We live in a society that has somehow come to feel that sleep is a waste of time. It’s not uncommon to hear people brag about how little sleep they need in order to function. Is this really something to be proud of, though?
I wonder why we’re so invested in convincing ourselves that surfing the internet, returning test messages, or watching our big-screen TVs is more important than resting?
Sleep deprivation creates a stress response that induces the release of cortisol, which has been found to increase abdominal fat. It also compromises memory (so now you’ve got a lot done, but you can’t remember what you did). Too much cortisol is not a good thing!
In ancient times, it was the body’s trigger to store fat in response to the famine that might follow an attack by a behemoth or saber-toothed tiger.
Scientists have also found that a lack of adequate sleep (even after as little as two nights increases the levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin by 28 percent, which seems to fuel our desire for carbohydrate-rich foods, such as cake, candy, ice-cream, pasta, and bread. In addition, insufficient sleep reduces our production of leptin—a protein hormone that suppresses appetite. So that’s a double whammy!
Surveys estimate that 63% of American adults don’t get the recommended eight hours of sleep each night. Many of us just don’t have a good sense of how much sleep we really need, but Eve Van Cauter a University of Chicago sleep researcher recommends that most adults need an average of seven to nine hours of sleep.
I wish people would heed this advice—-not only for their own well-being, but for mine and everyone else! I’m sick and tired of being around people who are always complaining about how tired they are. It seems to have become somewhat of a contest now too. The more tired you are the more validation you get, because the perception is that you are so busy, so you have no time to rest.
However, the bottom line is that productivity, health and happiness are predicated on feeling rested. So take a nap, go to bed early, but take time to sleep, and guess what, you might not be so tired.
Loretta LaRoche writes the Get A Life Column for the Patriot Ledger.