Have you ever been so tired that you tried to sneak a quick nap in your office or some other public place, and someone caught you? Perhaps you tried to cover it up by saying, “I wasn’t sleeping, I was just resting my eyes.” This was probably not your proudest moment.
It takes serious effort to maintain quality sleep, because at every turn, someone or something is messing with it. These sleep saboteurs may include caffeine, alcohol, noise, electronics, light, entertainment, pets and children (even though we love you), significant others (nothing personal, babe), a culture that pushes excessive work, or our own ignorance or defiance of the need for rest. Why is it so important to recognize and limit these sleep saboteurs, anyway? Is sleep that critical?
Before answering, imagine you had a magic device that would instantly make you more alert, improve your focus, concentration, and productivity, strengthen your immune system and protect your physical and mental health, decrease your chances of suffering an automobile- or work-related injury, and generally make you happier. Would you use that device? You can, because you already have it: it’s called sleep!
Perhaps those benefits do not feel especially inviting, and you say, “Meh, I’ll pass. I don’t have enough time in the day, and I have to give up something, so it might as well be sleep.” Many people make that decision, and they pay for it, because for all the benefits you can reap from getting ample, quality sleep, you will suffer as many or more costs for not getting it.
Imagine another magic device, one that would instantly make you tired, cranky, less mentally sharp, productive, and resilient to stress and emotional irritants, and more vulnerable to physical illness, mental illness, weight gain, relationship strife, and occupational or auto-related accidents. Would you use that device? You want to say no, but you probably use it regularly: it’s called sleep deprivation.
If you yearn for better sleep, but some known or unknown sleep saboteurs keep depriving you of it, help is available (starting with a click to our sleep hygiene resource page). In many cases, improving your sleep hygiene makes all the difference. If you are your own sleep saboteur, then hopefully this article has helped you recognize that sleep must be a top priority, and cannot be de-prioritized for other activities, if you want a happy, healthy, and productive life. Sleep On!
by Marlene Cuevas, MSW Intern & Jason Sackett, LCSW, PCC
Professional Staff at CWFL