Yes, you read that right: I want to talk about sleep in this column. We spend about one-third of our life sleeping, which makes it an important issue to tackle, so let’s dive right in.
The Importance of Sleep
Some people think sleep is for the weak. After all, if you sleep less than you can see and experience and do more things, right? Not quite.
I’ve learned there are a whole bunch of consequences when you deprive yourself of enough sleep—especially if it becomes a habit. You will reach a state of constant fatigue and tiredness and won’t enjoy life as much. You will get moody and grumpy, your partner will get frustrated, and your kids will be unhappy with you. You’ll be less effective at work. I’ve even heard that severe sleep deprivation makes you more likely to find yourself in a life-threatening situation because the body and the brain needs that rest.
So not getting enough sleep is bad, but getting too much sleep is also not good. It can have a similar effect, making you feel sleepy and fatigued all day.
Adequate sleep gives your body the time it needs to repair exercise-induced muscle damage. It also relieves stress of all different kinds. Getting enough sleep also helps your body to build up and boost your immune system, so you feel better and stronger afterwards. Sleep helps rebuild your cells so your skin stays healthy and glowing. A sleep stage called Rapid Eye Movement (REM) even helps your brain file things away in your long-term memory. These are all benefits from getting enough sleep, you see.
How to Sleep Better
It might seem like a science to work out how to get your personal best sleep, but once you do your life will become a lot better, a lot more balanced, and you’ll feel more resilient. Experts recommend that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep. I find that eight hours is a good number to shoot for—right in the middle.
Now in my situation—six kids, two dogs, and one cat—catching up on sleep, or getting a solid eight hours to begin with, is often a challenge. So I have learned to be intentional and make a conscious effort to sleep enough. You can only win—in cycling and life—if you make an effort to get enough sleep.
But it’s not only the length of your sleep that’s important, the quality also matters. Certain factors can increase your quality of sleep. For example, a good mattress can make a big difference. Make your bedroom quiet and dark room. Have some fresh air streaming through (OK, maybe not during winter in Alaska). And try to have a fixed bedtime every night. Your body tends to get most of its deep sleep over with during the first half of the night so those early hours of sleep are especially important.
This is where Fitbit trackers come into play. Many of these devices can not only measure the amount of sleep you get, they can also give you some feedback about the quality of your sleep—how many minutes you were restless or awake, or how much time you spent in light, deep, and REM sleep.
When was the last time you woke up and felt full of energy? (That only happens for me after the second cup of coffee, so I guess I still need to work on my sleeping schedule.) How much sleep do you need? Are you getting the right quality? How comfy is your bed?
Think about your sleep. Your life kind of depends on it.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.