart rate and quiet all of those racing thoughts.

  3. Read an easy-read book, jot down your thoughts in a journal or do something else that will make you feel sleepy.

  4. Check the temperature and lighting in your room to make sure it’s ideal.

  5. Do some light stretching.

And if you outright feel like you don’t have time to sleep (I know, too bad you can’t do 2 things at once while sleeping), then think about what you can do! Maybe you can do some larger-quantity meal prep or delegate to those you are working with. Maybe you can look at all of the things going on in your life and see if anything, just anything, can give. Time management is hard, and oftentimes sleep isn’t the first priority. But just like eating or hydrating, it’s crucial for our health (in the brain and out!)

Takeaways - Sleep Matters!

Hopefully you’re a bit more convinced of how crucial sleep is for you! So let’s all make a pact to prioritize it! Whether it’s literally putting a block of sleep on your Google Calendar or readjusting or reordering some daily responsibilities, let’s add those extra couple minutes or hours. You’ll see how great it makes you feel! 😁


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