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We are cheating ourselves on sleep

by Shannon Ables
Portland writer

The Simply Luxurious Life [2]
Being able to gradually awake from a blissful slumber that has been long and uninterrupted and thankfully not jolted to conscious by a screeching noise is an instance in which I am reminded of the power of a good night’s sleep.

The body is an amazing machine that when left to its own devices having been properly cared for with nutritional food, water, and exercise of the mind and body, can communicate with us quite clearly what it needs.

As a child I remember never really needing an alarm clock [3] as I was a regular to-bed and to-rise child (thank you Mom and Dad), and once my body clock was set, I’d regularly pop up in the morning rested and ready to go.

While as an adult that has changed, shifted and been adjusted, there are many times, now more than in my twenties, when I am reminded of the power of respecting my body clock.

Over the weekend, I listened to a handful of researchers and scientists speak on NPR about the power of sleep. And since many of you, along with myself, are adjusting to a change of schedule as fall begins, I thought the timing perfect to remind us of strengthening our foundation of good health and productivity.

Because that is exactly what a good night’s sleep does – lays the foundation for a potentially positive and productive day.

Here are the nine major benefits of attaining six and a half to eight hours of sleep each night:

1. Strengthen Your Memory
Just as our muscles need to rest after been pushed and pulled in order to recover and strengthen, so too does our mind. After learning a new skill, shortly following the lesson (that evening), it is imperative that the learner give their mind a healthy night’s rest. During the time of sleep is when the mind is processing, connecting and retaining all that it has learned. So those late night study sessions that wrapped up in the early morning before a test – not such a great idea.

2. Deep Clean
Do a quick run through of all the information (sights, noises, headlines, words, etc) that your mind encounters in one day. Now consider how much of what it has absorbed is worth keeping. Most likely, even if some of the information is subconsciously absorbed (advertisements, etc), a lot of what circles around your mind is useless and unproductive. Providing your mind a full rest each evening gives it the time and ability to do a deep clean, throwing out the junk and keeping what has been used previously or what has been called upon in the past.

3. Strengthen Your Health

When we give our bodies time to rest and recover properly, we reduce the chance for inflammation to occur that is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pre-mature aging and arthritis.

4. Improve Creativity
Again, when we rest our minds, we allow it time to breathe, time to reboot and process all that it has seen and been exposed to. In this rest period, we offer it an opportunity to connect dots we may not have considered. And when the mind is allowed time to make these connections, beautiful ideas come to the surface.

5. Sharpen Focus
A well rested mind is a focused mind. A well rested mind is much more capable of a longer attention span, especially in children and young adults because the extra effort to stay awake is not needed.

6. Balance Moods and Emotions
Plain and simple – grumpy is not fun to be or be around. And when we take the time to create boundaries that allow a good night’s sleep to happen regularly, we are actually taking preventative action to create a more rational response to unexpected events that may pop up throughout the day. A win for us individually, as well as those we work with and love spending time with.

7. Maintain a Healthy Weight

While what you eat and how active you are are two important factors when it comes to weight loss, sleep is the other often forgotten about piece to the puzzle as well. Why? When you feel sleepy and refuse to listen to what your body is asking for, your body activates certain hormones in your blood which triggers your appetite prompting you to eat more than you actually need.

8. Reduce Stress
More evidence of the cycle and power of sleep. When we sleep, we calm our emotions. When we have our emotions in check, we are less likely to turn mole hills into mountains, but when we don’t come to each day well rested, we can create unnecessary stress that spikes certain hormones which puts unnecessary strain and stress on our heart, negatively effecting our health. It all begins with a good night’s sleep.

9. Improved Performance at School and/or Work
Have you ever spent a day at a lecture or class and returned home exhausted in need of a nap even though physically your body has done the bare minimum? Such an example is proof that your mind, after a workout of taking in new knowledge, is doing a workout of its own – stretching ideas, connecting new ones to old ones and creating new memory. If we come to such a class with a rested mind, we are able to function more effectively, but if we come having had four hours of sleep, the lesson is lost and our performance declines.

Such a simple ingredient to our everyday lives can improve the quality in tremendous ways. While there will always be days when  there never seems to be enough hours in the day, structure your regular schedule in such a way that respects the valuable time of a full night’s sleep. You will thank yourself in the morning and at the end of the day.