Physically Healthy Habits: Sleep

health diagram by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

In preparation for some much needed time off, I have been hustling pretty hard the last month. Normally, I sleep 8–9 hours per night and many days, I even nap for a couple of hours. But I noticed that recently, I had been staying up later to work and going to bed about 30 minutes later than normal. I have also been skipping my nap times to increase my productivity. In addition, I was working right up until bedtime, not giving my mind time to calm down or empty before hitting the pillow. I was waking up several times per night from strange dreams about work and not getting my best sleep. So it’s no surprise that I’ve been feeling rundown lately. This week, I have been trying to go to bed earlier than normal and this morning, I decided not to work. I’ve been taking it easy today, but I know the remedy: more and better sleep.

Sleep can be a controversial subject, especially to those of us who want to get the most done! But to be physically healthy, sleep is essential—for our physical health and our emotional health. With that in mind, here are three rules of thumb to keep in mind about sleep:

  • No Less Than Six. Sleeping fewer than six hours per night does not give your body adequate time to rest and/or recover from the previous day. And since you can’t technically “catch up” on sleep, it’s important to make sure you’re getting that six or more hours each night. The experts in the medical field say that getting a good night’s rest affects everything from mental alertness to relationships. In fact, experts believe that less than seven hours is harmful to a person physically and emotionally, causing workplace accidents and making it easier for you to get sick. Medical experts have now determined that lack of sleep can also lead to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, obesity, and impairment for unborn children. So do you want to lose some weight? It might not be exercise you need—it might be sleep!
  • Ignore the haters. They may hate on you for getting by on so little sleep or for sleeping too much! I have been accused of sleeping my life away, missing out on all the fun, being depressed, and just plain sloth. I endure a lot of teasing because I am single and yet I am in bed before or at 9:00 p.m. each night. But honestly, the more I sleep, the better I feel. I know what my body needs, and I pay attention to what my body needs. I don’t overschedule myself, I leave early from get-togethers, and I stick to my routine. You have to know yourself in order to shrug off the criticism of others—so figure out what your body needs, and stick to it. How many hours of sleep do you need to run at peak performance? Focus on that, not the hate!
  • Check Yourself. Can’t sleep? Snoring keep you from sleeping well? Don’t just let it go—get yourself checked out! My mom snored for the first 25 years of my life. One weekend, she went on a church women’s retreat, and her snoring kept everyone else up the entire night. One of the women approached her before the weekend ended and said, “I was listening as you snored, and I think you stop breathing when you sleep. You should have that checked out.” My mom got it checked out and was diagnosed with sleep apnea—a disease that can kill you if untreated. But it’s not just physical—it’s emotional. Is there something bothering you—a relationship, a conflict, or something that’s keeping you awake at night? Solve those issues as well, before lack of sleep wrecks your health.

Psalm 127:2 says that we do not have to rise early, go to bed late, or be anxious because God will give even sleep to those He loves. So if you don’t get enough sleep, I challenge you to ask God how you can practice the physically healthy habit of getting more shut-eye. Your well-being depends on it!

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