I know you've heard it. It's the lingo that's “hot" in the streets for driven adults between the ages of 18 and 45.
“Girl I don't need sleep! I'm grinding!"
“Sleep is for the dead!"
“Poor people sleep. I'll sleep when I'm dead."
WHAT?! Okay, wait a minute. Rewind. Please.
I've heard those statements so many times over the last five years that it started to make me feel rather unworthy inside.
I started having thoughts of inferiority and was riddled with contemplation that I was somehow less strong, less talented and less incredible than my sleep deprived peers.
But why? Because I wasn't up every night until 3 A.M. “working" on my dreams before jumping back up three hours later and hitting the day job? Well…yes. The social media standard of a hard-working individual making things happen for themselves became the real life standard. And if you were a SUPER entrepreneur like everyone was claiming to be, then you most definitely were part of the “no sleep" club. Not wanting to be left out of all of the great success that all of these folks seemed to be having, I became a card-carrying member, please and thank you.
Social media had started putting a value on people's capabilities according to how much they didn't sleep at night, with many trying to one-up one another, almost braggadocious about how much rest they never got. It was admirable to go four days running on fumes. They even taunt those that went to bed before midnight.
I know, because I was a taunter.
I would laugh at people who DARED to go to bed when their body told them to.
Sometimes I'd even judge them.
That is, until I started to become ill.
My immune system just couldn't seem to keep it together, and I didn't know why! For months, I had a terrible illness that wouldn't go away, along with pounding headaches, patchy skin and a blah attitude. My energy was so low and I became emotional. I may have only been sleeping 4.5 (sometimes a glorious 5) hours a night, but I was taking herbs, vitamins and eating vegetables, so what was going on?
That's when I started to study sleep and the effects of it on the human immune system. I began to learn and study something that mattered way more than some extra dollars in the bank--my health and my very livelihood. I didn't realize at the time how important 7 hours (or more) of sleep a night was to stay healthy and fight off bugs, pathogens and disease. I then thought about how many years I had allowed myself to be fooled by the, “sleep when you're dead," advice. The same advice, in fact, that was actually breaking down and killing my body.
I began tracing my lack of sleep back to how easily I got sick. I felt bad not staying up late every night, but even worse when I did. I decided that if I wanted to be successful and healthy, things had to change, and since I love my body and want to live to see my success, they did! I'm here to tell you that you can be successful AND take care of yourself at the same time. You have to be wise and practical.
Sometimes women feel guilty for caring for themselves first and put it on the backburner for the greater good of the cause, but that's not always the best approach.
Women on average, need more sleep than men--don't feel slighted, it's science. A study at Duke University showed that we women suffer more than our male counterparts both physically and mentally when we “shade" our rest. Recall above when I shared how my health AND emotions were suffering due to my constant (and then proud) lack of sleep. That's because sleep affects the brain!
The article continued, “As well as a higher risk of heart disease, depression and psychological problems, sleep-deprived women have extra clotting factors in their blood, which can lead to a stroke. They also have higher inflammation markers, which indicate developing health problems." Ummm, uh-oh.
You do not have to compete with men in this area, and you're not made to. For a better overall sense of wellness, get your rest. If you want to compete, you'll do it much better with a clear mind. Here are some tips on how to sneak a few extra z's into your schedule without he guilt trip of not doing enough.
1. BALANCE. Do what works for YOU!
You know what your body can and can't handle. Always be honest with yourself. If you feel yourself coming under the weather, try to shorten your wake time and get some much-needed sleep so you can feel great and tackle your projects again. Trust that a healthier, more alert you is a better, smarter you. You always want to be at your best when you have your business hat on. Plus, your skin looks SO much better when you're getting proper sleep.
2. Yes, go ahead and burn the midnight oil, but not every night.
Don't be irresponsible and not get the things done that need to get done. That's the worst because it can cause anxiety or create dire consequences in the long-run. However, use body wisdom and make enough time for adequate sleep or take naps when you are able. Sometimes there are deadlines and you may only get five hours in the sack on Tuesday and Wednesday night. Hey, you're working on your awesome next best-selling novel! I get it. Just make sure that on Thursday afternoon, you embrace that welcomed two-hour nap. Guess what? You can still be a Superwoman with over six hours of sleep.
3. Stop allowing others actions to dictate your level of success.
4. Remember that sleeping is used by the body to repair, rebuild and strengthen you.
Philip Gehrman, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania walks us through the three (which was once four) stages of sleep in addition to REM sleep, and what takes place inside of your body during this sacred time. Within these stages, your heart and vascular system get the rest they call for. Your brain also uses pillow time to get smarter. While sleeping? Yes! A lot is going on during our nocturnal visits!
Sleeping forms the pathways in our brains for memory and learning. Don't just take my word for it. You might be reading this, shaking your head thinking, “This is impractical. You don't know how busy my life is!" I urge you to read the articles and studies…unless it's time for bed of course, which in that case, please pick back up on this with your cereal in the morning.
I am NOT saying go to bed at 10 every night; I certainly don't. But what I am encouraging is that you evaluate your schedule and see what can be adjusted to allow yourself the much-needed sleep that your body was made to have. That might mean midnight for some and 3 A.M. for the rest, which is fine if you know that you will be able to sleep for more than 5 hours when you do go to bed. The truth is some of us have our businesses to attend to and at night is truly the only time we can devote to it.
Others have schoolwork for a master's degree to finish, kids to tend to, and other extremely important life responsibilities that must be taken care of after hours. Sleep to busy people can feel like a set-back or a curse! But it's far from a curse; it's a biological need! I used to think that by sleeping, I was missing out on something. Well I was--my well-being.
I've learned to rest when my body calls me to and no longer spend weeks at a time blazing through life shunning my yummy sleep when I can help it. This is not to say that I don't struggle with this sometimes, but I quickly get myself back in check. I've become much more in tune with myself, and it's made me a more balanced, happier spirit. I want the same for you. So take care of you. Let's take care of each other.
Helpful Tips For Better Sleep
- Log off of the computer/cell phone/social media at a reasonable time.
- Make sure that the room you sleep in is both dark and slightly cool.
- Trouble relaxing into a good night's rest but want to stay away from all meds? Try sprinkling a few drops of either lavender or chamomile essential oil to your pillow and inhale. No need to drench your pillow; less is more. The aroma can make for an awesome quieting of the soul. The pillow not enough? Then also dab some of that precious, calming oil onto your wrists, behind your ears and even your scalp for a total, “AAAAAAHHHHH!!!" affect!
- Troubled mind at night? Try “thanking" your way into sleep. No matter how rough your day is you can always find matters to be grateful for. I've counted my blessings right into a peaceful, happy sleep on several occasions.
Now go get your zzz's and never allow yourself to feel guilty about it!
Miesha Lynn is a free spirited writer and owner of a private consulting business. She adores the art of whimsy and has a marked penchant for all things weird, outrageous and magical.
Featured image by Getty Images